A group of invited Silicon Valley thought leaders came to the Mercury News offices on Friday for a debrief session on two different plans we have for revisions to the print paper, as well as some work we’re already kicking off online.
The headline? We like that you’re thinking in new directions, but we think you need to be more disruptive in how you change the Merc. The clear consensus was that our ideas, which look bold from an insider view, appear to be just tweaks around the edges when you’re looking with fresh eyes. They wanted us to push the process far more, almost to a level of discomfort “so you’re challenging all the regular assumptions about the Merc.”
The group also suggested that the Merc try to see itself as “owning” the story of Silicon Valley. They even suggested we re-brand ourselves as the Silicon Valley Mercury News. They thought that the San Jose name and frame might be limiting our scope. They also know we own the siliconvalley.com domain so they believe we should leverage better that competitive advantage.
Other suggestions from the gurus for our steering team?
- Do try new things. Be more experimental to show that we’re part of the innovation economy we cover. Try all the new tools in delivering video, multimedia and storytelling. Get the audience more involved in helping the Merc tell the story of Silicon Valley.
- Do all news first online. Go full speed ahead with the online-first strategy because immediacy is important. Many in the group said they never even think of picking up the physical newspaper, but that they are viewing our content all the time online (and not just through our site, but with their own custom feeds and aggregation tools).
- Do help facilitate the conversation. Do try to be the conduit for growing the discourse community about what it means to be a resident of this very special place. “No one else in Silicon Valley is connecting those dots,” one observer noted. And go places where the conversation is already happening to spread the word.
- Do encourage and grow our relationship with citizen journalists. Help the pro-am journalist conversation with better outreach efforts. Work hard to make our platform be one where people know dialogue is happening. Help train people and provide tools for a working relationship between citizens and the Merc in coverage.
- Do cover start-ups and early stage aggressively. The story of “the next big thing” is one that the group felt the Merc used to be very good at doing. They feared that has become lost in recent years. They also noted that it’s an area where we could create a franchise in coverage few news organizations could touch.
- Do not forget women and people of color as we do all of this. One of the things the group believes the Merc has been good at doing is reflecting the diversity of this region, but they expressed a fear that greater coverage of innovation and tech not be dominated by a focus on the parts of the field that are traditionally dominated by men.
Thanks to the Silicon Valley pros who came by on Friday … We’re revising our rapid prototypes based on your ideas, and we’ll be giving a download to senior leadership here at the Merc next week. We’ll report back and reconvene the group soon!
~ By Matt Mansfield