GateHouse Media CEO Mike Reed unveiled Project Apple in September — an initiative with the goal of “a turnaround just as impressive as Apple’s.” (The newspaper chain recently reported a $5 million net loss for the third quarter.) On Tuesday, Reed gave his employees a Project Apple update. “We are already seeing progress in several areas,” he writes in a memo. “But even so, the simple fact is that the way we are working today is not in line with the way our business is moving. Over the next few months, we’re going to continue to introduce initiatives that will assist us in meeting the challenges and demands of the business.”
We need to recognize that newspapers may be a product in declining popularity and readership, but content is not and never will be. In fact, the content our publications produce is more valuable and necessary than ever before. No one creates it better than we do and we need to deliver it in many different ways. We need to become more than a newspaper company — we must become a content company. That is what will drive the changes in the coming months.
Reed’s full memo is after the jump.
To: All Employees
From: Mike Reed, CEO
Date: November 8, 2011
RE: Moving GateHouse Forward
I’m pleased to come back to you with another update on Project Apple. Since my last note in September, teams across GateHouse have been working very hard to gather as much data and information as they can about the way we conduct our business. We are looking at nearly every process and procedure we have to find ways to become more efficient, while allowing for innovation, finding better ways to bring news and content to our customers, finding new revenue opportunities and truly transforming our company into the premiere local multi-media business in each of our markets. That is the simple, but challenging mission of Project Apple.
I want to thank all of you who have filled out surveys, submitted reports and spreadsheets, taken the time to be interviewed or otherwise contributed to this early phase. We’ve asked every publisher across the company for input, thoughts, and opinions…and we’ve gotten them. Through this process, several areas for improvement have been identified, including:
Prioritizing what’s important: Many of our Publishers are feeling stretched by the demands on their time and are finding it difficult to determine what’s most important and what can wait.
Sharing systems and resources: Too much of what we do, we do differently from market to market, publication to publication. We need to share resources, adopt best practices, search for ways to promote the synergies between properties, and explore compatible systems.
Providing flexible planning and solutions: One size doesn’t fit all. Any solution provided must allow for some flexibility, while establishing consistency in our processes.
Communicating better: You need clearer information and direction from leadership – at all levels of the company.
These things came through loud and clear and as a company we need to address them to be successful. As part of my effort to improve my own communications, let me tell you about some things that are happening with Project Apple since my last note. Of the five major areas of concentration in Project Apple, we are already seeing progress in several areas:
Preserve the power of print
• To increase the focus on sales rep recruitment, numerous tools have been provided to our Advertising Managers and Publishers to aid in recruiting for and hiring high caliber Multi-Media Sales Executives. We introduced a new multi-media recruiting campaign and provided our Advertising Managers and Publishers with standardized job descriptions, interview tips and evaluation techniques.
• In an effort to focus attention on driving new customer business, a “Block and Prospect” campaign was launched in September to educate the sales force on optimizing their time spent developing new customer contacts.
• We have purchased more than 100 laptop computers for our sales force to aid them in being more effective in the selling process.
• In order to assist our sales force in going to market with approved Sales Collateral and information, we provided all of our businesses with a new piece “This customer is your customer.” This material can be personalized for each market and we are getting great feedback from early use of this material.
Accelerate digital growth
• By mid-November, we will have more than 100 new mobile websites rolled out across the
company – meaning that readers of every one of our more than 400 websites across the country
will have on-the-go access to updated news and information.
• In October, we entered into an affiliation with The Street to provide national business, personal
finance and financial market information to our readers.
• GateHouse News Service spearheaded an initiative to hand out video cameras to the field. In a
three-month period the number of video stories uploaded to the various GHM websites grew from 100 to over 800 stories per month. We plan to hand out additional cameras over the next few months and anticipate this number to increase even more.
We’re making good progress in these areas. Some good things are happening. But even so, the simple fact is that the way we are working today is not in line with the way our business is moving. Over the next few months, we’re going to continue to introduce initiatives that will assist us in meeting the challenges and demands of the business. Our readers rely on us to bring them the local news and information they care about and they demand quality and value. Our advertising customers demand that we link them to their customers in the market. There are many things that as a company we do well and some areas where we need to do better. And we will. That’s why Project Apple is so important.
As we move from the data-gathering phase to the implementation phase, you’ll see the pace of change pick up speed over the next several months. We’ve gained momentum but there is much more to come. We are looking to make some changes to our corporate structure—changes that will put in place the organizational alignment necessary to take us into the future. While I understand that everyone is eager for details, the specifics of the realignment are still being ironed out to ensure that we have identified all the interdependencies, so I appreciate your patience.
The industry is changing and we are changing with it. We have to. We need to recognize that newspapers may be a product in declining popularity and readership, but content is not and never will be. In fact, the content our publications produce is more valuable and necessary than ever before. No one creates it better than we do and we need to deliver it in many different ways. We need to become more than a newspaper company—we must become a content company. That is what will drive the changes in the coming months.
I hope you agree with my vision for GateHouse. I would like to provide you with an avenue to share your thoughts and ideas for growing our company, so we have established an email address for our employees to ask questions of the management team and me. Inquiries can be sent to email@example.com. Your support in this effort is critical. I appreciate your help and your continuing commitment to our company, to its publications and to our customers.
What is Project Apple?
Project Apple is a major transformational initiative that addresses five long-term structural and organizational issues that will enable us to evolve and grow quickly.
1. Structural cost realignment: Drive permanent realignment to fund growth and innovation.
2. Accelerate digital growth: Growth will be in both revenue and audience and needs to
come at a more accelerated pace than it does today.
3. Grow consumer revenues: (Including circulation) Growth will be in both print and digital,
largely through new products, services and pricing strategies.
4. Preserve the power of print: Stabilize our advertising revenue and improve the value of
5. Develop new businesses: Launch new businesses by leveraging our core strengths and