One of the most striking things about today’s media environment is the low barrier to entry for publishing and trying out new entrepreneurial ideas. Open-source publishing systems push the price for competing against big companies close to zero for the “little guys.” They often can add advanced, cutting-edge features to their blogs and websites for free or just a few bucks by using the latest widget or plug-in. The great irony is that those small players often add features before big media companies get around to it.
Online PR guru Steve Rubel made a good point about this in an interview he did for an upcoming book, “Online Marketing Heroes” (PDF link). He was asked: “So it’s leveling the playing field for the little guy. What’s the big guy doing?” His answer: “The big guys, if they’re smart, they have people who are on the cutting edge of all the new stuff, and are able to figure out how to apply it, ASAP.”
As obvious as that answer is, many traditional news publishers don’t even keep pace with what the blogging and open-source communities are doing. For news websites to grow and retain loyal audiences, they must be innovating constantly. In today’s competitive race to grab the attention of online audiences, if you can’t even keep pace with bloggers, you lose.
An important way to grow your news website and digital operations is to have, at the very least, an innovation editor or director on board — ideally with a team of programmers supporting the goal. And as I’ve stated here before, don’t be afraid to dive in to open source.