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Journalist Fellows' Papers

From a Print House to a Technology Company. How to reinvent a regional newspaper in the digital age?

Reuters Institute Fellow's Paper

Kirsi Hakaniemi has written a research paper which is hugely relevant to anyone interested in how regional newspapers should adapt to the digital demands. Kirsi is digital media manager at the Finnish newspaper Keskisuomalainen and spent three terms at the Institute sponsored by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.

In her paper, entitled ‘From a Print House to a Technology Company. How to reinvent a regional newspaper in the digital age?’, Kirsi addresses the key question of how a regional newspaper company can make the digital transition and redesign itself.

Kirsi chooses to study regional newspaper companies, because there is less research about the local media, even though most journalism is practiced and based at the local level. She says ‘the local media companies also have an important mission, which no other business has, when giving first hand reporting and analysis of local events for the local people and for their community and serving democracy’. Her fundamental argument is that ‘to change working habits and foster innovative organisational culture in the media business, the three core functions of the modern media company - journalism, business and technology - must start working closely together and new technological and innovative skills must be embraced as much as traditional journalistic values’.

She includes three case studies of the regional press in Sweden (the Stampen media group), the UK (Johnston Press), and the USA (the Press Democrat in California). None of the case studies have finished the digital transition, but their experiences give an insight into the actions to be taken. Kirsi writes that ‘the major challenge is to make the change in a world where there is no digital business model ready for the media, but the worst mistake would be to long for the golden days and keep protecting the print platform.’ Her research identifies five steps for making the digital transition: 1) disrupt your own business, 2) create a digital-minded management, 3) change tasks to change the culture, 4) build new capabilities and 5) build the local community in every platform. Kirsi concludes her research paper on a personal note: ‘For me it has always been the people who can make the change and this I believe more strongly than ever. “We should have started to disrupt our own business earlier”, is a phrase repeated in my case study interviews. The time to change is now - or never.

As with all Fellows’ research papers, any opinions expressed are those of the author and not of the Institute.