Tribune corporation produced a video to excite employees about its transformation to “tronc” (Tribune online content). The video vividly shows why it’s unlikely to succeed.
Newspapers are in bad shape. And Tribune — which owns the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times, and has stumbled from owner to owner — is in particular trouble. Hence the Hail Mary transformation strategy dubbed “tronc.”
Now, on the heels of its launch with a techno-drivel fueled press release, we get a two-and-a-half-minute video intended to inspire its employees. I’ve posted it below.
New York Magazine has already vivisected and translated key parts of this video, but I’d like to focus on the impact on tronc’s workers. As a worker at tronc, you’re not stupid — you’ve watched the financials plummet and seen a few different owners try and then give up. How would you react to these elements?
- “This is the future of journalism. This is the future of content.” Pure cheerleading, backed up by nothing.
- “It’s about meeting in the middle, have a tech startup culture meet a legacy corporate culture.” When a warm front hits a cold front, storm clouds brew. This also happens to be the same thing every print company says. Why will tronc be able to do what the New York Times struggles with?
- “[A]n optimization group . . . will work with all the local markets to harness the power of local journalism, feed it into a funnel, and then optimize it so that we reach the biggest global audience possible.” So you’re going to do what Facebook does, but with your own content only? Good luck with that. If I’m a writer for the LA Times, does this undermine my commitment to my local audience?
- “The key to making our content really valuable to the broadest possible audience is to use machine learning . . . artificial intelligence is going to allow journalists to do their jobs more efficiently.” Whenever you read the words “artificial intelligence,” replace them with “magic.” Because until we know what this particular A.I. is supposed to do, this statement basically says “Our content will magically become better.”
- “Right now we’re averaging about 16% of our article pages have the type of video player that we can monetize. By 2017 we need to get to 50%.” Finally, a substantive statement. tronc is about video. That’s a pretty big shift for any newsroom to make.
- “The role of tronc is to transform journalism from pixels to Pulitzers.” OK, back to cheerleading again. Not particularly inspiring, either.
Two things in particular would worry me as an employee.
First, tronc is supposed to transform Tribune around video, and yet, this first video is bland and uninspiring. If your first step out of the gate is a stumble, you’re not off to a good start.
And second, the video on YouTube includes this legend:
This video is unlisted. Be considerate and think twice before sharing.
Despite that, it’s appeared all over the Web by now (35,000 views on YouTube). So either the startup-infused video wizards at Tribune imagined that such a video would remain private, or they misclassified it when posting it.
If you’re going to base the future of your company on video, you’re going to have to show you can do video. A logo design from the 70s isn’t a sufficient substitute.
(If you’re still not inspired watch this. Looks like their marketing is up to the same level as their employee motivation.)
H/T Dan Lyons.