Improving the competitive position of Newspapers through the use of KPIs

The newspaper industry is trying to re-form the basics on which it has operated since decades

The reason is the constant increase in competition experienced from electronic means of "information dispersal" like television channels, websites etc. Also, the societal changes have contributed their bit to cause a drop in "newspaper reading".

In addition to this external factor that has given tough times to players of newspaper industry, internal ones too are raising their heads. For instance, "organizational culture issues" and the "vicious cycle" (that operates between "circulation volume" and "revenues obtained from advertisements") are the two of the major influencers of this sector"s participants. In other words, the interdependence of the two constituents of vicious cycle establishes a relationship in which positive or negative change in either gets stretched to the other in a "looped manner". Stating it the other way round, with a dip in the circulation number, it gets difficult to negotiate high prices for advertisements in the newspaper. Similarly, decline in advertisements" revenues causes makes it hard to afford national operations. This in turn, has a further dampening effect on the revenues from paid subscriptions.

Coming to the other internal factor, "Culture" has an important bearing on the volume of readership of the publication. Consequently, a supportive and innovative culture that reinforces the following of best practices is a welcome change. In principle, two such variants are identified, called Constructive and Defensive. Constructive is the "should be" thing and the "other alternative" has to be discouraged at any cost. However, studies have revealed that what the culture shapes into at majority of the places is "defensive" in nature. Drawing from this fact, one realizes that structuring an innovative environment is one of the hurdles in the path of "improving performance".

Moving further, the effect of culture is not uni-dimensional. Apart from affecting readership, it is related to shareholders" returns, customer and employee satisfaction. So, substantial efforts should be undertaken to ensure that the organizational culture gets "spruced-up" in the desired fashion.

Another trouble from the behaviour style adopted among the team members. The ones, recognized in most of the cases are- Perfectionist and oppositional. One should go for the former as it is valued in this area but too much emphasis on doing things the way they are "supposed to be" can lead the employees to lose the sight of actual aims and objectives. On the other hand, the second choice too can cause an increase in instances of conflicts, if left unchecked. Therefore, a balance has to be struck between the two styles.

Realizing that there are several components, which have an impact on the performance of a newspaper house, the requirement of a tool to bring all of these together in a coordinated and synchronised way has to be in place. One can do this by identifying the metrics which in some or the other way, make it fruitful for the organization to "track the performance". The broad categories of indicators to initiate with can be-Financial, Internal Processes, Employee and Growth.

Financial indicators can be "revenues from advertisements in printed and electronic version", "Profit After Tax" and the "collections from behind-the-wall" concept. Internal Operations can be measured using KPIs like "number of sectors catered", "number of times a specific publication is issued, on annual basis", "number of disputes, if any had been" and "number of unique visitors received on the website". Employee and Collaboration Perspective can be evaluated by employing indicators such as "Constructive: Defensive ratio", "% dip in Labour Turnover" and "number of journalists". Lastly, the Growth can be monitored in quantitative terms by putting values to "% increase in subscriptions", "Award Winning instances" and "competitive position improvement". By incorporating performance improvement tool like KPIs the management can be assured that the organization is moving on the rig ht path to achieve strategic objectives and goals.

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