re in the newspaper business. Working on the Web, you need to think of now and forever. At a newspaper, people largely think about tomorrow. Thinking about tomorrow isn’t enough anymore. Consumers today want services when, where and how theywant them, and they want to be able to participate, not just receive.Look, it’s understandable that we thought we were in the newspaper business. In the 1990s, Denver was the site of what was sometimes called America’s last great newspaper war. The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News had competed for 100 years and each saw the grand prize close at hand. Each wanted to become the only newspaper in town - something we thought of as “owning the Denver market.” We thoughtwinning would guarantee a stable and profitable future. We misunderstood the competitive landscape and put the vast majority of our efforts into the print war.The problem was we were fighting the last war. We didn’t understand what was happening to the playing field. Media companies used to think they were in control. That they could “own” a market. What we didn’t take into account is that in this new era, consumers were going to be in control.So that brings me to Lesson #2: Know your competition. If we had spent more timetrying to build the depth of our connection with the community using online tools from the very start, perhaps the outcome for the Rocky would have been different. If we have time later, I can give you some examples of what I’m talking about.The Rocky’s first foray onto the Web came in 1995. The newsroom provided a Cox-owned site called Fastball with Colorado Rockies stories and data. To give you someperspective, that same year Colorado’s leading television station put up a Web site, but all it had was a picture of the station’s building, its address and phonenumber. No links or news at all. At that time, believe it or not, much of the talk about “new media” at many newspapers was about things like AudioText, where users could call in and select different categories of news. There was also fax on demand. And 900 numbers, for such things as out-of-state lottery numbers or sports scores, horoscopes and even a dating service.The Rocky had been burned in the new media world before. In 1990, it made what it considered at the time a major play, launching an electronic service called the A LA CARTE EDITION. The paper sent software to a few thousand users, many of whom had 400 baud modems.You can see from this introduction to our first electronic service that we thought of ourselves as newspaper companies right from the start. We wrote that the goal of the new edition, was “ultimately to strengthen and preserve the printed daily newspaper.”The service was shut down after about 9 months, but not before scooping the paper on the start of the First Gulf War, reporting 12 hours before the paper landedon most doorsteps that the war had begun. The project was halted, I was told, because “we just couldn
t show that it was having any measurable impact on retention of print subscribers and it wasn
t producing revenue.”Right from the start, new offerings were measured by what they did for the coreproduct, not on their own merits. A big mistake.The Rocky’s first Web site, this is the home page on the very first day, grew outof the newsroom’s night copy desk crew, a few of whom had learned some HTML. It was a bottom up effort. There was no advertising involvement. Under the directionof the senior night editor, a small team built a Web site that went live on March 1, 2006. The Post had put up a site late the previous year so we knew we needed to do it, if only because we couldn’t let them have a leg up on us anywhere.