When chickens precede eggs
by Jonathan Kaufman
After two decades of being pummeled by savvy tech companies that have stolen its readers, its advertisers and perhaps even its place as the leading media company in town, the San Francisco Chronicle has decided to fight innovation with innovation. The Hearst-owned newspaper is launching an off-site startup-style incubator designed to retrain and reinvigorate the staff and ultimately save the news organization from extinction.
“The idea of the incubator is obviously inspired by business practices of companies that have been successful in our local economy and using modern approaches to this disrupted economy that we are in,” said Audrey Cooper, who cooked up the concept last fall, just a few months after becoming the first female managing editor in the paper’s 148-year history. “We’re trying to use this to turn around a legacy media company.”
Cooper plans to send teams of about 20 employees at a time — a mix of reporters, editors, photographers, copy editors, designers, programmers and graphic artists — to the incubator and have each group spend 8 to 12 weeks “or as long it takes” in a digital/social media boot camp. The first team to go through the program is what used to be called the business section, although Cooper is rethinking that designation, along with just about everything else.