[Update May 2008]
I am a senior Drupal programmer at Palantir.net. I recently left the newspaper industry for the green field of open source development. One of the happy accidents that resulted is my recent addition to the PBS Engage Social Media Advisory Board.
Until recently I was the Deputy Vice-President for Strategic Partnership Development at Morris DigitalWorks. (Long title, huh?) Our group was responsible for finding and vetting investment and partnership opportunities for Morris Communications and its business units. We were particularly interested in the changes in the newspaper market and in seeking efficiencies and new business opportunities for our newspapers.
Before that, I worked in strategy and innovation (read: R&D) at MDW, where I developed concepts and did research on systems like social networking, site search, and online marketplaces.
One of our little experiments, Bluffton Today, has gotten some nice attention.
Why Second Goose?
In Philip Meyer's excellent book, The Vanishing Newspaper, he spins a version of the parable "The Goose that Layed the Golden Egg."
In this version, the traditional monopoly newspaper (dominant in its market for years) is the Goose, pumping out a steady stream of 30% profits. Simplified, this goose lays an egg every day.
If you were to buy this goose (as an owner or stockholder), anything less than an egg per day would be a net loss. The goose would lose value to you. So you'd take extreme measures to ensure that the goose keeps laying. (Translation: cut staff, raise rates, do whatever it takes to keep the margins up).
But if those high margins cannot be recouped because of fundamental changes in the market, there may be no way to maintain such margins. Perhaps the goose, through age or overuse, can only produce one egg per week now.
If you bought or invested in this goose expecting a daily return and got only a weekly return, well, you'd be pretty mad. And you'd be losing money.
That's the dilemma facing newspapers. Meyer says:
Avoiding the fate of the second owner of the goose is the central problem facing newspapers today. They know they have to adjust to the reduced expectations that technology-driven change has brought them. They just don't know how.
But (this is my take now) what if you were the second owner of the goose, and bought it for its weekly returns (say a modest 6-8%). Heck, grocers only net about 1%; the prime rate is below 5%. So a 6% return-on-investment might look pretty good.
So the second goose is that mythical creature that lets newspaper owners (and publishers) be happy with lower profit margins. This site is about issues that conribute to that discussion, especially changes in the technology of news consumption (read: Internet usage).
If my explanation doesn't make sense, then this blog is a waste of your time (sorry). Go check out Meyer instead (start at page 40 for the goose part).
About the Geese
A little fun, maybe? Check out the taxonomy of geese.