Good day, team.
This week’s challenge comes from a client of mine, Michael Kane. Michael is the chief of staff for Move Inc. and the general manager of one of its subsidiaries, TigerLead. He has a gift for eloquently expressing himself, both verbally and in writing. Many thanks to Michael for sharing this week’s challenge, which he titled, “All the News That Fits — We Print.” You will find the challenge in the question he poses at the end.
“Back in the late 90s, I did consulting for Dow Jones and Company, which, in additional to calculating some influential stock market averages, publishes a mildly well-read newspaper called The Wall Street Journal. The project I was bidding on was a $17 million dollar effort to revamp the software that paginates its newspapers.
“It’s a complex problem with multiple variables, and unless you know the newspaper business, you might approach it exactly backward. I was told that each day, there are different sections and the newspaper is allowed to be a certain number of pages, and the ads needed to be arranged on the page, and the news articles broken into the familiar columns. The software needed to tally the total ad space and total ad revenue, and then, they told me, it needed to provide a report to the editorial group with the size of the ‘news hole.’
“Huh? That term sounded like an insult to me: ‘My roommate hogs the TV all day watching CNN. He’s such a newshole!’
“That’s when I learned that I was approaching newspaper publishing completely backward. In any edition, after all the ads are placed on pages, the amount of space left over is called the ‘news hole.’ Everything that’s not an ad must fit in that space — all the tables, op-ed pieces and articles. If they don’t fit, they need to be reduced. You never, ever, trim the ads.
“In a newspaper — a publication whose purpose you would think is to provide the news — the purpose is actually to deliver advertising and then use whatever space is left for its alleged purpose.
“What does this have to do with our company? When was the last time we looked critically at our calendars? Many of us do the same thing with our calendars that Dow Jones does with news. We use the tool designed to focus our most scarce resource — our time — and we first fill it with things that provide the least value: status meetings and meeting series that were set up ages ago. In fact, each week, there’s probably a meaningful percentage of our time already committed, before we even show up on Monday morning. Call it ‘recurring schedule overhang.’ Then, after that, we add in the purposeful activities.
“It’s the ‘purpose hole.’
“Like my understanding of newspaper publishing, are we approaching our calendars exactly backward?”
Have a good week!
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