Reducing costs vs. increasing sales.
It is with considerable sadness that I learned of the death of my long ago friend, Beth Loker. Beth was the IT chief and VP at the Washington Post. I sponsored Beth to become the first female member of the Newspaper Systems Group in the late 70's,back when I worked for the ANPA.
In my new role at SCS, I approached Beth hoping to sell her some of SCS's technology solutions. She was quite emphatic saying "Don't tell me how much more I'm going to sell with what you offer, show me how you are going to save the Post money. Beth seemed to favor clearly defined process improvements over hope for new sales.
There are two ways to balance a budget - increase sales or cut costs. Either can work but neither is easy. If you chose doing less with less, you begin to sacrifice your mission. That would be really sad.
I may be a computer scientist, but I feel I share a vision with the newspaper industry. The recent movie Spotlight brought back that feeling. The first time I felt it was when, in summer of 1974, I stood in the teletype room of the ANPA/RI and heard the bells signalling an urgent message that Nixon had resigned. What could be better than helping the fourth estate hold the powerful accountable?
You could cut publication days, reduce coverage area, reduce news gathering and investigative journalism, etc., but I think improving efficiency through productivity growth is how we are best positioned to help newspapers.
What is implied by a "doing more with less" philosophy?
While writing software is expensive these days (And, boy do I know it!), machines that do the computing are getting dramatically cheaper.
See the first computer I programmed.
By my calculations computing with a Raspberry PI Zero today costs one quadrillionth (1/1,000,000,000,000,000) what it cost to compute on a Sperry Rand UNIVAC I in 1958. I ran the first programs I wrote on DuPont's UNIVAC I. Computing costs have gone down 50% every 14 months since 1958.
The Raspberry PI Zero has a one GHz ARM processor, a gigabyte of RAM, tones of connectivity and a sale price of $5. Layout-8000 30 years ago ran on a fully equipped PDP 11/23 costing about $30,000. We've ported a recent version of Layout-8000 (having over 120 times the code base) to the ARM family of processors, the ones likely in your smart phone (and 95% of the others). We also ran SCS/ClassPag on a Nexus 7 ARM tablet with an entire Sunday classified section from the LA Times and it paginated it in all of two seconds.
So paying less for computing platforms doesn't necessarily mean getting less computing power.
Computing power is cheap and getting cheaper every day. We will show you how to apply that power to producing newspapers more efficiently and do more with less.