We Do The Yearbook Your Way

Howard Owens writes an interesting blog entry about newspapers today, but I think it refers to yearbooks too.  He says we get too stuck in our ways to give the customer what they really want.

In our yearbook I resisted it too.  I was stuck in 1995.  I wanted the yearbook to stay the same way forever.  But yearbook can and should change.  It only took me 12 years to figure it out.  I was stubborn and wasn’t thinking about the customer.

I think this is really normal for journalists.  We are not taught about the business side of the news biz.  In fact, unless it was made a mandatory course, most j majors would avoid any business class if possible.  We are raised in the culture of editorial vs. business.  Even on a college paper, the editorial dept. is usually separate from those who “just pay the bills.”   We don’t want to know and really could care less how the bills are paid as long as our salary checks clear.

We even pride ourselves on keeping editorial clean of money influence.

Now the TV side usually gets a little dirtier.  I worked in commercial and public TV (FOX, PBS).  And in both places the bottom line is a little more obvious to the production side of the house.  You are often forced to make decisions based on who pays the bills.

So, back to yearbooks.  Most journalists who become yearbook teachers resent having to sell yearbooks.  It is a necessary evil that you really just want to get out of the way so you can do your real job – cover the school.

But actually none of that is the real job.  The real job is find out what the students want in the book and give it to them whenever possible.  You may not be able to afford an all color book, but maybe you can afford more color.

If they want more photos, give them more.  If they want to see their friends, then give early buyers more photos of their friends. And if they want their graduation year huge on the cover – do it.

Find out what your kids want.  Give it to them.

In the 21st Century buying a product is about the customer, not the seller.  Look at the most successful business models.  They give the customer what they want: Walmart, Starbucks, FedEx, Subway, any cell phone company.  It is about customization to the customer’s needs.

The yearbook must follow this trend or perish.

Of course you still need to have great design and photography too, but the customer is always right.  Remember it.

Mr. C

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