The media ecosystem is in the midst of a three-fold seismic disruption. Audiences have dramatically altered their information habits, both in terms of their media sources and the platforms they use. Meanwhile, the internet has all but wiped out traditional advertising and the shift to digitally driven advertising has decimated traditional media revenue models. Finally, the news industry — like many other disrupted fields — has experienced an increase in turnover, downsizing of staff, and difficulty competing for, and recruiting, employees to create the future of media.
In times like these, leadership is the competitive advantage. News organizations need skilled, strategic leadership to navigate these significant obstacles. Successful leaders will seek out and implement best-in-class practices to serve and attract audiences; to support the success of clients and advertising partners; and to attract, retain and grow talented people capable of meeting these challenges.
That’s where a good book comes in. Top leaders, regardless of their field, are often voracious readers. Bill Gates is well-known for sharing his book reading list annually, and he devotes blocks of time to reading new books as “fuel” to spark the next level of innovative action.
Local Media Association reached out to a diverse set of news media leaders to tap their collective wisdom and identify books that specifically address these challenges facing our industry. Our full LMIA report includes 29 books recommended by news leaders. Here is a synopsis of five of those recommendations.
Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters, by Richard Rumelt
Developing and implementing a strategy is the central task of a leader. Good Strategy/Bad Strategy clarifies the muddled thinking underlying too many strategies and provides a clear way to create and implement a powerful action-oriented strategy for the real world.
“Years of covering breaking news, responding to changes in ownership, and disruption of business models have meant news organizations struggle with strategy,” said Penny Riordan, director of business strategy and partnerships at Local Media Association. “This book is a helpful way to learn more about goal setting and aligning teams around a certain strategy. It’ll also help you look out for big, flashy ideas that masquerade as strategy.”
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin Diangelo
In White Fragility, DiAngelo examines why it’s so hard for white people – and, crucially, white leaders – to talk about race and racism, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
“We need journalists of all races to understand their unconscious biases — we have them across every social fault line — in order to accurately and fairly report on issues of race,” says Felicia Henderson, director of cultural competency at the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. “That’s why white newsroom leaders need to have journalists of color placed in every level of the organization, from the top down. If you want to lead a news organization that is considered ‘trustworthy’ and you want to increase new audiences, you must have a variety of perspectives and lenses to ensure content is accurate, fair and provides the proper context.”
High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out, by Amanda Ripley
High conflict is what happens when discord distills into a good-versus-evil kind of feud, the kind with an us and a them. Eventually, we can start to mimic the behavior of our adversaries, harming what we hold most dear.
“Journalism contributes to the polarization that’s ravaging the country,” notes Jennifer Brandel, CEO of Hearken. “News leaders have the ability to begin shifting the processes and practices that lead to high conflict, and to play a role in creating the kind of healthy, good conflict that we need in order to function.”
The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team With Positive Energy, by Jon Gordon
For managers and team leaders or anyone looking to turn negative energy into positive achievement, The Energy Bus offers a road map to overcome the most common life and work obstacles, and bring out the best in your team – and yourself as a leader.
“I think it’s good for leaders who can feel overextended with all the demands of work and home and want to find ways to feel energized and excited about the work again,” said Shana Black, founder and owner of Black Girl Media.
“The first takeaway was that realizing how the pressures and stresses at home or work can negatively impact other areas of our lives. The second was understanding how a team member’s true perception or attitude toward the team’s direction or change can be the difference between success and failure.”
Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company, by Kevin Oakes
“Culture is squishy. It’s not tangible. It’s hard to get your arms around. But it can make or break your organization,” observes Mark Briggs, vice president of innovation and organizational effectiveness at SmithGeiger. “Building an effective, collaborative and adaptable culture produces the right level of execution. And that was before the pandemic. Hybrid/remote work and the Great Resignation made it even more challenging. And more urgent. Culture used to be “nice to have.” Now it’s a “must-have.”
The definition of insanity, as the saying goes, is continuing to do the same things and hoping for different outcomes. Leaders at traditional media organizations understand that they can no longer continue to operate in a business-as-usual way; they know the business has changed.
Less obvious is how to adapt to the massive disruptions, both in terms of audience information habits, the revenue model for news, and the workplace expectations of their own employees.
That’s where a good book comes in. Deeper thinking is required to respond effectively to these seismic shifts. The books recommended in this report have helped other news leaders navigate these challenges. Collectively, this list offers a new kind of road map, one that leaders can use to serve and delight their audiences, clients and people in this transformed digital information ecosystem.
The complete LMIA Report, Best Business Books for News Leaders, includes 13 book reviews and 16 additional recommended titles in the areas of business strategy, audience development, and people and inclusion.
This report is available for free to LMIA subscribers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to check if you are eligible to receive your free copy, already paid as part of your LMIA subscription.
Don’t subscribe to LMIA? Click here to purchase the full 26-page report for $159.
What is LMIA? About the Local Media Innovation Alliance
The Local Media Foundation has developed the Local Media Innovation Alliance in order to provide research in the area of new and sustainable business models for local media companies in the digital age. Subscriptions are offered to all local media companies. Corporate memberships are also available.
Local Media Innovation Alliance reports focus on promising trends/opportunities from local media companies of all kinds, including newspapers, digital pure plays, radio, TV, directories, and R&D companies.
Subscribers receive research papers in the form of white papers, case studies and best practices related to each topic. These reports provide a deep dive into emerging and promising trends and opportunities. The authors include respected industry consultants and contractors that have the knowledge and expertise to properly conduct the research and write the reports. In some cases, the author spends time at the media companies that are being studied in order to provide the deepest dive possible into these topics.