% fortune -ae paul murphy

Consulting Reality: change at Canada's newspapers



Clack. Umm, Maybe thirty yards, 20+ degrees off the fairway center line.

Watching an eight year old golf whiz who routinely gets multiple eagles and birdies on the 2010 Tiger Woods 2010 game for the Wi try to play for real got me thinking about some consultants I've met -well, actually, about the characteristics shared by an easy majority of the highest billing varieties and what this phenomena is likely to mean for Canada's newspaper businesses.

You've met them: nice suits; pretty business cards; lovely lines of patter; long, long resumes padded with enormous experience across a wide range of complex projects - but put them in front of an actual computer and they have trouble logging in.

Earlier this week the people who bought the largest newspaper chain in Canada under the name Postmedia Network announced both their new executive team and their commitment to becoming content providers to the digital news era.

Their existing websites are among the worst and most expensive (on a per page or per reader basis, not in absolute terms) in the world - just try finding something on any Canwest operated website: from Canada.com to CalgaryHerald.com these are rivaled only by government for impenetrability, expense, and IT mono-cultural arrogance.

As it happens I've worked with one of the people whose consulting resume supports a claim to continuing involvement in the digital era evolution of this particular newspaper chain - and the word "blonde" comes to mind as something other than a description of his coloration.

What the new owners want to do, of course, is return the chain to profitability but, despite the monopolistic nature of Canada's economy, this is going to be a big challenge: particularly so because their announced direction requires expertise in the one area newspapers around the world have historically proven themselves least able to exploit effectively.

So are these guys going to succeed? Whiff, clack, no - not unless they send the experts home and take up the job themselves.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.