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Northlands Ledger (B): Bringing Customer Focus to a Newspaper


Case (A) describes the situation at the Northlands Ledger, a newspaper on its way out of business due in large part to its publisher and editor's focus on what they do and want to keep doing rather than on what their customers (readers and advertisers) want. The value proposition to the reader is that ‘we deliver the paper reliably and give you the latest national and international news'. The value proposition to the advertisers is that ‘we print your ads accurately and runs them on time'. Both value propositions are outdated, and, even if they were what the customers wanted—which they are not, neither is executed well. The paper's key performance indicators—circulation, classified ads and commercial advertising are all in decline despite the fact that the community it serves is growing. The senior management of the Paulus chain that owns this paper has forced the publisher, Allison, to retire and brought another publisher, Potter, in from one of its other papers, The Sun Belt City Star, where Potter was highly successful. However, he cannot simply transfer his success formula from the Star to the Ledger. 
Case (B) details his efforts and may be used as a classic example of good change management and leadership practices. Potter established a clear cut set of objectives, formulated a new strategy of responsiveness to readers and advertisers more in line with finding out why they hired the paper in the first place. To implement his new strategy he terminated senior managers and others who he did not feel could contribute to the new paper, and made significant changes in key dimensions of implementation: culture, structure, information and decision support systems, incentives and human resources. Throughout he used a mix of both authoritative and participative change management—a mix that may provoke an interesting class discussion.




Robert Dewar

Date Published



Dewar, Robert. Northlands Ledger (B): Bringing Customer Focus to a Newspaper. Case 5-111-006(B) (KEL537).


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