How to fail backward

The Harvard guys have been telling us that failing forward can be a good thing -- learning, adapting, all that innovation stuff. But there's another kind of failure: failing backward. Here's a how-to guide:

  • Delegate all the online stuff to the "online guy" because it's too technical to understand.
  • Declare you're "digital first" but change none of your measurements and incentives.
  • Remind yourself that print delivers 80% of your revenues -- as if that's a good thing.
  • Believe your own chest-thumpery about how many people you reach online while ignoring the dismal truth about frequency.
  • Continue to look down with scorn on the local TV station -- as it passes you in Web traffic.
  • Imagine the iPad will save newspapers.

Feel free to add to the list in the comments.


  • Promote people with no web expertise into "online" positions; eliminate web staff.
  • Continue to use "uploaders" to get print content online.
  • Push "e-editions" of your print content online because they fulfill ABC requirements.
  • Put a "priority" on mobile and create a taskforce to evaluate which vendor to use for mobile.
  • Eschew innovation for a "fast follower" strategy. Eschew "fast" too.

- believe that focusing on only one medium and one type of reporting will magically attract new advertisers - remain content with existing reader base (in terms of medium) and not try to create new markets (entrepreneurs rule the world) - remain blind to alternate artistic forms which could also carry information (infographics, fine arts, etc.) - don't cut the publishing middle-man out in favour of having reporters publish their own stuff using readily available software and online media I'm a journalism student at King's in Halifax - feel free to tear these additions apart - it's the only way I'll learn.

Automate your website, so it always looks the same regardless of what's breaking -- and continue to pay a small army of people to hand-craft your print pages. Use that expensive automated system as an excuse for continuing problems that could easily be fixed, such as factoid boxes with important info never getting online. Ignore that the rest of the Web exists; make a conscious decision to NOT link to anything else out there, because "we don't want to send readers away from our site." If you think about social media at all, think of it as another one-way chute to shove news through. Break up responsibilities so no one really knows what's going on. If the online archive isn't working, do you talk to the web people, the regular IT people, or circulation? That depends -- is it the long-term paid archive, which sits on a third-party server, or the short term archive, which is on our web server. And what genius decided the long-term paid archive wouldn't include photos, graphics, video, etc.? Or are you talking about the "E-edition," that poor bastard that combines the disadvantages of a printed page and reading off a screen? Good Lord, I could do this all day...

* Retain expensive, fossilized executive types while letting the comparatively cheap web (etc.) talent slip away. * Talk about failing forward while actually failing slowly: a great wait to do this is by forming "task forces"--bonus points if they are populated based entirely on rank/seniority rather than skill, passion, or potential. * Value and reward politicking more than leadership.

An interesting parody of the 'failing forward' principle. With these mistakes, failure is definitely within your reach. binary options