Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why we should consider the "news" business

1. We are world experts in document management.
2. Our distributed in place network of Igens would allow us to distribute and print, faster, better and cheaper than anoyone else.
3. Our manufacturing partners would have useful timely information in Print to use as promotional material to stay top of mind of their customers at very little expense.
4. It would probably increase the need for toner, supplies and post sale service.

While following how the "news" communication ecology deals with reporting on us, it's become clear that it's a broken system. If they can't get our story straight, how can we reasonably expect that they will be able to communicate the much more complex ever changing story of economic redevelopment in America.

Here's what I mean.

The Fitch Ratings Press Release showed up in my RSS feed at 4:32 today. It took me less than a minute to scan the online document. Then about 30 seconds to find the parts I thought were the crux of the issue. Then another 30 seconds to cut and paste. Then about 5 or 10 minutes to think about what I chose. Then another 10 seconds to post here.

That's the real power of documents. Prepared correctly, a document is the best Search platform ever invented. If the document presents in Print, it's a mass audience. If the document presents on the web, it's a niche audience.

Another function of a document is to enable compare and contrast. You can compare and contrast my view of the world with your view of the world by scanning and searching the full PR release here. And then the AP translation of that document here.

Note how much easier this would be in Print. "Compare and contrast" is how you practice thinking. The rest is skills and character training. That's why readers have to print things out. That's why erasable paper is a game changer. It will enable thinking. That's why when textbooks are reinvented it will be a combination of Print and Kindles.

Anyway, here's what I think is most useful in the Fitch press release.
Ratings strength include:
--Significant recurring post-sale revenue from vast and growing base of installed machines;

--Stable cash generating capability;

--Xerox's strong brand name and product portfolio; and

--Solid liquidity and credit metrics, especially core metrics.

Fitch's rating concerns consist of:
--The impact of the global weak macroeconomic environment on sales and profitability, especially on equipment sales;

--Increasing write-offs in the financing receivables portfolio due to rising customer bankruptcies;

--Intense competition resulting in consistent equipment pricing pressure, especially in the office segment; and

--Limited organic revenue growth.

A positive rating action could result if
--Growth in post sale revenue and profitability more than offsets a decline in equipment sales, allowing for total revenue growth in 2009.

--There is a material improvement in credit metrics, via debt reduction or operating profit improvement.

A negative rating action could result if:
--Significant further acceleration in sales and/or profitability declines occurs, especially in post-sale, driven by reduced demand amid the current global economic downturn. Ongoing material declines in post-sale revenue would indicate that the revenue stream is more susceptible to economic factors than previously anticipated.

--Significant deterioration in the quality of the company's financing portfolio resulting in further write-offs and lower FCF.

--Free cash flow trends below Fitch's expectation, due to profitability declines and/or working capital uses, which would weaken the company's liquidity position relative to its ratings.

--A significant debt-financed acquisition outside of current expectations or resumption of share repurchases during the economic downturn.
At 5:32 PM, incoming RSS presented the Forbes posting of the AP story. The AP translated the document and slapped a copyright on the rewrite. As in:
Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

There are two kinds of news.

One is seeing what is happening in the real world. Then crafting a story about it. The other, our sweet spot, is translating documents to craft the story we want to tell our viewers. I say viewers instead of readers because very few people have the time to read. If you want the longer story on that, I did a post on my other blog. You can find it here.

Public Relations used to be about managing the public discourse or the "news cycle." We all saw how well that worked in the last election cycle. Today, most of what passes for news is rebroadcasting PR releases. Now, that's falling apart. People don't trust the news because they have learned that most of it is recycling "news product" to attract eyeballs. But our problem is NOT to attract eyeballs. Our problem is to get the facts out to investors and customers.

So, until the news industry stops worrying about how the sky is falling, we have an opportunity.
With our CEO sitting next to the President we have the best source on the planet for what the economic advisors are thinking. Given the drive for transparency, it should be public information. Because the real problem of America is to get people much smarter, much faster we can do well, by doing good.

Meanwhile, Fitch says they are concerned with questions of organic growth. Fair enough. Our global network of standards based iGen owners is one source of organic growth.. It's not the tech. Sooner or later everyone gets the tech. Now with IBM+Ricoh and Screen entering the long run transpromo in the States (I prefer to call it TransInfo) that's getting pretty crowded.

Our advantage is the deep relationships we have with the people who run the iGens on the ground. The boxes, the common concerns about growing business, the common Xerox standards and languages and maybe the most important, trusted personal relationships, have created the foundations of a huge reserve of global social capital. While the box business is settling down, we can monetize our advantage in social capital with a single minded focus on "distribute and Print".

Back to the news opportunity.
To the extent that "news" organization translate documents, we can do it better. To the extent that niche publications in Print delivered to decision makers and opinion leaders has real value, we can do it better. To the extent that our country needs much smarter opinion leaders to guide the public discourse, we can make a significant difference.

The steps:
1.Gather public documents - Congressional hearing transcripts, State and regulatory transcripts, Bills in Progress, Bills Passed etc.

2. Task our PR firm with crafting stories for different niche audiences.
Our audience in Dubai or London is not worried about the same things as our audience on Wall Street or Cleveland.

3. Create multiple press ready PDFs. The flat size is 14 by 20. As far as I know, we do the best 14 x 20 on the planet.

4. Move the PDF's through the Cloud to our iGen output network.

5. Get buy in from our partners.
First, giving them a timely interesting publication that they can send regularly to prospects and customers.

Second, by showing them how to sell local ads in their locally produced newsletters. They will have an easy path to find new prospects, talk to existing customers and demonstrate the power of timely information about important issues.
The societal benefit is that the Xerox network is well positioned to have a significant effect on making people smarter, faster. Do well, by doing good.
Xerox used to mean Copy. Today, Xerox means Print. Anywhere.

Google it. Find it. Xerox it. Anywhere.

Revision after original post:
I just did a post at my other blog, Print In the Communication Ecology, talking about the same thing to a different audience.
Added at 9:27 Eastern Time.
This is not as hard as it seems. Back in the day at Parsons, in the Pub Center I set up, two professionals + one very good student, organized an international exhibition of 14 x 20 posters in Belgrade in three weeks with art supplied for free from about 30 great designers from all over the globe. The money invested was about $200. It took about 3 weeks from idea to exhibition and got 35 minutes of local television time.
You can watch the video on YouTube. Here's the video- stored at YouTube.

Xerox News Network? Xerox TV? It has a pretty good ROI.


  1. Interesting and informative information. Good to know.

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    The best I like about it is that after calculating the result, it gives you a customized less expensive solution based on your data and its really interesting. You can try out this tool and see the results for yourself.

  2. palyn,
    thanks for the info. I will definitely check it out. My take is that as better measurements of time come on board, ROT return on time, instead of ROI, is going to be a much better guide for decisions in real life.

    The problem with ROI is that there is so much noise, you don't know what your measuring. To many moving parts to know if X investment lead to $Y.

    If you have ever been in a Vocational High School, the ROT is pretty close to 0, most of the time. Not cause people are bad, but because there is so much noise and there is no real time indicator to let the teacher know if he's doing the right thing.