Newspapers and the blogosphere are full of reports and comments criticizing the Washington Post; the publisher of the Post, trying to come up with a new answer to the question "what business are you in?" came up with a fresh answer: the salon business. So far so good. She then proceeded (or someone on her behalf, it's a little unclear who did what exactly) to offer access to Washington Post reporters and editorialists at her home over dinner--for a very high price: the kind of price that suggests that lobbyists, for example, would be the ones who'd pony up the bucks and then seek to peddle their stories and points of view over the steaming plates of food.
Ouch! All of a sudden the publisher starts to look like just another influence peddler. And the Washington Post gets a black eye.
It didn't have to be this way. The publisher was in the right church, just the wrong pew. If she'd opened up a new category for any and all readers of the Post--call it "members" rather than "subscribers"--and then held a lottery for a series of informal gatherings, not a full-blown linen table cloth dinner, but a wine and cheese reception, say, with a Q&A session with Post writers, starting, say, with the sports section, just for fun (a section with some amazingly talented writers, it should be said), she could have eased into the experiment. The Post would have gotten some practice reframing its business model, the whole thing could have been fun and entertaining, with a populist flavor, and a new revenue model could have been tested.
Now the whole thing looks cheesy.
Reminds me of another Rule of Thumb: Knowing it ain't the same as doing it.
All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb