Recently, James Daunt, the new CEO of the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain (the fifth person to hold this position since 2013), launched an “innovative” initiative for his 600 stores: Make them local. That might be “innovative” for large bookstore chains, but not for neighborhood bookstores like Waterstones.
Indeed, when Daunt compared Waterstones’ local bookstore book returns to publishers (which were 3.5 percent) versus Barnes & Noble’s 25 percent, he instructed local Barnes & Noble store managers to let them decide which books to carry.
The 57-year-old Daunt also realized that it is better to hire a few experienced salespeople and pay them adequately than employ a number of inexperienced ones at a lower salary.
In addition, Daunt stopped selling spaces on the shelves and windows of his stores to the big publishing houses, and instead gave all publishers space based on the merits of their books. These initiatives reduced the corporate-level staff of 125 executives, including 10 in the purchasing department, and caused the layoffs of 5,000 employees, many of them temporary and regional supervisors.
Now, how could this Barnes & Noble initiative be an example to local TV stations that are part of large conglomerates? Local TV stations are losing out to streamers, whether they are SVod, AVoD, or FAST. In order to stay relevant in the marketplace, the stations are trying to emulate the general strengths of the streamers, which is the equivalent of “one-size fits all,” instead of reinforcing their own exclusive strength, which is localism.
Driven by Wall Street, the new paradigm for corporate TV executives is to eliminate the middleman (which, in this case is represented by the TV station) by going directly to the consumer with the streaming services, and in the process reducing the strength of their own local TV stations. Perhaps, the “innovative” initiative of Barnes & Noble could be of inspiration to similarly visionary corporate TV executives.