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CareTrek: Innovation for the Underserved

Posted by Joe Antle on July 5, 2020 4:10 PM EDT
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I was recently asked by one of my best friends who is a smart and very successful small businessperson if there is a great benefit to my role as a healthy living advocate for improved community health from my years of experience (almost thirty years, but who is counting)......


....and I said that there is much value in that, albeit somewhat indirectly.

Actually, my friend asked a series of questions, beginning with this one.  "What is the single most relevant commonality between the purpose of CareTrek as an innovation for substance abuse recovery for underserved markets such as employees and community-wide recovery initiatives and newspapers?"  My answer:  "96%".  The commonality is that even at their heights, the newspapers where I worked as an advertising executive only derived revenue from 4% of the total businesses, organizations, NGOs and nonprofits in its designated market area, leaving 96% of those organizations to find other ways to grow their businesses, attract new customers, improve their operations and communicate more effectively internally and externally.  Today, it is estimated that only 4% of the total substance use disorder (SUD) addicted adults in the country are actively engaged and participating in some sort for formal, evidence-based SUD recovery treatment services program.  So, 96% of these adults are left to find comprehensive addiction recovery effectiveness programs on their own.  CareTrek seeks to put a dent in that and will focus on employers and sponsors of community-wide collective impact Addiction Recovery Treatment Support (ARTS) programs as a pathway for trying to do that.

This good friend then followed with yet another question, "So what would be an example, of many perhaps, of what newspapers could have done a decade ago to better serve the 96% of the market they didn't sell advertising to when it was clear that their dominance as a local advertising and news medium whose purpose was to support and build a better local community was in decline?" 

The friend who asked me that said that he thought the role of newspapers back in my day (80's, 90's and 2000's to 2010) was to be the community advocate for very important issues that face the local community and a sounding board and promoter of great things that are working-not just bad news about things that aren't working.  He even said that the local newspaper industry should be a promoter of innovation-perhaps not just a chronicler of innovation but an entity that would spur innovation forward.  

How could improving local community healthy living and recovery from recoverable health issues such as mental health, substance abuse, obesity, diabetes 2 and others not be at the top of the list-especially in times where we need to find better ways to improve community access and balance social inequity around such issues.  In his mind, prosperity, education, civic engagement, and good health should all be interwoven in a more entrepreneurial and innovative fashion. 

I told him about the collective impact concept promoted by the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR).  He asked a few questions and then he said, "Bravo!".  We discussed the newspaper industry's bold initiative called Newspaper Next and Newspaper Next 2.0 that was sponsored by industry leaders and conducted and communicated throughout the newspaper industry between 2006 through 2011 by the American Press Institute (API).  I even sent him the two links below for reference to API's work which was done with none other than Dr. Clayton Christensen and his colleagues at Innosight.  He said "Splendid".

Collective Impact (SSIR):

Newspaper Next (API):

A few weeks after this polite but increasingly robust exchange occurred, my good friend then asked another tough question.  He asked:  "Well what would you recommend that newspapers (and other locally-oriented media) do today in order to regain prominence, economic and financial health and play the central "local information connection utility" (licu) role that was advocated by SSIR through collective impact and by the API through its Newspaper Next initiative ?".

And here's what I wrote back to him (italics):

"Yes. So, here’s the answer to the newspaper industry now. Publish the newspaper only on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. No national or world news unless there is a “hard” local or regional angle. Sell “SMB business builder” packages that are “bundles” of print, online, email and “events presence” advertising AND cloud-based CRM licenses priced at $99, $179, $299 and “customized” per month. Also, sell business builder consulting services for $150 per hour.  If they could execute this simple “integrated/comprehensive” revenue growth strategy well enough to penetrate 20% of all regional SMBs and nonprofits at a monthly average recurring “subscription” rate of $199/mo then it’s an annual revenue run rate of $24 million at a 35% gross margin. Not hard. What’s left to lose?  What SMB could not afford $199/mo for an integrated complete toolset?

At 35% penetration and $299/mo in ten regions, it’s a huge number. And their newspaper would itself become more profitable given the loss of money-losing days-Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. And be much, much more relevant-100% local/regional news and information for civically-engaged, active, educated homeowners who care about their communities.

Yep. Sad story. The thing is every healthy local newspaper’s website is a nicely profitable business. Maybe around $10M in revenue, give or take?  Just not enough to make up for the Mon., Tues., Thurs., Friday and Sat. newspaper profit loss, I suspect.  That’s why I say the Tribune folks should go to twice-weekly and cover the stories that are truly hyper-local. It’s late...but not too late.  Become a “must-read” again. After all, nobody else can be a local newspaper-too many big barriers to entry.

However, economic and financial health for newspapers is just the beginning of the full recovery needed for the industry to recapture its critical role in helping drive civic engagement and in improving local communities, making them better places to live, work, play and raise a family.  They need to be the promoters and the chroniclers of the things that are working.  And newspapers need to capitalize on the fact that no other organization can be them-they need to leverage their natural barriers to entry and leverage that to improve the focus and clarity of what they are about, enhance their websites and digital tools even more and determine what they won’t do which is continue to publish non-local news that is already old the minute you read it and is published in thousands of other places online.  Lastly, they need to be so relevant and indispensable to the new target market defined as civically-engaged people who want their communities to be healthier, wealthier, and wiser and who will invest time, talent, money, and influence in that collective pursuit.  In short, local newspapers, their websites, their forums and events, and their other digital and human-enabled offerings must become that platform that “linksu”  (local information news, knowledge, sharing utility)” to the things that enable a local community to be all that it can be.

Finally, my good friend then asked:

"So how can CareTrek and local media providers do to make meaningful and sustainable improvements in some of the vexing socio-economic problems that plague local communities and leverage innovation and civic engagement as avenues for doing that ?".

My reply to this most important of the series of questions is that CareTrek is at its most basic a "good enough" solution that can with the right partners such as local media and others such as nonprofits, private sector, and public sector employers, NGOs and volunteers and members of underserved segments of the local community bring a convenient, affordable, reliable, effective safe and supported addiction recovery treatment solution to those who currently have nothing but hope.  CareTrek Innovation and key players in the local communities can become: Platforms for Promoting Best Practices and Successful Providers of Socio-economic Change Models, beginning in the SUD space. 

My friend then said, well when that happens count me in!

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