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Session 27: The WNZ Media Corporation Case Study
In the late 1990’s, the WNZ Media Corporation, then an international chain of newspapers and
magazines with publications in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia media
markets, and with well over two billion dollars in stock market value, experienced a steep
decline in its readership globally. The five-year forecasts coming from its regional business
units suggested that the future for business as usual was not too rosy either. Subsequent
analyses of consumer trends suggested that the advent of an internet-savvy consumer was
creating both business opportunities and a culture of digital information consumption that was
by-passing WNZ. According to WNZ’s CEO, Zackary Michaelson, the organization’s long-term
plan included:
… entrepreneurial approach to information and media production design,
creation, and distribution where the Internet and other emerging global
information technologies would play a commanding role….At the same time
WNZ will refocus its product offerings towards younger, more high-tech oriented
consumers….And since time is of the essence, we plan to leverage our current
market position and stock value to rapidly acquire the breadth of global
capabilities required to compete in the Internet Age.
Expanding the Business
To understand the possible causes of the decline of WNZ one must first understand its
traditional business processes. WNZ began as a major newsprint company, collecting news,
writing stories and editorials, and selling ads and reader subscriptions. Over time, WNZ
transformed itself into a multi-media giant, distributing “free” newspapers like Boston’s Metro
as well as standard subscription-based daily and weekly newspapers and weekly and monthly
magazines in major urban markets, world-wide to its English-speaking audiences. More
importantly, WNZ created an array of Web sites that disseminated local, regional and national
news and other information. These sites operated two pricing models, view for free with
advertising and view for a fee (with special value-added content) and less advertising. In the
1990s, WNZ Media went on a ten-year strategic and well-researched buying frenzy that left
many of its competitors in the dust, acquiring cable television production companies, satellite
radio stations, and multi-media design firms in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. During that same
period, the corporation reduced the number of its paper-based publications, learning how to
produce and distribute digital content over the Internet and via broadband, and how to make
nice profits in the process.
As the firm expanded and acquired new companies, its backend processes and application
specific (functional) software became more diverse and less integrated. These developments
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Session 27: The WNZ Media Corporation Case Study
made it difficult for management to collect timely and accurate data from WNZ’s various
locations across the globe, and it pushed up the total cost of ownership for IT. It also impacted
information sharing across the enterprise.
Designing and Producing Information
WNZ designs, produces and distributes high quality sports, entertainment, and news content.
Its team of highly skilled journalists and program directors seek out and collect information
concerning interesting, engaging, and timely events; its camera and video crews capture
footage on site; its experienced editors cut and edit this footage and related informational
content; and its producers ensure that everything comes together in quality programs,
delivered on schedule and in keeping with market demand. The video footage is one of the
most engaging types of media but it is also the most expensive to produce. For example, the
production process for a typical television broadcasting firm accounts for fully half of the
operational costs, excluding licensing costs and cost of personnel. The leadership team expects
that the deployment of an end-to-end digital production process will radically reduce costs and
help the firm expand more aggressively into new markets while reducing original production as
well as content reuse and repurposing costs.
In the considered view of WNZ insiders, new digital production process would afford producers,
editors, and journalists ready access to content located anywhere within the WNZ organization
at anytime. Once the proper content is located, the aforementioned production system would
enable the fabrication of products for either live distribution via WNZ cable or satellite channels
or via WNZ content-streaming Web sites. Production locations around the world would also
benefit from the seamless sharing of these digital archives. In response to the requests of
subscription-paying customers, the organization’s Web sites were strengthened to provide
more personalize products and features. Finally, the overall plan called for the expansion of
WNZ e-commerce Web sites to sell pay-per-view magazine, book, music and movie downloads
to consumers.
New Product Lines
WNZ’s new lines of business included premium, pay-per-view Web sites, cable and satellite
radio programming, downloadable media products from past releases, and dynamic, real-time
“community” sites for the entertainment and education of the now vast base of world-wide
WNZ content consumers. These changing circumstances also allowed for more subscriber
participation in the creation and design process. In addition, other Web services allowed the
public to submit content of their own, thus allowing the WNZ personnel to shape these
contributions as well as material of their own to create offerings to feed the seemingly
insatiable demand for WNZ products and services. To complement these IT-enabled new
services, process changes and new ways of thinking within WNZ production departments
fostered opportunities to leverage individual pieces of content across many different platforms
and “products” – either through the simple reuse of content or by repackaging WNZ content to
produce news and event compilations, retrospectives, and even computer and Web-based
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Session 27: The WNZ Media Corporation Case Study
games. This repurposing of content produced products that sold as additional online services
or as standalone CD’s, DVD’s and computer games.
As WNZ rode the emerging Internet wave, these changes in approach also led to a dramatically
shift in the focus of the organization. As CIO Russ Brucestone points out:
Our success within WNZ now depends on our ability to effectively capture, tag,
store and retrieve all these different information artifacts, and to reuse and
repurpose them in a timely manner in keeping with production requirements.
This sort of capability requires a methodical process and a considerable
investment in enabling content and knowledge management tools….The
organization has also made a point of providing incentive compensation to our
writers and editors based upon the reuse and repurposing of their archived
Involving consumers in the creation of WNZ content was not without its challenges –
operationally, financially, and in terms of legal and ethical compliance with the high standards
of the organization – but it was at the same time very good for business. Customers were
encouraged to comment on most WNZ offerings and provide input for continuous
improvement of what WNZ offered the public. Rather than create content from scratch, many
WNZ employees now served as the aggregators, “harvesting” content from customers including
blogs, discussion forums, and so on. The process of personal interviews and news gathering still
goes on but only as a sub-set of a much broader array of enterprise media production
As the CEO Michaelson observed in a recent interview:
We now view our customers as our partners in creating and sharing content of
wider interest to the global community that we serve. With this partnership
comes challenges and responsibilities for all parties. For its part, WNZ must be
ever vigilant to protect the privacy and confidentiality of its customer/content
providers while ensuring the quality, reliability, and viability of the content that
they are sharing with us. Our “partners” are glad to share but they too must act
responsibly and follow similar ethical and legal standards in these exchanges.
The process isn’t perfect but it is robust. We will learn and improve as we go
New Ventures Division
In this same spirit, WNZ established a New Ventures Division within its organization. The
mandate of the new ventures division was to identify opportunities that WNZ might exploit to
expand and diversify its business. Through a partnership with Google, they studied user traffic
on the World-wide Web to identify reader interests and communicated their findings to the
editorial and reporting staffs across the globe who in turn responded with just-in-time and
targeted content for information-hungry readers across the globe. Similarly, the new ventures
team examined developments in telecommunication, information technology, fashion, vacation
patterns, culture, and social networking to identify opportunities for WNZ. As new appliances
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Session 27: The WNZ Media Corporation Case Study
such as, tweeting or the IPhone or IPad became popular, New Ventures promoted ways to
exploit these developments. For example, WNZ investigated the use of tweeting to promote its
products and distribute certain content.
In response the leadership of WNZ decided to dramatically shift the focus of the organization
and to ride the emerging Internet wave. For CIO Brucestone the MIS work associated with
these changes continues to raise any number of concerns and issues going forward:
How do we add sufficient value to the “customer experience” of our products
and services so that the customer is willing to pay for Web-based content? How
do we control rapidly escalating IT costs, including the cost of adding highly
expert and hence expensive media developers to the IT organization? How can
WNZ get a leg up on the competition in terms of exploiting the emerging
generation of portable media/telecomm devices? How do we maintain a well
aligned and integrated organization within a corporate culture and work
processes driven by continuous innovation? These are some of the challenges
WNZ faces over the next 5-10 years .
A Media Industry Sidebar [as reported in the Financial Times, 041213]:
A start-up (April 2013) Aereo now offers high-definition streams of broadcast channels to smartphones,
tables, and laptops. For $8 a month, subscribers can record shows and pause live TV using a digital
video recorder in the Cloud. The twist is that each customer rents a tiny remote aerial. In New York,
thousands are pointed at TV masts on the Empire State Building. Aereo plans to replicate the model in
22 markets this year, from Chicago to Washington, D.C.
Seventeen broadcasters are suing to shut Aereo down. Aereo may be tiny but its fate could determine
the future economics of the US content machine that feeds screens around the world. The legal dispute
hinges on whether Aeroe’s streaming counts as a public or private performance of copyrighted content.
According to an industry spokesperson, “if broadcasts are freely available on any device, it will be
impossible to keep charging for them (through cable channel subscriptions).
Like Netflix’s streaming series, Hulu’s on-demand shows, iTunes’ downloads, YouTube’s original content,
and Dish’s ad-skipping set-top box, Aereo offers consumers something new, affordable and appealing.
These services nibble away at the traditional TV model.
Another Media Industry sidebar [as reported in the New York Times, 041713]
When the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author David Mamet released his last book with
Sentinel Publishing in 2011 it sold well. But this year when Mr. Mamet set out to publish his next one,
he decided to take a very different path: he will self-publish. Since last fall, Trident Media Group, which
represents 800 authors, has been offering its client self-publishing possibilities through deals negotiated
through online publishers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble where books are simultaneous made
available for print –on-demand and digital downloads. As long as the marketing component is available
through the agency, this publishing arrangement offers the author more immediate access to a wider
market and higher royalties. Needless to say, the arrangement is highly disruptive to traditional
publishing houses in an industry already in throws of rapid change and also places Amazon and Barnes
and Noble in an awkward situation with these publishing houses whose products they also sell online or
in the case of B&N in their stores.
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Session 27: The WNZ Media Case Study Homework
Case Study Assignment Instructions
The WNZ Media Corporation case is intended to make use of most of the materials and
concepts that we have covered in MISM 2301. In particular, case serves as the context for the
student’s application of the MIS Integrative Framework to assist in the determination of WNZ’s
information requirements that will in turn drive the design of its business processes and the
selection of appropriate information systems, personnel and organizational structures. In
preparing your case analysis, you should look at the class schedule and the list of “Specific
Topics” to get the larger view of the scope of perspective that might be included in your
assessment of WNZ Media. Then use the class slides and your notes to answer the questions
cited below. Throughout this assignment, you need to ask yourself: “What are WNZ Media’s
information needs in the context of its corporate operations, its management and control
processes, and its long-term planning, corporate learning and innovation requirements.
As the simple drawing below suggests, the business choices made by WNZ dictate the types of
information required to operate its production and service delivery processes, to manage the
firm profitably and to ensure the quality of process outcomes, and to learn and innovate so as
to keep WNZ competitive in its market place.
Note that your responses to Question 1 will influence your work on subsequent questions.
Continue to refer to these responses to ensure that your answers align with one another. To
this end, read the case study with care. Every detail of the WNZ narrative carries implications
for the business, its competitive posture, and its management. At the outset, read all
questions to get a sense of the problems to be addressed in your analysis. Then, as you tackle
each question, make sure you read the whole question and answer it fully and specifically. Be
prepared to go back and revise previous answers as you answer later questions, developing a
clearer and more extensive sense of WNZ Media’s situation. Use the answer formats and
tables provided by the instructor to help facilitate your analysis but feel free to adjust them to
better reflect the needs of your responses. Please start each question on a new page. Include
graphics if needed. Submit all the following pages (but not these first three pages of this
document) with your answers.
Good luck!!!
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Session 27: The WNZ Media Case Study Homework
Jicheng Zhu
WNZ Media Corporation Case
1. Based on a careful reading of the case answer the following questions and then complete
the table below. In the table below, list in column 1 the most important operational
(transactional) activities (i.e. day-to-day work) at WNZ Media Corporation as it operates its
business and competes in its markets. Then in column 2 describe the information required
to enable or support each of those operations-level requirements.
a. Employing the MIS Integrative Framework (posted on blackboard for this Session
Assignment), what is the primary business focus/driver of WNZ Media (i.e.
operational excellence, customer intimacy, product/service innovation) and why did
you make this choice?
b. What would be the most important secondary driver/focus for WNZ? ____________
c. Complete the table below (note: provide at least 8 examples):
Key Operations-level (i.e. dayto-day) Business
repurpose Web content to
create new multi-media
Associated information Requirements
photo libraries
story/news article libraries
video and audio libraries
Google “interest” survey data
Web site sales data
Add more rows if needed
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Session 27: The WNZ Media Case Study Homework
2. For each information requirement you identified in Column 2 of Question 1, explain what
types of application software would most effectively enable the management of these
information requirements for WNZ Media Corporation. In the last column describe how
this investment has improved operations efficiency and/or effectiveness.
Information Requirement
(copy from question 1,
column 2)
• photo libraries
• story/news article libraries
• video and audio libraries
• Google “interest” survey
• Web site sales date
Enabling Application
content management •
multi-medial library
shopping cart system •
DSS system
Operations benefit
leverage of existing assets
increased revenue from
existing assets
targeted selling driven by
customer data
Add more rows if needed
Note: Most business requirements align with multiple enabling application systems. Be
inclusive here in your thinking!
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Session 27: The WNZ Media Case Study Homework
3. In addition to the software applications you listed in Question 2, WNZ Media Corporation
needs an information technology (I/T) infrastructure. This consists of the hardware and
system software used to support the applications mentioned previously (but not the
applications themselves). Fill in the table below with your recommendations for the various
components of this infrastructure, and be as specific as possible.
I/T Product, Component or
Linux operating system for
WNZ server
Value to the business
WNZ has highly skilled technical people who can
run Linux
lower TCO for server operations
strong, reliable product
more dependable server performance
Add more rows as needed
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Session 27: The WNZ Media Case Study Homework
4. Please describe in Column 1 how WNZ Media Corporation could use information
management and information technology for business process management and control
(note: include at least eight examples). For each opportunity, identify in column 2 where
WNZ will turn for the information required for management and control. In the last column
identify the benefits these uses will provide to the corporation.
Opportunity for Management
(M) and Control (C)
• manage the sales of
repurposed content to
ensure the right mix of
products and a satisfactory
return on investment
Sources of M & C
• Web shopping cart
• DSS reports
employing Google
• accounting system
analysis of product
by product profits
Benefits to WNZ
• …
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