Every Monday at 7 a.m. Andrew Davis sits down and writes a letter to Warren Buffett. His goal is to get a meeting with the billionaire and chat about the newspaper industry.
“I believe that newspapers can survive,” Davis writes on his blog. “And I believe I can help him do it.”
The 39-year-old Boston man has been writing his letters for eight months now — he started in October after selling his digital marketing and advertising agency — and he’s still waiting to hear from Buffett.
“I know he’s reading them,” Davis tells me in a phone interview. “I heard from [Fortune writer and Buffett pal] Carol Loomis. She called a few months ago after Warren had forwarded one of my letters to her.”
He’s also written to Terry Kroeger, who runs Buffett’s newspapers, but hasn’t heard back.
Davis has never worked for a newspaper, but he believes that’s one of his strengths.
“One of the things lacking in publishing is new ideas from outside of the industry. I think it’s important for publishers to embrace new blood and new ideas.”
Here are a few of the ideas that Davis has pitched to Buffett and Kroeger:
We must monetize, and reward, those journalists building an audience outside of the masthead brand. We must encourage our journalists to explore new media opportunities – opportunities we can benefit from. In the future – journalists will be as powerful as the masthead brands of the past.
Perhaps newspapers can look to old revenue models like underwriting (think PBS and NPR) instead of advertising. Instead of selling column-inches in the newspaper, why not sell long-term underwriting relationships for reporting that these brands value?
“Showing and distributing our work (in short bites) on social media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram and even on our brands websites builds anticipation, interest and audience for the final produced work. I call this the content continuum: a continuous sequence of insight leading to the evolution of a story across platforms and media.
Prudential is currently running a campaign designed to help people imagine their first day of retirement. The campaign is called “Day One.” Why not invite Prudential to underwrite a weekly column – in every single one of BH Media’s markets – where journalists profile someone in the community retiring?
“My goal is to have the opportunity to save some newspapers,” he says. “I’m not giving up on print. It needs to evolve and change.”
He’s optimistic he’ll eventually get to say that to Buffett in a face-to-face meeting.
“I think my ideas are legitimate. I think it would be silly for Warren Buffett and Terry Kroeger to pass up the opportunity to discuss these ideas. I do hope to hear from them by the end of summer.”
At what point will you give up your letter-writing campaign? I ask.
“As long as Warren doesn’t put me on some stalking list, I’ll do it until I run out of ideas,” he says with a laugh. “And I probably have an idea a day. I hope my letters are seen as helpful and thought-provoking and not stalking.”
Davis also hopes his persistence pays off the way it did nearly two decades ago when he regularly wrote to the Jim Henson Company. “It took about 37 letters before I got a job there” in the 1990s, he says. (His assignment was to make sure the puppets were in the right place at the right time.)
I ask if he’s considered putting his letters to Buffett and Kroeger into a book.
“I might. And I’d love it to end with, ‘Hey! I revolutionized the newspaper industry!’”
I called Berkshire Hathaway PR on Wednesday to see what Buffett and Kroeger think of Davis’s letters. I’m still waiting to hear from them.
UPDATE: After the interview, I emailed Davis and asked about his chat with Carol Loomis. Did he try to get her to arrange a meeting? I asked. His response:
We didn’t chat about the possibility of a meeting, instead we discussed the economics of book publishing.
It’s my opinion that Warren will call when he trusts that my advice is deeply rooted in reviving revenue and I didn’t want to put Carol in the position of having to decide for herself whether or not I had the breadth of knowledge after one call to warrant Warrens time.
She didn’t volunteer to set up a meeting either. I’m patient and profoundly eager to reshape the publishing world.