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December 15, 2008

Rumors of the Newspaper Industry's demise have been greatly exaggerated

This is a long post, I have been thinking about it for a while. You may want to skip over it if you're in a hurry.

In the wake of the bankruptcy of the Chicago Tribune, and among rumors of troubles at the NY Times , it is easy to dismiss the newspaper industry as a dinosaur, an industry who, blinded by their own arrogance and ego, are sleep walking towards their doom.

I have posted on this many times and I think that there is some truth in this. Some newspapers, still clinging to the good old days when they had no real competition. Many of these brands will not be able to transition to the internet and other methods of communication.

The Grey Lady's electronic edition  is a classic example of this. The answer isn't an electronic version of their paper model. All this does is to continue with the model of limited space for advertisements, and is just another example of the resistance of the old  establishment. (As happens in every industry)

In his talk at TED  John Markoff likened today's news environment to the role of the wire editors that used to sift through all the incoming news feeds to try to determine which stories mattered.

His point was that we have all converted into that wire editor. Each of us sifting through dozens or hundreds of RSS feeds trying to work out which ones are worth reading and which ones are a waste of time.

This is the essence of the opportunity. Being the trusted news source is the key.

New ways of delivering diverse content

Newspapers have nurtured a relationship with their customers for decades. Their brand is their weapon, not just trying to repeat what they used to do, but taking their brand and doing something exiting, new and of the times.

Why hasn't the NY Times, the WSJ or the Washington Post created a rival for O'Reilly and Olbermann on YouTube? This medium is perfectly made for this time. Nobody has any spare attention to give, they get periods in three minute bites. I spend lots of time going through the @GoogleTalks  series, or the TEDTalks  series on YouTube.

You have to wonder why either the NY Times, the WSJ or the Washington Post didn't start either of these....

Why don't they have their own versions of social networks where they can offer additional value to readers and help them to become part of an interactive community? Imagine a network built by the USA Today, say, where readers could vote up and down restaurants, books, blogs, and whatever else.

Why are their lists of a hundred bloggers for them to tap into on a daily basis? Instead of trying to compete with bloggers, the way that the Huffington Post  is doing (Successfully) why not try to tap into the phenomena?

New streams of revenue

As the classified ad income streams become more challenged, there is a need for new ways to monetize their content. The good news is that while space in newspapers were limited, the Internet is limitless. Limitless, measurable and interactive.

I just came from the NY Times front page and down in one of the corners I saw a Google syndicated Adsense box. What??? Seriously, the NY Times cannot come up with a better way to try to monetize their front page than through Adsense?

Advertising has gone from display ads and interruption ads , to a trust based  or referral based approach. And a trusted news source, with a long standing relationship with their readers, has the credibility to make those sorts of referrals.

What about TextLinkAds (TLA) so they can sell their own text links and price them depending on where they are? Or their new offering inLink  so they can offer links for sale buried in the text itself? Why aren't they trying to monetize their video with something like

I recently posted on a media company  from Australia that has impressed me for years. Part of Aspermont's claim to fame is their ability to leverage their brand, their relationships and their market trust, and deliver a range of conferences.

I think that the newspaper industry is far from dead. They are just not moving quick enough right now. They are faced with a phenomenal opportunity to drive their brands to greater heights than ever before as a trusted source of news and opinions, as well as a center to extend their long standing relationships with their readers.

But will they react quick enough?