Should news content be the result of the aggregating and selecting from many and varied sources or the word coming from one single perspective? John Blossom analyzes the future of newspapers and openly asks some hard questions in this fascinating and scary article.
Photo credit: Paul Turner and Max Gladwell mashed up by Daniele Bazzano
What do you say? Should newspapers completely rethink their model of journalism?
Where are you more likely to read your personally most relevant news today? On a newspaper, on a blog or on Twitter?
What should newspapers then do to survive with the web before their dwindling numbers make them crumble?
Here the insightful analysis from media and business content expert John Blossom:
Intro by Robin Good
by John Blossom
Good news about the newspaper industry has been an oxymoron at best in a sinking global economy, and today is no exception.
TheStreet.com confirms the buzz that The New York Times is taking out a USD 225 million loan against its new office building off of Times Square while The Wall Street Journal notes that Sam Zell's Tribune Co. is sniffing out options for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring.
Quite a change of pace from last year's triumphal posturing of new media headquarters and highly unrealistic revenue goals for private acquisitions would eventually lead to new glories. 'T'ain't working, apparently, as print ad revenues continue to crater except for feature article sections that vie with magazines for more targeted interest groups.
As was noted in a study from earlier this year 37 percent of Americans go online for their news, while only 27 percent were picking up a newspaper on any given day. Newspapers in the U.S. are now officially a legacy product, though they still represent the majority of ad revenues for most news organizations. The only large markets where newspapers are growing significantly are in nations such as India, where the penetration of the Web still lags behind the thirst for news.
While some well-diversified media companies are prepared for the long run of news' transition into a more electronic future, 2009 is shaping up to be the year in which the newspaper industry begins to face either massive restructuring or widespread collapse. Yet there is hope for traditional providers of news - if they can put their best efforts behind the most profitable opportunities.
Here are a few thoughts as to where traditionally print-oriented news organizations must be headed in 2009 to build a more profitable future:
Get Better Than Bloggers and Search Engines at Aggregating News
Mainstream journalists are still equipped oftentimes with the personal networks that enable them to deliver breaking news effectively, but nobody trusts any single news organization as their source for news.
In other words, while referral links are highly valuable for people who bother to engage full-length news stories, the sites that provide them are the "go-to" stops for a rapidly growing number of news hounds. Getting breaking news to appear more automatically in these other venues - and to have revenue-producing ads and partnership "hooks" in that remote content - is a key factor for making the most of these aggregators.
However, it also points to the lingering question: why aren't more mainstream news organizations aggregating more links from other sources in their own core news coverage?
I would agree that automated aggregation services like Sphere are of limited value in this regard, but the source-agnostic form of editorial content aggregation favored by bloggers and outlets such as the Huffington Post and Newser appear to be enabling far more engagement for online audiences than "not invented here" news organizations that still insist that their own teams must create most every drop of news that they monetize.
Love Print as a Service, Not as Your Brand
In the nineteenth century newspapers grew up in buildings that housed their editorial staffs, printing presses and loading docks - self-contained factories very much in the model of that era's mass manufacturing.
In the twentieth century printing presses in many markets moved away to remote locations but most still produced newsprint products only for one source of editorial content and ads. In an era in which news can be aggregated effectively by anyone, that model is no longer a cost-effective approach to print production.
Print will continue to thrive as a reading format for some time, but it's far less likely that printing presses are going to be running news and ads from only one source.
It's far more likely that new types of newspapers are going to be with us very shortly, ones which license news from today's newspaper staffs and other news sources and share revenues and links to online materials via Data Matrix codes and other print-to-online linking technologies.
Individual news organizations are not likely to invest enough in these new kinds of source-agnostic aggregation technologies fast enough to make a difference to their bottom lines, so suffering news organizations would be smart to band together to make such technologies happen sooner rather than later.
Alternatively, the time for a "Google Newspapers" printing plant in major markets that aggregates content from many sources agnostically may have come at long last.
Enable Community-generated News More Effectively
Small-market newspapers and television cable news outlets have become fairly aggressive in embracing their audiences as sources of news and entertainment. Yet major newspaper chains in many markets are still struggling to get their hands around what it means to empower everyday people as news producers.
Social media provides some of the most engaging content online today, yet many publishers still shy away from empowering local news gatherers that do not conform to traditional models of journalism. But many sources of community-generated content - sports scores, traffic reports, eyewitness news - are highly engaging sources of content that can be monetized easily.
In an era of real-time broadcast news alerts from anyone on services such as Twitter newspapers need to rethink what's the best way to engage a community that already knows how to publish to one another.
There's no doubt that many news organizations are hitting the right buttons in making decisions on the future of making money from news, but the pace at which those decisions are being made has left a gaping chasm between the cost of sustaining their greatest revenue-generator - print publishing - and the cost of investing more heavily in online publishing methods that will carry them forward to long-term profitability.
As much as online is the answer, though, I think that it's time for publishers to take a far more radical approach to print as soon as possible. Print will survive and thrive - the only question is, in whose hands? The time to release the medium from the brand is at hand, and it can come none too soon for most news organizations' bottom lines.
About the author
John Blossom's career spans more than twenty years of marketing, research, product management and development in advanced information and media venues, including major financial publishers and financial services companies, as well as earlier experience in broadcast media. Mr. Blossom founded Shore Communications Inc. in 1997, specializing in research and advisory services and strategic marketing consulting for publishers and consumers of content services.
John Blossom -
Get Better Than Bloggers and Search Engines at Aggregating News - Janaka Dharmasena
Love Print as a Service, Not as Your Brands - Ruslan Gilmanshin
Enable Community-generated News More Effectively - Robin Good