How Can Major Online News Publishers Compete With Weblogs And Small Independent Online News Outlets
"If you can't break the story itself, break the take that everyone waits for."
In the ever more competitive online news universe, if you are competing for business revenues, you need to understand now, better than later, that they most powerful key competitive advantage available to you is moving toward content aggregation and thematic newsmastering.
Photo credit: Jacob Wackerhausen
No matter how effective your news company may have been in the past, to compete with the speed and wit of quality news bloggers and with the growing number of new, small independent online publishing news outlets, you need to scale up to include more of what the others (meaning: other news sources) are saying.
The key competitive advantage is "selective comprehensiveness" and not exclusivity.
This doesn't mean that your news company should cover more news categories than it does now. It simply suggests that to maintain or grow its readers interests, it must now include more of the news that do not originate from its own news writers. Complementary articles, related stories, past research, and just about anything that allows the reader to explore with greater breadth and personal freedom the news you bring to her, is the best way to embrace this new ability to selectively pick, edit, comment and aggregate news which is going to be characteristic of the very near future of online news publishers.
"Original stories need to be supplemented aggressively by news-gathering professionals who are willing to point out all sources that are contributing to the news flow - regardless of whether they're part of your article-level advertising base or not."
While it is true that some webloggers who have very limited resources to generate their own news stories rely on their ability to scan major news outlets to get that small beat on news that's about to be posted and to assemble them into a useful "early edition" to sate news junkies of various kinds, this ability is much less of a "poor compromise" adopted by bloggers for lack of a "better way" and much more of an evolutionary step into a new way, more effective way to do news reporting and publishing online.
News publishers become news-jockeys, highly skilled curators of news compilations and other forms of inclusive news reporting which builds on what the others have to say and on whatever else of relevance is already out there, rather than on being focused exclusively on creating original, quality content before everyone else does.
To this very goal, I am once again pleased to bring in the bright and valuable, counterpointing opinion of online content business expert John Blossom. After the two quoted passages above (in italics), here is his take on the future of news publishers wanting to become more competitive online:
Early Edition: Webloggers Steal the Real-Time Thunder of News Headlines
by John Blossom
Where do people go to get today's headlines online?
For many it's not a news portal but the front pages of weblogs that crib little snippets of stories that are breaking (or have yet to break) on the major news sites.
The hunger to be first with a story in print is not being reconciled efficiently with the realities of online news, which favor those who keep their eyes open for breaking news from all sources agnostically.
News organizations have an opportunity to define premium services in this mix - and to consider how they can become the "go to" destinations for people wanting a first edition of today's headlines from a world of authoritative sources.
For many years my family lived a lot closer to New York City than we do today, enjoying the ability to hop into the city on short notice and to slip back home quickly in the small hours of the morning. One of the luxuries of that lifestyle was the early edition of the New York papers hitting the curbs as we neared our home. It was a special pleasure to peruse the day's news while most of our neighbors were fast asleep. Today I still get my sneak peeks, but not from the newsboy under the train trestle.
Instead I get to monitor weblogs that sneak out headlines and small snips of text from stories before they hit newspaper Web sites in full.
While I may still read the full stories when they come out later, the weblogs are fast becoming the front pages that I peruse to get the first picture of developing news. I think of this changing ritual in light of last week's ContentNext mixer in New York City (Shore coverage).
At the end of Rafat Ali's interview with Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., Chairman of The New York Times Company and Publisher of The New York Times, I asked Sulzberger if the NY Times had given any thought to introducing a more real-time online service to their Web offerings.
In the brief dip in the decibel level that followed my question Sulzberger answered no, it hadn't been in their plans.
Strangely the element of timeliness is not considered a major factor for determining premium levels of service on the Web.
If anything, news services do rather the opposite: push stories out to all as soon as they are available and then have them slip behind a registration or subscription firewall.
I say "strangely" because in the world of enterprise content timeliness of news oftentimes becomes one of the key factors for determining premium levels of service. Real-time news services from Dow Jones, Nikkei, Reuters, Thomson and other major suppliers vie for beats that may last only a fraction of a second, but they are beats that can move markets nevertheless - value that drives substantial revenues for these organizations.
Webloggers who have very limited resources to generate their own news stories rely on their ability to scan major news outlets to get that small beat on news that's about to be posted and to assemble it into a useful "early edition" to sate news junkies of various kinds.
These advantages in news gathering may prove to be temporary, but in the meantime news organizations don't seem to be thinking carefully about how to value the timeliness of news online for both consumer and enterprise audiences.
Here are a few thoughts as to how news organizations can beef up their rewards for delivering news immediately:
- Beat the weblogs and bookmarkers at their own games.
Photo credit: Andres Rodriguez
Many news-oriented weblogs are doing well in part because they are willing to cast an agnostic eye on content sourcing to come up with the stories that matter most in a given moment. While original content is always a key factor in driving revenues the opportunity to provide original context for content from many sources is becoming a primary driver for revenues that can no longer be ignored by news organizations.
Original stories need to be supplemented aggressively by news-gathering professionals who are willing to point out all sources that are contributing to the news flow - regardless of whether they're part of your article-level advertising base or not.
The success of Rafat Ali's paidContent.org rests largely on a good mix of original reporting and a pithy summary and analysis of news from other sources. This is a microcosm of where news organizations as a whole need to head.
If you can't break the story itself, break the take that everyone waits for.
- Join the conversation aggressively.
Photo credit: Jacob Wackerhausen
There's no way in a world filled with search engines, webloggers and social bookmarking that one team of journalists can hope to say "here's the news" with any real breadth through their own direct reporting talents.
News has become a global fabric of multi-tiered communications that requires journalists to be active members of that global conversation. Many journalists are doing this fairly passively thus far, monitoring weblogs and cribbing ideas for stories when they see key information or trends emerging, but generally folding those insights into rigid traditional story formats.
When the online conversation IS the news oftentimes, it pays to be involved in those conversations if you're going to get the story first.
- Build premium revenues in the real-time window.
Photo credit: Patrick Swan
In securities markets some major exchanges charge a premium for real-time stock quotations and then make them available to individuals for free after a fifteen minute delay. It's a factor that provides stock brokers and some private traders with a market edge, one that they are willing to pay a premium for in many instances.
With the ability to copy and distribute content globally and instantly a given the window of opportunity for a premium real-time service for online news may be relatively narrow - perhaps not even as wide as fifteen minutes in some instances - but it's a window in which news publishers and other content producers could make exclusive some level of details on key new content prior to releasing it to the general public.
If opinion-makers on weblogs are stealing some of the punch of these headlines anyway, you may as well recognize that competitive factor and make some hard cash while these sources build up interest in stories among the general readership.
It's time for news organizations to put a price on the immediate value of their coverage that's more in sync with the costs of producing those short-lived exclusive insights and in line with the value that audiences place in being the first to know about something in detail - regardless of its source.
It's an exclusivity that many would gladly pay for - if news organizations can muster will to think like a hungry weblogger for a moment instead of like a newsboy under a lonesome train track.Robin Good and John Blossom -
Reference: Shore [ Read more ]
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