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Sunday, February 24, 2008

You heard it here last

I'm not proud, but it's been taking me an awfully long time to get through my emails and feed aggregator lately so these tidbits have been kicking around a week or so.

1. Four US newspaper chains join forces to create combined ad group selling spots across all the companies' websites. The four, Hearst, NY Times, Tribune and Gannett, said it was the best way for them to compete against Google, AOL and others.

2. US media jobs fell to a 15-year low in December.

3. The NY Times is cutting 100 newsroom jobs in the coming year.

4. It's not just you, or me, it's Netscape founder Marc Andreesson too: when asked by Spiegel magazine if any aspect of the internet had become overwhelming he said, "Information. I certainly have too much information. It drives me bananas. that's why I have gone on an information diet."

He talked about newspapers and their efforts to move online (thanks to Adrian Monck for the link).

"Newspapers with declining circulations can complain all they want about their readers and even say they have no taste. But you will still go out of business over time. A newspaper is not a public trust - it has a business model that either works or it doesn't.

SPIEGEL: Well, it's not quite that simple. In truth, all the major media brands are on the Web, and many have far more readers and far greater revenues than a site like

Andreessen: Take the New York Times. They are slow and they are in denial. After 15 years of the Internet, their online division - though it has been very aggressive and well run compared to its peers - still represents only about 10 percent of the company's total revenue. And it's not enough. The core of the business is collapsing.
"What's going to happen is that print subscriptions will decline to a point where it's no longer economically feasible to keep the printing plants operating. They will be shut down. So will the distribution networks. When that happens, the only thing left will be revenues from the online divisions. That won't be enough to cover newsroom costs. There is no way that they have a transition strategy from point A to point B.

SPIEGEL: What would you do differently?

Andreessen: Well, if the newspaper companies all self-destruct because they have failed to come to grips with this transition, then that's their problem. The people who made horse carriages were not the ones who started car companies.
"But here's the point: There is an enormous market demand for information. It just has to be fulfilled in a way that fits with the technology of our times. It is also going to open up a lot of opportunities for a new generation of media companies, usually born on the Internet.
"Right now they are popping up all over the place - like Talking Points Memo, a political blog from the left that is a bit of a throwback to pre-World War II journalism, when newspapers were expected to be partisan. None of them are huge, but that's how an industry gets created. We may be sitting here in 10 years and see major news organizations born out of experiments that are happening right now that have nothing to do with CNN."


Scott said...

I'd agree that newspapers haven't come to terms with the modern world (very similar in how record companies haven't and in the same way - we want to pick and choose what we want rather than the whole package) but there still is a role for newspapers (even if they're totally online).

Newspapers (among all the regurgitated PA and Reuters copy) have original writing.

In the UK, if you wanted the news you could look at the BBC website but if you wanted the gory details of some scandal you might read The Sun, or for some government disaster, The Mail.

Sports, Politics and Financial journalists all usually have interesting info or opinion that is unique to them or the paper they write for. Whether you end up reading that in their physical paper, their website, or syndicated to someone else's paper or website doesn't matter - it still can earn someone money and the newspaper's role is to identify the good writers and get the best work out of them.

Much as we'd not like to admit it too, there's the need (especially in bigger markets like here in the UK) to customise the news to suit the type of person you have - and this doesn't mean filtering the articles like Google News does - it means actually writing the news differently (and you can't get much more different than The Guardian and The Sun!). Until you can get a computer to understand and write stories, that customisation isn't going to happen online soon.

Newspapers still have a long way to go before they fully utilise their original unique copy in the online world.

The other advantage I can think of in a physical newspaper is "discoverability". What I mean is that a with a physical newspaper, you can easily come across a story you didn't realise you had any interest in whatsoever by turning the page. Online, you're less likely to discover a gem of a story accidentally.