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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Newspaper executives: if you don't use the web you'll never understand it

I enjoyed this rant from music blog The Lefsetz Letter which has a go at newspaper executives who are "online ignorant, even if they can speak the language, they’ve got no insight, because they don’t utilize the damn thing". (Thanks to Charlie Barthold for the link)

He starts by noting how cross newspaper executives are with the likes of TradeMe and CraigsList for stealing their lucrative classified ads (Fairfax bought TradeMe to get them back again, although whether they're properly leveraging the deal is another story).

Then he goes on to talk about reading more news than ever online:

Yes, today’s supposedly ignorant younger generation? Its members are more up on what’s happening in the world than you ever were at that age. Because the news is at their fingertips. Online. Updated, in depth, constantly. Whereas the newspaper is firm, calcified as of yesterday.

Actually, you can read the newspapers today. On the west coast, the "New York Times" and "Wall Street Journal" go live, in their entirety, at 9 PM. The "Los Angeles Times" at midnight. I get all three physical newspapers, but not for breaking news, only secondary stories. Breaking news lives on the Web. Just like twenty four hour cable news killed network news, the Net is killing newspapers.

And newspapers cannot respond. Oh, they’ve got the right, just not the capability. Online custom states the newest story is first, and in descending order are all the old stories. None of the newspaper sites utilize this structure. They all look a bit like the physical newspaper. Give me the breaking news at the top. Give me clickable sections on the left. The newspaper giants are proving to me, just like their record company brethren, that they’re online ignorant, even if they can speak the language, they’ve got no insight, because they don’t utilize the damn thing.

And now papers have bloggers on their sites. I’ve got to ask you… When I can go directly to most bloggers’ pages, do you really think I’m going to dig down deep on a newspaper’s site to find some blog written by some old school fart beholden to the old game?

Boiling that down to a few points... do you agree that:
  1. Young people are more informed than previous generations because they have news at their fingertips?
  2. Newspaper websites are modelled too much on newspapers and not enough on web usability
  3. Newspaper executives don't spend much time online so they don't 'get it'
  4. Newspaper blogs are well and good but are effectively buried and difficult to find
My answers would be:
  1. Not sure, but I'd like to think so
  2. Yes they are. They need to evolve and quickly.
  3. Absolutely true. If you only log on for email and Google there's no way you can understand the nature of the threat/opportunity the web is bringing to your doorstep
  4. Yeah, they're buried and that could be improved. Also true that some aren't worth bothering with. But some are and it's a step in the right direction - if nothing else the individuals who are blogging will become more web-savvy and understand the threat/opportunity facing the company they work for.

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