Saturday, 8 November 2008

Why newspapers are damaging the news business


I've said it before (namely here) and I'll say it again: newspapers impede the development of news websites.

While primary focus is given to what for now is seen as the cash cow - newspapers - then madcap debates will still be had about whether a story should be broken online, or in print. The answer of course is always - online!

Holding back only damages the 'brand' ... and it is the brand which will see us through a cold harsh winter [for now].

Would any editor in his/her right mind really consider holding back a match report from Saturday's game until Monday, or even later in the case of weekly newspapers? The answer of course is no (please God, don't let me hear someone say yes).

So why is it that serious consideration is still being given to holding back stories for the best part of a week? It's all in the name of 'exclusivity' and selling papers.

Reality check: readers don't care about the word 'exclusive'. Ok, it may look nice in a reporter's cuttings file, but it is now so over-used, so incorrectly used (just look how many of the Sundays will claim a story, which is carried in every other Sunday, as an exclusive), that the word is now meaningless to the people who matter the most. No not the reporters, nor the editor, but the readers.

While editors try to preserve print sale through a print over web policy, they damage their websites, user confidence in the site diminishes and the longterm future of the brand is jeopardised.

So you see why newspapers are damaging news websites.

Just this week, when Kevin Maney of Portolio.com asked Marc Andreessen what he would do if he were running the New York Times, the Netscape founder said:

Shut off the print edition right now. You’ve got to play offense. You’ve got to do what Intel did in ’85 when it was getting killed by the Japanese in memory chips, which was its dominant business. And it famously killed the business—shut it off and focused on its much smaller business, microprocessors, because that was going to be the market of the future. And the minute Intel got out of playing defense and into playing offense, its future was secure. The newspaper companies have to do exactly the same thing.
The financial markets have discounted forward to the terminal conclusion for newspapers, which is basically bankruptcy. So at this point, if you’re one of these major newspapers and you shut off the printing press, your stock price would probably go up, despite the fact that you would lose 90 percent of your revenue. Then you play offense. And guess what? You’re an internet company.

Good advice - but one step at a time hey Marc. The future is online, and while we don't kill off our print titles, we need to shift focus from the short-term to the long-term evolution of our industry.

Instead of companion websites, our websites should have companion newspapers.

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