By this point, it really doesn't need repeating that the newspapers don't get the internet, and have made several bad decisions in crafting an internet strategy. Tom Mohr is the former president of Knight-Ridder Digital and has now penned a long "manifesto" that attempts to lay out an internet strategy for the embattled newspapers. He starts out promisingly enough, correctly identifying the industry's failures, and its inability to make any meaningful online innovations. But from there the argument gets shaky. Essentially, Mohr sees the industry's survival hinging on its ability to come together to form a giant partnership that acts on behalf of all the newspapers. This giant partnership might, say, negotiate better advertising deals with brokers like Yahoo and Google, and develop common platforms for managing and sharing content. But as we go back and look through the problems had by the newspapers, what does this proposal really address? The newspapers' problem isn't that they don't have bargaining power, it's that the value of their product has been diminished. They haven't figured out how to translate their offline expertise into the online realm. Simply teaming up to take on Google or Yahoo doesn't get at the root of the problem. The solution is not to eke out a few extra pennies per click, but to expand the market. By improving their product and learning how to add value -- to once again become important focal points of information and commerce -- newspapers could stay profitable and relevant.
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