Yet Another Newspaper Publisher Blames Internet For His Own Failure To Adapt To The Times

from the this-is-getting-tiring dept

Okay, this is really beginning to get tiresome. We thought that the newspaper industry had figured out that it needed to adapt to the times a few years ago when they finally started ditching subscription fees and registration gates. However, in the last few months, there's been a resurgence of folks in the newspaper business whining about how newspapers have to stop giving content away for free and how Google was somehow hurting their business by giving them more traffic. This after the ridiculously confused stories about how Craigslist was "costing" newspapers millions of dollars. None of these things are true. All they really indicate is a newspaper business that hasn't figure out how to adapt to how people want to consume, create and share the news. So with all of that, here's the Wall Street Journal, publishing a column by, Walter Hussman, the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette whining about how "free" is a disastrous business model. Apparently, he doesn't read our site, where we explain not just how "free" is a great business model, but one where it can expand your market. Hussman's reasoning is equally bizarre. He compares his newspaper to another one that used to charge for online access, but has since offered up the content for free. He admits that the other site now gets a lot more online traffic, but notes that its paper subscriptions dropped much faster than his own paper's subscriptions. Note the important fact here: his own paper is still losing subscribers. In other words, people are looking for something better. He's trying to protect the shrinking market, rather than embracing the growing one. If there's any business model that's a "disaster" that sounds like it.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    David, May 8th, 2007 @ 12:17pm

    Instead of adapting to the Times ...

    he decided to adapt to the Post. Bad move.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    sam, May 8th, 2007 @ 12:51pm

    there you go mikey!!!

    keep tryin' to sell that snake oil!

    the fact is.. CL has hurt newspaper ads.. CL and the boys have essentially kiced the lights out of newspaper job listings in the bay area...

    don't get me wrong, the newspaper ads were swimming in cash, and i'm not arguing that they shouldn't have had their head handed to them.. i'm just not going to blindly pretend as though CL hasn't had an impact.. it has!!!

    but i like the fact that you don't veer from your appointed thoughts regarding free..

    you and georgy!!! you guys don't veer, and you seem to believe that if you say it often/loud enough, that it must be true!!!

    tell you what.. go make something.. and give it away for free.. and then tell yourself.. no prob, i'll use that item as advertising to promote something that i think people will want to buy!!!!

     

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  3.  
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    rEdEyEz, May 8th, 2007 @ 1:06pm

    Re: by sam

    "tell you what.. go make something.. and give it away for free.. and then tell yourself.. no prob, i'll use that item as advertising to promote something that i think people will want to buy!!!!"

    YOU'RE READING IT, DOOFUS. (with LOUD comments)

    ...and quite frankly, Techdirt is a great site, and ed-u-k-shun-al two!

     

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  4.  
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    Mike (profile), May 8th, 2007 @ 1:11pm

    Re:

    the fact is.. CL has hurt newspaper ads.. CL and the boys have essentially kiced the lights out of newspaper job listings in the bay area...

    Sam, you seem to respond without reading. Go read the link about CL. What I made clear is that it's the newspapers who have hurt themselves. All CL has done is offer up to people what they want. That's business. Newspapers aren't hurt by CL. They're hurt by their own inability to do what CL has done.

    tell you what.. go make something.. and give it away for free.. and then tell yourself.. no prob, i'll use that item as advertising to promote something that i think people will want to buy!!!!

    I do every day. You're reading it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    andy, May 8th, 2007 @ 1:12pm

    Re:

    hey sam... you're a friggin' troll. there's nothing wrong with sticking to ideas when they're founded on sound economic principles.

    if mike argued to "stay the course" on a theory like gravity, would you also troll him up as akin to george w?

    you've done nothing to prove that mike's economics are faulty... the fallacies you are guilty of are ad hominem and reductio ad george w. bush. look them up.

     

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  6.  
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    Casper, May 8th, 2007 @ 1:34pm

    I hate news papers...

    They are a waist of paper and I'm glad they are going away. If something as novel as craigslist can take them down, maybe they were not as valuable as they thought. Is it really a surprise that people would like to browse wanted ads or get news when it happens, not a few days later?

    It's competition and they failed to even show up for the game.

     

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  7.  
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    E!, May 8th, 2007 @ 1:40pm

    Mike, nice try

    Hey Mike!
    Thanks for the free stuff you give me every day.
    I read the TechDirt postings every single business day.
    Unfortunately for you and your "business model", I have never once clicked on a link on any of your pages. Not once. Never even considered it. Never even looked at them.
    You see, it's the CONTENT I come for. Not the crappy banner ads. And I feel no obligation to purchase products or services from your advertisers.
    So, for me, your business model is a failure. But hey, that's just me.
    Don't think so? Please explain.
    BTW: thanks again for all your FREE content. Priceless...

     

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  8.  
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    Norman, May 8th, 2007 @ 1:47pm

    News Paper

    I cancelled my subscription after realising I was getting most of my news from the internet and radio. Why would I pay for old news? By the time the news papers get the word out it's no longer news. I remember the sales person trying like crazy to keep me. They damn near offered to give the paper to me for free. Times are chaning. The days of waiting for the news paper to find out what's going on in the world have gone. We get an almost real time feed of what's goign on via your internet connection and radio. Print will never be able to compete with this.

     

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  9.  
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    Jason, May 8th, 2007 @ 1:52pm

    Re: Mike, nice try

    WTF? Dude

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2007 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Mike, nice try

    I think mike has issues with some of his viewpoints but to try to bash him based on the business plan of Ad's. Thats far reaching.

    Ads make alot of free content possible, not everyone needs to purchase that product for them to work.

     

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  11.  
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    Techie Chick, May 8th, 2007 @ 2:11pm

    The Parakeet Died

    When the Parakeet died, I no longer had a use for newspaper... it was the perfect size for lining his cage. I even circled some lucky faces with red marker to give the little guy a target....

     

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  12.  
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    Daniel, May 8th, 2007 @ 2:15pm

    Only suckers pay for conent

    Educated techies know how to access the paid content for free. Ethically and legally. So even the pay for content sites are doomed to ultimately fail as consumers become more savvy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Mapper, May 8th, 2007 @ 2:24pm

    adapting to the Times

    Recently the last person in Tennessee that still hand drafted maps for the State Comptrollers office retired after updating the last County to be digitally converted. It took nearly 30 years to go from can do it to done. A lot has to do with people and their expectations. The paper as a source of information won’t die till people have no use for it any more. It is getting close for them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), May 8th, 2007 @ 2:52pm

    Re: Mike, nice try

    Thanks for the free stuff you give me every day.

    You're welcome.

    I read the TechDirt postings every single business day.

    Awesome. That's great. I'm glad you find it so useful.

    Unfortunately for you and your "business model", I have never once clicked on a link on any of your pages. Not once. Never even considered it. Never even looked at them.

    That's ok. If they're not useful for you, why should you?

    You see, it's the CONTENT I come for. Not the crappy banner ads. And I feel no obligation to purchase products or services from your advertisers.

    Our business model isn't about banner ads, but that's ok. I have no problem with you reading our content for free. That's why it's here. I don't expect everyone to buy our paid services. In fact, I expect a very small percentage of people who read Techdirt to buy our paid services. But, that's fine.

    So, for me, your business model is a failure. But hey, that's just me.

    How is it a failure? For you, you get good content for free. What are you complaining about? For us, we get more visitors, and that's useful to us whether or not you buy our services. Whether or not you realize it, you're helping our business model. Sometimes it's be contributing in the comments. Sometimes it's by telling someone else about our site. Sometimes it's just by reading. Honestly, all those things help, so no, the business model isn't a failure at all.

    Don't think so? Please explain.

    The more people who view our site, the better. The more people who find out about our business, the better. We certainly don't expect everyone to buy our services, just like no one expects everyone who sees a BMW commercial to buy a BMW. Do you consider BMW commercials a failure because you've never bought one?

    BTW: thanks again for all your FREE content. Priceless...

    Again, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Glad you enjoy the content, and glad you feel compelled to take part in the comments.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Adrian, May 8th, 2007 @ 3:05pm

    Re: Re: Mike, nice try

    Mike is my hero.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Patrick, May 8th, 2007 @ 3:19pm

    It's like evolution

    The internet is a new species, more efficient at camouflage, better suited at finding food. Newspapers need to catch up or they will be extinct.
    Mike, I think your business model is ahead of the curve and businesses that compete with free (the internet provides a lot of stuff for free) had better evolve or die. Thanks for the free content, I read and learn every day.

    Just a observation from a lurker.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    rstr5105, May 8th, 2007 @ 9:02pm

    Mike...

    I am thoroughly impressed by your seemingly infinite patience.

    Keep up the good work!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Chris, May 8th, 2007 @ 9:29pm

    Kudos Mike!

    I have to say as well...GOOD JOB MIKE! I enjoy reading the posts from the crew at techdirt.com.

    I have a working knowledge of how they get money from our "free" content. If it wasn't for that I would have to find my stories else where. And it's hard to get into a news feed that I like.

    We all have flaws and no one's perfect. But that's how we learn. Till that day when we have one person who is perfect Keep up the good work Mike!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Mike, May 8th, 2007 @ 9:31pm

    Newspapers

    Newspapers aren't going anywhere. They are in the process of downsizing to stay profitable. Don't believe me? Go to your local supermarket on Sunday morning and watch the single copy sales.

    I'll take the profits from most "failing" newspapers over this sites profits, anyday.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Doug Skoglund, May 9th, 2007 @ 1:02am

    The Trouble with Free...

    The trouble with free -- is that it raises the barrier to entry and thus limits the ability of most people to contribute.

    It is one thing for someone like Mike to be magnanimous -- he can afford it, apparently. He has achieved a level of readership where advertisers are willing to pay him for a place on his "free" postings. But, how about somebody like me?? Without a following, I have no way of paying my bills other than my credit cards -- with their obvious limitations.

    The other way is to find a kindly VC to finance my startup activity. Now, that is a whole 'nother story; however, the point is that we have changed the entire model that built this country. It is no longer easy to start a business, the dream has been destroyed -- we have taken the decision making ability out of the individual hands and put it into selected hands, who coincidentally, seem to like that idea.

    We must understand that the fundamental balance of power has been changed. Our country was founded upon a principle of power derived from the "consent of the governed". When one group usurps power from the people or from some other group, we are setting ourselves up for some pretty nasty power struggles. 

    The old media is in trouble for it's misuse of the power given by the Constitution -- and is now screaming because some other group has usurped some of their power -- But, we fail to realize that "the people" have lost a big chunk of their power in the process -- a situation that will require some kind of corrective action, either by the government or by the people themselves.

    Remember folks -- the Omnivores only account for 8% of the American adult population, and we have a momentous election coming up in 18 months, with lots of time to discuss and clarify the issues.

    Hold on to your seats folks -- we have a bumpy road ahead!!!

    Doug Skoglund - skoglund@pdmsb.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), May 9th, 2007 @ 2:45am

    Re: The Trouble with Free...

    The trouble with free -- is that it raises the barrier to entry and thus limits the ability of most people to contribute.

    That's a bizarre statement. I think the opposite is true. It's LOWERED the barrier to entry and INCREASED the ability of most people to contribute. Have you noticed how much easier and cheaper it is to start a company these days? I really don't know how to respond to you because your statement doesn't match with what's actually happening.

    It is one thing for someone like Mike to be magnanimous -- he can afford it, apparently. He has achieved a level of readership where advertisers are willing to pay him for a place on his "free" postings. But, how about somebody like me?? Without a following, I have no way of paying my bills other than my credit cards -- with their obvious limitations.

    Again, advertising is barely a part of our business model, and we did this site for many years with no ads at all. The number of sites that have come out of nowhere, however, to build up huge followings that can make money on advertisements (TechCrunch, GigaOm and others come to mind) suggest that (again) the opposite of what you say is true.

    The other way is to find a kindly VC to finance my startup activity. Now, that is a whole 'nother story; however, the point is that we have changed the entire model that built this country. It is no longer easy to start a business, the dream has been destroyed -- we have taken the decision making ability out of the individual hands and put it into selected hands, who coincidentally, seem to like that idea.

    Again, this is 100% different than what we're seeing right now. It's easier and cheaper than ever to start a business -- which is why there's so much talk of a new bubble.

    The idea that control is now in a few "selected hands" is laughable. Did you see what happened the other day with Digg and the DVD DRM code?

    The old media is in trouble for it's misuse of the power given by the Constitution -- and is now screaming because some other group has usurped some of their power -- But, we fail to realize that "the people" have lost a big chunk of their power in the process -- a situation that will require some kind of corrective action, either by the government or by the people themselves.

    Again, this seems to be the opposite of what's actually happening. The power of the internet has flipped that old equation on its head. "Old Media" has a lot less power than it used to. How can you possibly say that "the people" have less of a say in the process today than they did in the past?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, May 9th, 2007 @ 6:41am

    Mike's business model

    It obviously works, because otherwise the techdirt blog would be gone. TD is not advertising its advertisers, it is advertising TechDirt Corporate Intelligence, as you would have noticed if you had gone to techdirt.com (as opposed to techdirt.com/blog.php) since the redesign. That company appears to be doing well, otherwise Mike and the otheres could hardly afford to be making tis site.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Doug Skoglund, May 9th, 2007 @ 8:41am

    Re: Re: The Trouble with Free...

    Well, that was an interesting response -- but, easily explained. You, of course, are seeing things from the inside, while I have described things as I see them -- from the outside. Every one knows that all the writing on the doors and windows appear backwards when viewed from the inside.

    Cheers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    IronChef, May 9th, 2007 @ 9:55pm

    My 2-cents

    What we have here is a problem with personal responsibility. That simple. No more no less. Sorry.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    IronChef, May 9th, 2007 @ 9:57pm

    Re: Mike's business model

    Oh eat me. Your comments are worth tossing into the fire.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    ed, May 24th, 2007 @ 5:52pm

    Idoits Run Newspers

    Newspaper publishers mostly come from the advertising department, where the main thing they know how to do is raise rates. First they raised national ad rates, because they will pay anything, after driving national advertisers away, they raised local rates, saying the big department stores can pay, who cares about the little guy. Now the department stores are gone they are left trying to figure out where they can go to keep the 30 to 40 percent margins. OK, we must cut expensensis, lay off people, cut content, cut service. The only thing they care about is the bottom line and the profit margin. Question is, what happens when there are no more people to lay off and no more expenses to cut?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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