Newspapers Need To Learn They're Not In The Newspaper Business

from the it'll-solve-a-lot-of-their-problems dept

As the debate over newspaper business models continues to heat up, Vin Crosbie reminds us of an important point: newspapers will never figure out how to adapt to the times if they keep thinking of themselves as newspapers. We had discussed something similar back in my series of economics posts, where I talked about the importance of defining your market based on the benefits you were providing, rather than the product. If you think of yourself as a newspaper, you continue to think about ways to make sure that particular product can make money. If you, instead, think of yourself as a provider of useful news information, then you work on ways to continue to do that, no matter what the final "product" is for delivery. The people who are your customers, users and partners don't care that you're in the newspaper business. They care about the value you add to their lives.


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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 6:11am

    Ramblings about says it all. What a lot of nonsense. The business of newspapers is to present news....hence the name... news on paper...newspapers. If they no longer think of themselves as newspapers then what? They are magazines? Tabloit TV shows? Newspapers have a time tested format and in order to remain as such, they need to focus on being newspapers and nothing else. Marketing lingo is designed to try to make the marketing guru sound like someone you should follow...like a bunch of lemmings, simply because. No. Newspapers need to continue to present news in a readable format and that's the end of the story. Get real - all products need to make some sort of money or they wouldn't be in business for long. The final product for delivery had better be uppermost in the mind of newspapers or they would have no reason for even being a newspaper. People do care about their newspaper. They care what it says, how it says it and if it's delivered on time. That's about the sum totoal of a newspaper. What a lot of malarky to try to make it anything else.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 7:44am

      Re: Ramblings

      Doesn't that about sum up what’s wrong with the business? “We’re newspapers; we are defined by tradition”. The newspaper is dying because it won’t (or can’t) adapt.

      Time will prove you wrong. If the groups that call themselves newspapers wish to survive, then they need to recognise that media, any media in this day and age needs to be fluid. Static business models are doomed.

       

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    Pat, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 6:11am

    Newspapers are just that...

    Ramblings about says it all. What a lot of nonsense. The business of newspapers is to present news....hence the name... news on paper...newspapers. If they no longer think of themselves as newspapers then what? They are magazines? Tabloit TV shows? Newspapers have a time tested format and in order to remain as such, they need to focus on being newspapers and nothing else. Marketing lingo is designed to try to make the marketing guru sound like someone you should follow...like a bunch of lemmings, simply because. No. Newspapers need to continue to present news in a readable format and that's the end of the story. Get real - all products need to make some sort of money or they wouldn't be in business for long. The final product for delivery had better be uppermost in the mind of newspapers or they would have no reason for even being a newspaper. People do care about their newspaper. They care what it says, how it says it and if it's delivered on time. That's about the sum totoal of a newspaper. What a lot of malarky to try to make it anything else.

     

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    Luke, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 6:29am

    Newspaper?

    I didn't realize people still paid for these things. Don't see why anyone would waste their time anyway.

     

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    Eliot, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 6:50am

    Luddites...

    Newspapers still have a place. My mom can find pretty much anything with a phonebook and a phone, but is lost with a computer. Some people just don't use the web. But the article is totally right -- newspapers need to recognize the sperfluous nature of the 'paper' aspect.

     

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      Casper, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 9:36am

      Re: Luddites...

      Newspapers still have a place. My mom can find pretty much anything with a phonebook and a phone, but is lost with a computer. Some people just don't use the web. But the article is totally right -- newspapers need to recognize the sperfluous nature of the 'paper' aspect.

      You can not base a business model around the fact that a fraction of the population is not computer literate... once the baby boomers start to die, you have lost most of your client base.

      News papers are obsolete. If consider it an insult when people give me a news paper. It's like saying "here, throw this away for me".

       

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    Overcast, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 7:12am

    I read the newspaper about 2 or maybe 3 days a week at lunch.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 7:14am

    Linux and the Desk Top - Same Idea

    Do you believe that it is possible to get this point across to the Linux shrills.

    Great Operating System.

    But what is it usefor on the desktop with out applications.

    If a application is required to perform a given function and software is only available for Windows then Windows is the required operating system and one is locked into Windows.

    Somes times one is fortunate and there is a usiable alternate Linux package most times not.

    Good examples of this are CAD and accounting packages.

    One can get an inferior CAD package and an inferior accounting package that will is not compatable with historiccal files but there is nothing usable available.

    Whis does this have to do with Newspapers? Nothing, except it is the same psychology all over again.

    Five years ago I had a big developer war in that Linux was not ready for the desktop user, today linux is still not ready for the desktop, and I am willing to bet that for exavtly the same reasons we will be having exactly the same discussion and Linux will still not be usable on the desktop five years no make that 10 years from now.

     

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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Sep 24th, 2007 @ 7:17am

    Your Audience Is Your Patron

    A long, long time ago, even before the Caxtons of this world, there was another business model.

    It was called patronage.

    It doesn’t hold much favour today because people find it difficult to disassociate from plutocracy.

    But as easily as the Internet enables diffusion of intellectual work, so it enables the diffusion of the wealthy patron – aka ‘the audience’.

    It was difficult 300 years ago to collect an advance from a large readership, but then it was difficult to distribute copies without permission, so the idea of selling copies (under monopoly) was born (whether discretely or by subscription).

    Today, you cannot sell copies. The illusion that you can is simply the business model’s momentum – the good will of its passengers pushing it along with the tank having long run dry.

    Has anyone wondered if you can now collect an advance from a large readership?

    Don’t forget the volte face though. It’s not the author’s publisher charging the customer for production, but the customers commissioning the author to produce a publication.

    Of course, a nimble publisher could offer their services once again as intermediary, especially for audiences who don’t particularly care about the specific authors, e.g. newspapers.

    In the case of a newspaper things would appear very similar to the subscription model. After all, the demand and supply sides are still the same. However, it’s not a newspaper that is published to sell (under monopoly) to readers, but readers who commission a newspaper to be published (without monopoly).

     

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    Cully, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 7:54am

    Just as something to throw into the mix. when was the last time you looked at a newspaper, even wen not focusing on reading it, and thought to look up that information on the net. Unless it was a major headline it was probably not that easy to find, newpapers still deliver content in a format that still holds alot of merit. While i agree with the original poster the newspapers themselves need to move and change with the times as there readership deems neccesary by subscriptions. The web/internet is not the end all be all of media distribution as yet. And if you look, the internet is still bound down by the mass media companys that decide what we see and hear. TwentyFourSeven coverage of OJ Simpson or the OJ coverage plus all the other news, your choice.

     

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    Buzz, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 8:04am

    WTF

    Hey, people, Mike never said that newspapers are already dead. He simply pointed out that the people in charge of them need to focus on delivering the news and not just keeping papers alive. In many cities (including the one I am in), there still is a demand for the newspaper format, so it is offered. There is also an online version, so the transition is being made. However, if customers lose interest in reading actual paper, it is not the newspaper's place to cry foul and force their product on everyone. Adapt, invest, and survive!

     

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    Mr. Ed, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 8:12am

    Newspapers Need To....

    Sorry, the term newspaper is an oxymoron... inference being "news" on "paper".... better to call it a storypaper. The print media is competing with the tv media, tv is all about drama-creation, so, the print media has followed... thus, the name storypaper... both forms of the media "create" the same stories, so, watch and listen to the storypaper via tv... Reality tv is a true oxymoron...

     

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    no_slappz, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 9:40am

    Newspapers

    Newspapers generate revenue at the news-stand and from various forms of advertizing. If circulation drops at newspapers -- which it has -- advertizers don't buy space. Thus, newspapers are now getting hit from both directions.

    They must find a model that brings in revenue. Clearly classified ads on the Internet can do the job. But attempts to sell traditional news for profit won't work. Moreover, as computer screens improve and the readership evolves, resistance to on-line papers will decrease.

    Meanwhile, reporters need to improve in many ways. Too many are totally unable to handle numbers and calculations. Too many write stories as though the sky is falling. I think readers are worn out from too many years of overblown headlines and stories of little substance.

     

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    Nicko, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 10:03am

    The online newspaper is dead...long live the media

    Newspapers are having an identity crisis. A Newspaper is in the business of consolidating and distributing information in a convenient form for people to use...namely a printed paper.

    But now newspapers want the same thing, but in a different industry; namely internet media.

    The first problem is that information about events has a much smaller value on the internet (lower value, lower margins, less of a commodity). As everyone has access to distribute and consolidate information, its the equivalent of having thousands of newspapers printed in every small town.

    Secondly the print newspaper is loosing its market to people who are content with getting the same information online. The newspaper and online media services still have separate distinct markets and advantages...so there will always be some market for both.

    The audience, and that audience's needs, are not identical in the newspaper and online media business; but the companies still believe they can follow identical models of doing business.

    So newspapers, 1) re-evaluate your online business model 2) figure out how you are going to compete with free 3) figure out how to attract people away from free.

    How, you ask?
    1) give away what people already can get for free (get them in the door)
    2) offer premium service on a very cheap per-story access, and subscription model
    3) partner with your competitors...respect their subscriptions, offer bargains, cross-index information
    4) get into the educational context business...Running a story on a virus outbreak. Add premium research linking to other virus stories and charge people a few cents to access it. Create video depicting how virus work. Give your viewers the ability to get as much or as little information about a subject as they are interested in finding. Because if you don't offer it, they will look somewhere else. Like the newspaper you need to consolidate information into convenient forms...why do people search google, look at wikipedia, etc....its one place they know they can find some information on a topic. If you don't offer 'unlimited' information, you loose.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 10:50am

    "People don't buy a quarter-inch drill. They buy a quarter-inch hole. You've got to study the hole, not the drill. The drill is just a solution for it." -- Ted Leavitt

     

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    knowit, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 12:04pm

    Still see the public buying

    Our company still sells over 600 new subscriptions per week and have been for the last 6 years. The only thing that has change is that now people are buying the weekend instead of 7-day delivery.

     

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    Jack, Sep 24th, 2007 @ 12:21pm

    Newspapers Without a Clue

    Mike, Don't you think you've expressed this too simply and clearly for them to understand?

     

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    James Beam, Sep 28th, 2007 @ 8:04am

    Railroads

    I think the author is referring to the analogy about the railroad industry::

    If the railroads knew they were in the transportation business, they would have been the first ones flying commercial airlines for profit...

     

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