Newspapers' New Internet Strategy Just More Of The Same

from the come-back-in-six-months-for-another-checkup dept

Newspapers’ struggles to adapt to the web have been well documented. Though they’ll talk about how important the internet is, many newspapers seem to have an incurable allergy to traffic, often putting up useless registration pages or complaining about inclusion in Google News. Now a group of newspapers is in talks with Yahoo to spread their content further. It may not be a bad idea, and it’s good that the papers are thinking of ways to expand their modes of distribution. But at the same time, an anonymous newspaper executive involved in the discussions said he hopes the ultimate business model for newspapers is one based on micropayments for content. This is an old idea that’s never gained any traction. It’s the exact opposite of spreading content further, and if getting people to sign up for free registration seems tough, imagine asking people to sign up for a payment system, buy credits, and then pay the equivalent of a dime to read an article. It’s not impossible to sell internet content, but even the world’s most prestigious list of columnists at the New York Times has had a hard time. And of course newspapers still want to “monetize search”, by which they mean get a cut of the advertising listed against results that link to the newspapers. Here’s an idea for them: build a really killer search engine for news, displace Google News, and then keep all the money. Clearly, the fact that they might do a deal with Yahoo doesn’t signal any real evolution in the way these companies think about the internet.

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Comments on “Newspapers' New Internet Strategy Just More Of The Same”

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Dinosaur (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Newspapers do have standards

Yes, newspapers have standards.

They have (and enforce) ethics policies, they have fact checkers, they have a policy on retractions.

Check out “Editor & Publisher” for meta-news on newsapers, including writers getting suspended/fired for violating ethics policies.

And unlike many (most) bloggers, if newspapers make a mistake they don’t just go back and edit the content in-place as if it never happened. I can count the number of websites with a policy against rewriting a story once posted on the fingers of one (maimed in a press accident in 1978) hand.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Newspapers do have standards

SOME papers enforce ethics policies. Not all policies are equal, however. Newspapers are just as biased as any other news medium. There is no way around it. It is inherently impossible for a human to be unbiased.

You also miss the point about weblogs. A weblog is not a newspaper. No one has ever claimed it is. Rather, it is a single ‘reporter’ posting their own personal column. However, that isn’t the focus of this article. Rather it seems to be discussing the inability of major publications to change with the times. They need to evolve in order to grow.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Newspapers do have standards

It may be inherently impossible for a human to be unbiased, but most newspapers are not produced by a human, they are produced by many humans, who are not all biased in the same directions.

A good newspaper can reach a pretty good level of impartiality.

The thing is, a seriously impartial publication is not nearly as interesting to read as one with a point of view. My colleagues and I have often discussed the idea that perhaps part of why people read fewer newspapers than in the past (and the trend started well before the Internet came along) is that newspapers got too impartial and as a result too boring.

The thing is, if a publication has a point of view and you know what it is, it can still serve as a decent source of information — if it’s open about its point of view and it is still dedicated to reporting the facts accurately.

I know our newspaper is still trying to figure out what to do with the Web. Ad sales are coming along well, but the publishing-the-news part is still a bit of a puzzle.

The challenges are going to get even bigger going forward, as more and more people become comfortable with obtaining their information on the web. They’ll always want to know what’s going on locally, so there will always be a need for decent journalists to report that news. Giving the right priority to the two publishing methods — paper and web — as time goes by is going to be a continuing challenge for some years.

Former Dinosaur says:

Do They Really Care?

As a former employee of a MAJOR newspaper company, I have had the joy of seeing first hand how the dinosaur thinks and works.

Most of the newspapers have a seperate department for internet. They were been kept locked away in a seperate area off on their own with low expectations. The print side wanted nothing to do with the online and they were once considered the black sheep.

Only recently did the white collars realize that they should have an online presence. But, by now it is too late. They all watch the Washington Post and New York Times websites to see what step they should take next and then over analyze everything until the time of being innovative has become a time of catching up.

The newspaper mentality is that someone will always want a newspaper to read.

Until they wise up and get someone new and unafraid and willing to embrace the internet, they will continue to struggle. Their time is fading away.

The future is about getting exactly what you want to read (blogs); listening to the exact song you want; drinking your favorite type of drink. Which is the reason why columnists remain an interest to readers.

Ironically, they have realized that blogs are eating away at their audience and have now created blogs where their reporters can blog about the story they just wrote.

Check out my blog where I comment on how awesome my little dissertation was on the decaying dinosaur.


JerseyRich says:

Sounds like KODAK

Back in the 90s Kodak was AFRAID of digital camera technology. They knew it was going to hurt their film business. So, they put off developing digital cameras, in spite of their huge brand-name advantage.

They finally got a clue, and got on with digital, producing some pretty darn good cameras. Is their film business down? Yep. But at least they have something to replace it with.

The moral of this story? As newspaper sales decrease (or even if they don’t), online sales (ad revenue?) can increase. They are not mutually exclusive.

Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

newspapers? what is that?

Are newspapers like hardcopy print versions of Google or Yahoo or Techdirt NEWS?

Newspapers, the Sunday coupon delivery wrapper.

Newspapers, can you still get them in the ecologically unfriendly paper format?

Newspapers, the litter that shows up in my driveway about once a week. Great as packing material for sell stuff you sell on eBay.

Tell me again, what are Newspapers?

Wifezilla (profile) says:


“at least the newspapers have standards”

:::snort::: good one

My husband and I hated local papers so much we started our own. And we are growing…expanding…and our subscription price? FREE!

We have a radical business model though. We print articles about things that people are interested in! We find local people, events and stories to report. We don’t just regurgitate things off the wire.

A lot of papers wont even print news about local small buisnesses because they want them to buy ad space only. News is news…trying to get someone to pay you to print it sucks.

If newspapers die, it is because greed and stupidity killed them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lots of newspaper editors and publishers “get” the Internet. The problem is delivering their product on online at a profit. That’s the hard part. Some are managing just fine (WSJ, NYT), others aren’t.

As for online as a complete, full service alternative to printed newspapers… gimme a break, not gonna happen.

Without newspapers (and major broadcast news organizations to a lesser degree) online news sites couldn’t exist because they are dependent on the brick and mortar publications, news gathering organizations and wire services for content.

BTW, newspapers aren’t worried about readers saving articles on their PC. Their enemy is the web publisher who takes their content and re-publishers it without payment or attribution. Expect the legal definition of “fair use” to get a big overhaul in the near future specifically for that reason.

Search Engines WEB (user link) says:

AD Dollar$

The newspapers are probably reacting to complaints from Current Advertisers – and New Prospects…. the bottom line is:

Advertising Dollars along with consumer money to buy the hardcopy version versus Totally Free Online Content sponsored by online Ads and email ads.

Which business model is making the most profit for those newspapers?

Search Engine WEB (user link) says:

ADvertising Dollar$

Those newspapers are probably reacting to complaints from their Current Advertisers – and New Prospects…. the bottom line is:

Advertising Dollars along with consumer money to buy the hardcopy version versus Totally Free Online Content sponsored by online Ads and email ads.

which business model is making the most profit for those newspapers?

Anonymous Coward says:

“which business model is making the most profit for those newspapers?”

The printed version.

The price of the paper barely covers the cost of printing it. The bulk of the revenues and profit comes from advertising.

More important, much of the paper’s advertising can’t translate to online. In particular; supermarket ads, new car dealer ads, store sales ads and preprinted inserts with coupons. These account for a lot of revenue.

Newspaper web sites use content created for the paper at little added cost. They add more art and photography, but that’s about it. They don’t cover the cost of creating the original newspaper content.

That’s why there are no successful, freestanding news sites on the web. They can’t cover the overhead costs of news gathering and editing. Even successful sites like WSJ and NYT have very little original content. Some news may break on the web then appear in the paper because of printing and distribution cycles, but the paper is what covers the cost the article.

Sorry folks, but that’s the way it is.

As for, “build a really killer search engine for news, displace Google News, and then keep all the money.”

Hello? There is no money. There are no ads on Google news. And without licensing and revenue sharing deals there never will be. But, yes, that’s where the Yahoo! discussion is going.

Chris says:


Sure, newspapers are dead, but I’m not about to let the idiots known as ‘bloggers’ take over. Not when they are more biased than the damn newspapers. No one pays them to write, so they write whatever the hell they please, most of it being pure crap.

I personally hate just about anyone that runs a ‘blog’, just because there is no freaking reason. No one really cares who you are, or what you have to say. To think otherwise is nothing less than pretentious.

So, bloggers, you keep writing your digital rags, let the newspapers die, but let the online news sites take over. They at least don’t suck at writing every article they put out…

(I’m sure someone here is a blogger, and I can already tell they’ll try to counter this, but nothing meaningfull will be said, and they’ll come off as sounding desperate for someone to pay attention to them. So is the blogger…)

Anonymous Coward says:

horse shoes

*begin sarcasm*

yes, most newspapers like to look at the NYT, WSJ, Washington Post, then try to play catchup.

yes, the registration process is annoying

yes, it is even more annoying to be charged to reread last week’s article that you had read for free.

but the nay sayers who say they will dissapear are probably the same people that 150 years ago said the horseshoe industry would dissapear. people commuting to the centers of large cities on terrorist-target trains will always want to hold a printed page. and horse riders will always want shoes for their horses.

*end of sarcasm*

ALittleAnnoyed says:


ahhahahahaha… listen to yourself… as if anyone cares what YOU have to say? so what’s the point of posting comments after an article? No one cares who you are Chris and no one really cares what you have to say… ahahhahahaha

not that I love bloggers, but what they’re doing is no different than any social part of the web. Ya know, maybe we should get rid of all that new fad, myspace. Oh, and we can get rid of any kind of message board, may as well do away with all instant messaging and we can’t have any kind of chat while playing games. All bloggers are doing is starting conversation. And we’ve all been sucked into it. Don’t deny it Chris and all the other blogger trash talkers, the bloggers have you in their grasp, they have you right where they want you. You are after all dedicating your time to discussing them… hahahhahah :))

Jeff Majka (user link) says:

Technology Transformation Causes Cultural Problems

Newspapers aren’t going to go away but will change in some pretty fundamental ways. Some newspapers will transform themselves into channel/medium-neutral outlets with multiple revenue legs to hold up the stool. Some newspapers will not. Those that survive will have internal cultures that embrace change, demand ever higher journalistic standards and look to lead, and moderate, the marketplace of ideas/news.

Content is the valuable product that newspapers provide and, as news gathering organizations, I think that function will survive, and thrive. There is valuable content and not so valuable content- that value being determined by the news consumer. There is always going to be a demand for well-researched, well written articles with a deep understanding of the subject matter. I think newspapers are now going through the process of developing channels that flow customized news based on individual needs and preferences.

Let’s not forget that this blog, the Washington Post, Newsweek are all in the same “business” but with different revenue streams, audiences, stakeholders and scale. And there are different kinds of stories- pithy online posts, daily news and weekly or monthly in-depth feature stories. Each publication will have to decide which combination of content type it want to focus on. The Washington Post and Newsweek have the resources to publish all three types of story simultaneously, this blog doesn’t.

My previous employer was formerly a traditional news publication that revamped itself into a mostly online news generating organization, so I know it can be done. The hardest part- cultural. All those reporters thought of themselves as ink-stained heroes battling the forces of oppression with as little technology as possible. They took pride in not knowing how to use their phones. Now they are being forced to, not only adapt to, but become the leaders of new technology and a new way of doing things. It was hard, and there was a lot of bitching, but they re-organized the newsroom so that it was based not on online or off, but based on the subject matter of story that was being worked on and/or the depth of the reporting required. And yes they integrated blogs into each reporters responsibility. A quick search will lead to innumerable anecdotes about grumpy reporters forced to blog by their employers.

Of course the kicker is, it only worked for my old employer because this particular organization was based on paid subscription model, which increased during each month of the transformation!

The other comment that referenced Kodak is exactly right. Old school companies in fading industries need to embrace their new models while transitioning out of their old ones. Newspapers are no different and have to go through the same wrentching process. But it can, and will, be done.

Crabby O'Fester says:

journalists are dinosaurs

Man, newspapers are the worst. I dedicated myself to being successful in this industry. After eight years at two major metro dailies, I’ve come to realize the cause was lost. Newspaper staffs everywhere are the most demoralized group of workers this side of a North Korean dirt farmer. Prospects for advancement and remuneration are nil. Writers, especially, can expect to see no more in their paychecks than the meagar sums they receive each week today. The implications for our society are likely negative, but these organizations must prove themselves to be viable economic enterprises first and foremost. I believe there are models, and probably every major market is susceptible to an upstart online news enterprise — in spite of the brand advantage from incumbents. But the whole daily newspaper industry will and needs to be eliminated. To work in it is dispiriting. The workforce is extremely ignorant, having spent their college days getting C+’s in English while staying up until 3 a.m. editing hard-hitting stories about the student government. The journalist of the future needs to be a literate technician, skilled in collecting and disseminating information concisely. But, after my years in the business, I tend to root against it and look forward to whatever will replace it.

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