What The Future Of Newspapers Has To Do With Microwaved Hamburgers

from the making-the-big-shift dept

For a while now, newspapers have been worrying about how to survive in this age of the internet. All too often, the results are backwards or just too narrowly focused. There’s been some buzz around Michael Kinsley’s Time opinion piece about whether or not newspapers have a future, where he notes that they obviously do, but it’s a future where things need to change. This idea is echoed (and more) by Vin Crosbie, who has a long opinion piece talking about how confused some newspapers are, believing that as long as they throw their content online, they’re in the “new media” business. Crosbie points out that doing so is “as much new-media as microwaving hamburgers is new cuisine.” So what is the answer? Well, Crosbie believes its in really personalizing content. That is, finally recognizing that not only is the internet different than paper, it lets you do new and useful things that simply couldn’t be done on paper. Instead of just copying the offline experience, make it much, much better. He also notes that this means including articles from other sources, rather than being so focused on internally generated content. Of course, we’re still seeing newspapers that still won’t even link to another source, so it may be a while before they customize their viewing experiences by pointing people elsewhere. However, what’s silly is this still assumes that you have a captive audience, when that’s no longer the case. People (especially younger users) are used to surfing around, and the key for the newspaper is to learn how to be the hub for all of that — but to do so, they need to actually add value. It’s similar to the story we had earlier today about the differences between NBC and Google. It’s not about coming up with a single program for everyone, but figuring out how to come up with the perfect program for any one person specifically.

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Comments on “What The Future Of Newspapers Has To Do With Microwaved Hamburgers”

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Gareth Powell (user link) says:

Re: Man...

The problem is that if newspapers get it wrong there is no easy way of getting back. Today comes the news that the Daily Telegraph in England is effectively closing down its network of foreign correspondents.
Yes, there are still lots of wire services but their take is nearly always homogenized and written for a general public.
Does it matter if we lose one more source of news? In one sense not at all. But in another sense we are looking at the end of serious investigative reporting. If there are no newspapers – and Murdoch is convinced they only have twenty more years and I am much more pessimistic – then we have no reporters, no correspondents. And, no, blogs do not take up the slack.

B says:

one-up once again

The only thing newspapers are good for are starting fires, and taking breaks from work and still look somewhat ‘busy’ in the break room.

“…including articles from other sources, rather than being so focused on internally generated content…customize their viewing experiences by pointing people elsewhere”

I already have this so called new idea with my RSS Portal. The internet has the one-up once again.

Mark says:

Your RSS Portal

My guess is that your RSS portal includes feeds from traditional news sources that produce traditional newspapers. So you’re actually reading a newspaper. Maybe it’s not physically in your hands, but you’re reading it (this all depends on our literal definition of “newspaper,” of course).

So when you say the only thing newspapers are good for is starting fires, it looks ridiculous. Your point that delivery of the news by newspaper companies is well taken, but the content is there. RSS feeds and blogs link to it everyday.

Comboman says:

Internally generated content is the key

He also notes that this means including articles from other sources, rather than being so focused on internally generated content. Of course, we’re still seeing newspapers that still won’t even link to another source, so it may be a while before they customize their viewing experiences by pointing people elsewhere.

I disagree. Unless it’s a really big newspaper, most already rely on external sources (AP, Reuters, etc) for all their international and even national news. I can get that content from anywhere (CNN, BBC, YahooNews, etc). It’s the internally generated content that is the key to newspapers surviving on the net. Local news, local editorials, classifieds, even obituaries. These are what I want in on-line content from my local paper, not stuff I can get anywhere.

Fred (user link) says:

Re: Internally generated content is the key

Things go in cycles.

Right now newspapers are on death’s door but imagine if they all started to organize using the web and shared pertinent content and offered truly customizable content?

Newspapers are a good example to work from because they do tend to be so conservative in their business practices. I still remember a small local paper that insisted I not link to their site from a community site I had built. THAT type of thinking WILL lead to their death.

Anonymous Coward says:

Okay... so he wants each newspaper to make their o

…Google news?

sorry, we only need one google news. (competition is good, but having each newspaper try to become a news portal instead of a news source is not competition)

Really, I just don’t see WHY any news reporting company would want to be “focused” on becoming a portal, when we already have companies that are good at portalling doing that.

tobias robison (profile) says:

I do not believe in Personalized Content News!

I do not believe in Personalized Content News. I want my newspapers to find stories I would never have dreamed of reading, and bring them to my attention. It’s easy for me to get inof on things I consciously follow. Here’s a simple example:

This week the NYT has a long article exposing the unbelieveably dreadful town courts of rural New York state. this legal system is utterly broken and no one has had the $$ to fix it for 50 years.

I have many interests, both technical and legal, but had I “personalized” my focus of news items, I would never have seen this fascinating look at how the law is REALLY administered.

tk121 says:

Theres a problem with this...

The problem with this whole notion of “personalized” content in the future of newspapers, is that it requires the newspapers to have some sort of advanced knowledge of my surfiing habits, or my personal preferences.

I agree that one aspect of the future of newspapers COULD BE personalized content, but that shouldn’t be the silver bullet for a failing industry.

I personally, don’t want to fill out a bunch of surveys about what I like for the newspaper to be able to cater to my likes. And, I certainly don’t like the idea of the newspaper doing that data collection behind my back.

Justa Guy says:

The paper thing

What happened to the foldable screen that is supposed to be the next big thing? Do the search for googlezon on the web and see what I’m talking about. If the “paper” goes to that and continues with development of interactive content, they could become strong again. Of course you still have to deal with the bias of the Murdocks and other right wingers lies.

chris (profile) says:

i don't agree with narrowly focused as bad

national news online is done to death. local news online, like super local, is the future.

what would be even better is “close to real time” updates of super local stuff… like being able to help me figure out where to go on a saturday night, based on a bunch of factors that i have established, or that i can easily establish, like which of my favoirte restaurants are crowded right now, which clubs are hopping, what movie is playing soonest in the closest proximity to the place we want to have dinner.

that would be a very useful, and very narrow in scope.

anonymous coward says:

the sfgate serves me the same homepage that it serves every other reader. i visit it once a day, scan it, and then move on.

my google homepage has 12 feeds from 12 different sources and i look at it as least half a dozen times a day.

the achilles heel of newspapers is that they only want to distribute/sell their content. a company like google could care less what content is being distributed. they just want to capture eyeballs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Papers and TV are losing influence and ad $$$s

The problem with focused news is that if the topic is not clearly in your profile then you will miss it.

Just like evolution, which works by keeping traits that may have little use immediately so you may want make a point of reading some 5% to 10% of articles that are not immediately in you profile or interests.

This will often provide you with information that you can use but which you would never have found.

I have found some wonderful articles while seeking other information. Subsequently the information has been most useful.

That said, I think that newspapers and TV have a serious problem, as they don’t realise that they are losing ‘eyeballs’ to the Web. Talk to people under 30 years old!

Google has allowed people to find the information they need. The social networking sites – like techdirt.com 🙂
digg.com, reddit.com and newsvine.com [ Please name some more] permit interested readers to add their value.

I usually read the comments before the article – as
informed commenters usually point out the biases and spin ( both positive and negative) in articles.

Getting opposite views on a topic often helps discover
the truth.

Like the recent FOX Clinton TV interview: – FOX do not realise that FOX only damages their creditility (if they have any)
– by misrepresenting Clinton – by showing biased fragments and misleading captions.

To suppress the video was also a very foolish act – it makes FOX TV unbeliivable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Content is king. People read papers because they employ good writers that look for stories. People read the Wall Street Journal because they have good business content. You don’t see their articles out in the wild much. They control it.

I read Om Malik on his blog, but guess what, if he didn’t write his articles, I wouldn’t read it. I am loyal to the content, not the medium. If good content is in a paper, people will read it.

Anyone that thinks Google will put newspapers out of business is just nuts. If that happens, who will be creating the content?

m says:

Google does not gather news

Google does not gather news. Google has one reporter. They rely on Associated Press and such. AP is paid for by the newspaper companies, run by newspaper people, staffed by newspaper reporters. Google would have to pay through the nose if newspaper companies stopped paying for AP.

Newspaper companies, despite all the crying, aren’t dying.

News*papers* are changing. But the companies are juggernauts, reporting powerhouses that outweigh any other content generators.

They have the breadth of knowledge, personel, infrastructure, money and reporting machine that does not exist anywhere else save CNN (ABC/NBC/CBS are fading).

Well-run newspaper companies are changing. They want to grab eyes right now, but the formidable planning is for five, ten, twenty years out. Not Knight-Ridder, of course, but the solid companies.

And newspapers are more reliable than they ever have been; the crazy bloggers feed on transparency that has never existed.

Inside Dinosaur Media says:

I wishi I could believe they are planning 5, 10, 2

Well-run newspaper companies are changing. They want to grab eyes right now, but the formidable planning is for five, ten, twenty years out. Not Knight-Ridder, of course, but the solid companies.

You’d certainly hope that this is true, but looking at the business section stories in their own publications, the big “solid” companies are freaking out at their diminished ad revenues and cutting their own throats to try to stop the bleeding.

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