Why Don't Newspapers 'Parasite' Themselves?

from the hello,-competition... dept

With all the misleading claims about blogs and other sites acting as “parasites” or ripping off the news, there’s a really good question that the big media properties don’t seem to want to answer. If these sites are really attracting so much traffic… why not build one yourself? Over at E-Media Tidbits, Amy Gahran discusses how that might work:

While many journalists are attached to long-form stories delivered in a traditionally detached and serious tone, that doesn’t necessarily align with how more and more people actually consume media and news.

So why not offer both approaches on a news site? Rather than wait for (or actively solicit) popular venues such as Gawker or “The Daily Show” to imbue labor-intensive, in-depth reporting with mass appeal, news organizations could instead present their own briefer, more lighthearted takes on longer stories and increase the chances of driving traffic and engagement to the original stories.

If those other sites really get all the attention, then come up with a way to bring the attention back. That’s what we normally think of as competition. If the car dealer across the street is having a blow out Labor Day sale, you don’t complain about them “parasiting” your customers. You come up with a promotion yourself.

Now, to be fair, my guess is that the response to this is that would only add more expense on top of what’s already being done, without a guaranteed payoff. Also, part of the complaint (at least from the Marburgers) isn’t so much that these sites get all the traffic, but that they drive down ad rates for the long form journalism. Of course, if that’s true (and it’s not clear it is), then the answer is again to focus on coming up with creative ways to expand your audience/community or to make them more valuable to advertisers. And, certainly building a better community around more “webby” type content wouldn’t hurt…

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Comments on “Why Don't Newspapers 'Parasite' Themselves?”

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Mark Gisleson (profile) says:

Been there, done that

When I started up City Pages blogging community in 2003, I wrote an anonymous front page blog that did exactly what you are proposing. Each day’s early morning post was a mix of the best of the net and just about every linkable page of new City Pages content that had been posted since my previous blog post.

I thought Village Voice Media should have a website dedicated solely to driving traffic to other VVM sites, but mine was a very small voice in a very large media corporation where all the important people were obsessed with 2) being important, and 1) not being laid off.

VVM changed their site architecture since then, but I’d be glad to email you some samples of what we were doing. City Pages kept doing this concept after I left, but changed the concept radically a year or two ago.

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

It certainly sounds to me that if what they fear is that the aggregators are eating into the ad rates for long form journalism, then doesn’t that sound like there is a large market segment of people who aren’t interested in long form journalism and would instead prefer a short form or bullet list summary form?

So, instead of recognizing that they are actually talking about an untapped market, for quick pick-up & understand news stories, they complain that they are being stolen from?

I think journalists have gotten too used to reading their own words. Back in the Civil War, journalists learned to front-load stories. Get all basic & most important information out in the first paragraph, next important information in second paragraph, and so on, because telegraph wires could be cut at any time. Now, reading a news story sometimes feels like listening to bad high school poetry … you never really get an idea of what the point is, it’s painful to make your way through, and is usually full of short-sighted opinions. I frequently prefer to read summary or secondary insight pieces on news articles first, because then the fluff frequently gets cut and the actual news becomes more digestible. And then I’ll go back and read the original stories to make sure the interpretation or perspective I read is one I agree with, unless I don’t care that much or trust the summary source.

Brian Masinick (profile) says:

I suspect it is not nearly as easy as it may seem to be

Hi Mike! I was at a Job Fair at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Louden, New Hampshire last week, and I met a veteran reporter there from the Nashua Telegraph, a newspaper in Nashua, the second largest city in the state, and one of the largest New Hampshire based papers, probably second to the Manchester Union Leader.

The reporter was interviewing me about the job market and how things were faring for me, but I turned it around at one point and also asked him how he was faring personally and what he thought about Internet based news, and whether the Telegraph had found a way to earn income from advertising or other mechanisms in the on-line information age.

He told me that the Telegraph had been involved in some of that, but at least so far, had experienced only limited success with Internet based advertising. Maybe that is because Google grabs so much of that advertising, but maybe it is because the Telegraph has not yet learned what works and what does not work.

I think in the long run that media publications are going to have to adapt to the changing environment or, more and more, as we’ve seen in many places, experience failure, closures, and find an industry that is has a very small remaining market.

I think advertising is possible through the Internet. Heck, Google and Yahoo have done it for years. Google has leveraged it to the point that they dominate. Maybe that is the model, maybe it isn’t, but it is clear that it is possible to come up with new ways to generate revenue, but they may be VERY NEW and VERY DIFFERENT. Not all traditional business knows how to make those drastic changes – just look at the American home, automobile, and financial industries if that assertion is questionable.

I do not think that change should be made for the sake of change, but when an entire replacement industry emerges, you have to pay attention or your products become irrelevant. It is not too late to learn this, but it IS getting quite late – too late for some of them.

The survivors will be creative. Their products, whether traditional or new, will be exceptional.

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