by Mike Masnick

What Newspapers Must Do To Survive Online: Customize!

from the yes,-but... dept

A long, but very interesting article from Vin Crosbie outlining what he believes newspapers must do to stay alive in an online world. He lays out his argument very carefully, and it's clear that he's done a lot of thinking about this and just as much research to back up his point. He gives a history of the newspaper business, and how it's been having trouble. He looks at current online efforts and how they fail to help solve the fundamental problems facing newspapers today (falling readership, fewer and fewer young readers). He points out that most newspapers are simply taking their offline content and tossing it online. This is cheap and easy, but does little to help solve the real problems. The whole point of the internet, of course, is that it's interactive and limitless. There aren't a limited number of pages that hold back how much content you can put online. Thus, his point is that newspapers need to create very customized content - pulling from a huge variety of sources, so that any reader gets the stories he or she wants. Furthermore, he says this content needs to be available and formatted for a variety of devices, since he believes many people will use wireless to read this ultra-customized newspaper. The points are all very well made, but here's the thing: I already have that and I don't need a newspaper company to provide it. It's called the web, and it lets me access whatever I want and "build" my own customized newspaper (and even format it for non-PC devices). In fact, with tools like Google, Bloglines, Feedster, RSS and whatever else people are using these days, many people are already doing this. So, what's the newspaper's role in all of this?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    xman, Mar 4th, 2004 @ 2:35am

    not sure

    The reality however is that the vast majority of people simply has no interest in fiddling about with things like RSS and feedster to customise what they see. It is hard work, the tools are awful (I've looked at them, I've used them, I'm a deep techie - I know about this stuff!) and the end result entirely lacks the thing makes newspapers good - serendipity. If you tailor the world so that you only see what you want to see then you end up with a narrow world view that has no surprises and where you learn nothing new. Just like most of the media in the USA....

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

  2. icon
    Mike (profile), Mar 4th, 2004 @ 3:06am

    Re: not sure

    I'm not actually convinced that you lose out on the serendipity aspect... I find things serendipitously all the time, and I have pretty targeted reading lists.

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

  3. identicon
    Inner Critic, Mar 4th, 2004 @ 7:05am

    Who wants customization?

    ...has this guy ever talked to anyone who reads a paper? I agree with you completely, Mike. Specialized content is available on a nearly unlimited basis with any search engine as a starting point.

    What newspapers can do online better than anyone else can is offer instant access to local news online. They have better depth and coverage than local radio or local TV, and the medium is a better fit in terms of duplicating content.

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

  4. identicon
    Gregory Kennedy, Mar 4th, 2004 @ 8:07am

    Newspapers busienss model will continues to erode.

    Newspapers are primarily a local phenomenon in the US. The majority of their revenue comes from classified ads. This revenue source is already ready drying up due to competition from Craigslist, Yahoo and Ebay. I think there is little that they can do to innovate and stay competitive.

    Of course big national names like the New York Times and Washington Post will survive, but I suspect that their business models will continue to erode and will eventually be the supported by corporate philanthropy.

    This happens to also be the model that supports this site.

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

  5. identicon
    Charles W., Mar 4th, 2004 @ 8:57am

    No Subject Given

    In fact, with tools like Google, Bloglines, Feedster, RSS and whatever else people are using these days, many people are already doing this. So, what's the newspaper's role in all of this?

    Their role is to centralize, and automate it. Maybe I don't want to waste my time fiddling with Google, Bloglines, etc. Newspapers could use these tools, plus their own reporting, and supply their customers with everything from one place. Basically what Techdirt does for corporations, but for individuals. More of a news collection, and distribution than a reporting role.

    -Charles W.

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

  6. identicon
    Vin Crosbie, Mar 6th, 2004 @ 5:26pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    Mike, the Web itself requires you to visit each of the sites you specifically want. The Web is neither one site that gives you all you specifically want nor a tool that lets you do that. The Web also lets you download only a page (generally a story or less) at a time. Search engines such as Google aren't nearly articulate enough (even with your best Boolean search parameters) to provide specifically all the subjects you want on a page or simultaneously intact download of pages. Bloglines, Feedster, and other 'newsreaders', merely aggregate feeds of stories that specifically interested the feeds' PUBLISHER -- not all of which will may be of specific interest to you. Moreover, as xman mentioned, most (i.e., not geeks like us) people who use the Internet aren't using these things; don't, won't or will never understand how; and don't even know most of these tools exists.
    Frankly, I don't believe that newspapers will survive beyond perhaps 2015. But when I was asked to write an article about which they MIGHT do to survive, I wrote such an article.

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

  7. identicon
    janet, Oct 24th, 2008 @ 9:36pm


    We publish local news papers and are doing better than ever!

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

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