The Original Sin Of Newspapers: Not Innovating

from the yes,-indeed dept

There's this concept out there in the newspaper world, pushed by Alan Mutter more than any other, that the "original sin" of the newspaper industry was failing to charge when they put their content online. This is simply wrong. Many did try to charge, and they failed, because no one paid. However, Steve Buttry has a post making a much better point. The real "original sin" by newspapers wasn't failing to charge, but failing to innovate. Basically, the entire competitive landscape and the entire marketplace they were used to changed. Entirely. And nearly all of them seemed to think that they could get by doing the same basic thing they had always done.

These days, they're blaming everyone else for their problems: bloggers, readers, Craigslist, Google, some unknown "aggregators." But the simple fact is that these newspapers were incredibly fearful of innovating themselves, and basically let all those other sites online do the innovation for them. And now they're upset that the traffic goes to the innovators? At every turn in the game they were free to innovate themselves. They didn't. To then step up late in the game and look for legal and regulatory support to hold back those who did innovate seems inherently ridiculous.

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    Adam (profile), 17 Aug 2009 @ 8:39pm

    You're forgetting history

    Many years ago there was a huge battle between the newspapers and the union representing their typesetters; you know, the folks who put little hunks of lead with letters on them into frames to set the type for the newspaper's next edition. The newspapers wanted to switch to lithography and after a long struggle and lots of concessions, they made it. Every single innovative proposal made since has met with the same resistance -- doing something new would eliminate union jobs that had been in place for a long time.

    I think that was an important factor in their failure to even consider innovations.

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