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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  1. identicon
    fogbugzd, 17 Aug 2009 @ 8:52pm

    Re: Explain the inovation in that

    The problem is that they didn't really innovate when they did try to go to the web. They basically took the local news and put it online. By contrast, look what CNN has done. There are lots of opportunities for readers to have input and communicate.

    I think that it is ironic that one of the reasons newspapers are in trouble is that they did indeed innovate back in the 1980's. At one time newspapers were run largely on the instincts and experience of the editors and local owners. They spent a lot of money on veteran reporters who knew the local beats. They covered local news. In the 80's newspapers started applying rational management principles. Veteran reporters and local news is expensive. It is a lot cheaper to buy filler material than have local reporters write about it. They decided that it is a lot cheaper to hire a fresh youngster than keep the veteran on staff. The cub can go to city council meetings and write a story. Granted, the cub didn't catch the undercurrents or have an instinct to dig for real stories, but the column inches still got filled up. However, in doing so they lost the community interest in the newspaper, especially among young professionals. The main readers of local papers are now senior citizens who are happy with the filler material and fluffy human interest features. Newspapers lost the eyeballs of the younger demographics, and the advertisers followed the eyeballs.

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