Newspapers' Plan For Survival: Charge Money, Beat Up On Craigslist And Keep Repeating To Ourselves That We're Needed
from the good-luck-with-that dept
Apparently part of the plan to get around anti-trust issues is to create an intermediary, sort of like an ASCAP for the newspaper industry, which suggests a near total misunderstanding of the differences between news and music -- but if that's where the industry wants to go, why not let them and watch smarter business folks mop up the mess for profit.
In the meantime, an absolutely fantastic teardown of the API's whitepapers comes from John Temple, the former editor, president and publisher of the now defunct Rocky Mountain News. If anyone were susceptible to the backwards looking "let's try to recreate the way things were" argument, you would think it would be him. But, instead, he responds to the API's reports by describing just how backwards looking it is and why it should scare anyone in the news business:
Imagine you're a young business school graduate trying to decide where you want to start your career. (OK, I know there are no jobs, but imagine it anyway.) You attend a newspaper industry summit and hear one of the big ideas from an organization at the heart of this world is to compete with Craigslist. What do you think you would think? Talk about an industry looking in the rear view mirror. Isn't that an idea that might have had legs, oh, maybe five years ago? How could it represent in the eyes of that young business school graduate any kind of exciting opportunity today? The advice boils down to, "Let's win back our business from the guy who's eating our lunch." How is the newspaper industry going to attract any of the best and brightest into its ranks if its ideas are stale, at best?Temple also points out two big problems with the API's suggestions. The first is that it's suddenly trying to get people to pay for what they're used to getting for free -- without adding any additional value worth paying for. And, the second (though related) is that they're not actually looking to do anything really new or unique to embrace what the internet enables. While plenty of other websites and services are embracing the technological power of the internet, the best this report suggests is "people who work at newspapers should start experimenting with social networks":
What might even be more troubling about this proposal is how newspaper people seemed to denigrate the Craigslist brand, when all they need to do is talk to people -- including in their own buildings -- to find out that most of those who've used the site seem to genuinely value it. Why? Because it gets results and it's free.
Of course leaders should always be learning. That's a given. But are they serious? Isn't this a little late? If newspaper industry leaders aren't doing this already, do they really belong in their positions? Why should shareholders pay executives to learn all they can when they should be able to find ones who already know what they're doing? If people need advice like this, should they be running newspaper companies?All in all, the meeting itself, and the recommendations from the API certainly show an industry that's not looking to compete or add value. It's looking for ways to rebuild the walls that let it exist without competition in the past. It's a recipe for suicide.