Monday, March 23, 2009

Time is Running Out for Newspapers

The next year or two (if it takes that long) will most likely be the beginning of the end for many newspapers if they don’t figure out a way to make money on the Internet.

For instance, last week after 146 years in publication, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased operations as a print newspaper, reduced its staff by over 80% and converted to a slimmed down, online only publication.

And the P-I is not the only one. Last month Denver’s Rocky Mountain News shut down completely. And there are a host of other newspapers on the ropes, including the Chicago Sun Times, the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle to name a few.

Even the mighty New York Times recently had to sell part of its company and seek a $250 million loan from a private investor to help address its financial problems.

Of course, all of these newspapers are grabbling with the same challenge: how do they monetize their content online as more readers move to the Web and information becomes more of a commodity.

There are many ideas floating around about how newspapers can become viable businesses again. Here are a few:

  • Make newspaper sites a channel for social media – for example, many papers are using Twitter headline feeds on their sites that are grouped by the sections of their paper to keep readers up to date and engaged with their content
  • Publish APIs for independent software developers – the New York Times and a few other papers have taken the lead in publishing application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow software developers to create social media apps using New York Time’s content – for example, here’s a Gmail gadget built using one of the NYT’s APIs:
  • Jump on the electronic newsreader wagon by bundling content with the purchase of a reader device – for example, Newsweek Magazine might try to get new Kindle owners hooked on Newsweek's electronic version by giving them a free yearly subscription
  • Become more deeply integrated into the communities they serve – for example, the Austin Chronicle has thrived despite being a free weekly by becoming active participants in the Austin music and art scene. For instance, the paper started the South by Southwest Conference in 1987, which has grown into one of the world’s premier music and film festivals

Whatever the strategy, I hope newspapers figure this out; and soon. In my opinion, the role of newspapers in investigative reporting , local news coverage and editorial journalism is too important to leave to the anything goes ethos of the Internet. Sadly, they have had 15 years to figure this out so the prognosis is not too good.

No comments:

Post a Comment