Thursday, February 19, 2009

How to Save the Newspaper Industry

Posted by Teresa at 1:35 PM
Alright I've been hearing some much thoughts about how to save the newspaper
industry today, I thought I would just post the links. Personally, I don't think the
situations is as dire as some make it seem. We will probably always have the
newspaper industry, it's just not going to have the circulation of times past (and
same thing goes for quality).

Jonathan Rosenberg of Google had this advice to give:

Meanwhile, those voices are struggling. The most obvious example is
newspapers, which have historically been the backbone of quality original
reporting, a post they have mostly maintained throughout the Internet
explosion. But news isn't what it used to be: by the time a paper arrives
in the morning it's already stale. As written communication has evolved
from long letter to short text message, news has largely shifted from
thoughtful to spontaneous. The old-fashioned static news article is now
just a starting point, inciting back-and-forth debate that often results in
a more balanced and detailed assessment. And the old-fashioned business
model of bundled news, where the classifieds basically subsidized a lot of
the high-quality reporting on the front page, has been thoroughly disrupted.

This is a problem, but since online journalism is still in its relative infancy
it's one that can be solved (we're technology optimists, remember?). The
experience of consuming news on the web today fails to take full advantage
of the power of technology. It doesn't understand what users want in order
to give them what they need. When I go to a site like the New York Times
or the San Jose Mercury, it should know what I am interested in and what
has changed since my last visit. If I read the story on the US stimulus package
only six hours ago, then just show me the updates the reporter has filed
since then (and the most interesting responses from readers, bloggers, or
other sources). If Thomas Friedman has filed a column since I last checked,
tell me that on the front page. Beyond that, present to me a front page rich
with interesting content selected by smart editors, customized based on my
reading habits (tracked with my permission). Browsing a newspaper is
rewarding and serendipitous, and doing it online should be even better. This
will not by itself solve the newspapers' business problems, but our heritage
suggests that creating a superior user experience is the best place to start.

Of course, the greatest user experience is pretty useless if there's nothing
good to read, a truism that applies not just to newspapers but to the web
in general. Just like a newspaper needs great reporters, the web needs
experts. When it comes to information, not all of it is created equal and the
web's future depends on attracting the best of it. There are millions of
people in the world who are truly experts in their fields — scientists, scholars,
artists, engineers, architects — but a great majority of them are too busy
being experts in their fields to become experts in ours. They have a lot to
say but no time to say it.

Former managing editor of Time, Walter Isaacson, makes the argument that
newspapers made the mistake of posting their content on the net for free:

For the people that look for government solutions perhaps tax breaks will do.

What do you think?
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