Monday, January 29, 2007

Growth Industry: Newspapers!


Center for Media Research - Daily Brief: "According to a special release from The media Audit, newspapers are increasing their market penetration beyond 60, 70 and even 80 percent with the help of their websites. Ten daily newspapers ave achieved a net reach of more than 80 percent. "

When I was younger I got the local paper and the Sunday New York Times and often The Wall Street Journal. Then I started to get all my news through the Internet. I had searches set up for all the topics I really cared about and I thought it was really cool that I didn't have to deal with the things I wasn't interested in.

But over time I realized that I really missed the local news. And what was worse was that the little cocoon that my customized searches wrapped me in was leading me down a road towards ignorance. There were important stories that I would miss because nothing in my direct universe intersected with them.

Now I love my local newspaper's web site. I tend to read the articles in the local section every day and glance at the national items. It acts like a very valuable focus for me and obviously many of my neighbors. After that, things change. There are so many choices for national news and it seems like all of them offer a slightly different level of functionality / slant that the focus shatters to a thousand pieces.

I don’t miss the “easy weekend morning with the NY Times” too much. Although I don’t read it that often, I love the new NYT reader. Part of the ex-eBooks team were key in building this and it is beautiful to behold. Other than not being a local newspaper for me, this is the best of all worlds. It is very beautiful and immersive to read. Plus it is smart about pre-loading content so it’s already there when I want it to be and it keeps the well rounded coverage that is so needed. I hope this Reader and other innovations they have going are enough to overcome the hurdles facing them now.

One other personal note: The Wall Street Journal is an abomination. They are one of the few sites that accept advertising and also charge an annual fee ($80.00). This is like HBO running advertisements along with their premium content. It isn’t the money, it’s the principle. It’s the time and effort and distraction level.

But I don’t know if this strategy is a brilliant abomination or a stupid abomination. (The following are really rough numbers that I could find without too much work.)

WSJ paper: ~ 2 million circulation a day
CNN TV: ~ 1 million viewers a day
MSNBC web site: ~3 million visitors a day (this is not the largest news website, but it’s the one that I helped start, so there!)

Have they seen the writing on the wall and making sure the “gettings are good”? The WSJ is losing circulation and my guess is that their base is shrinking and will shrink dramatically over time as the paper generation dies off. Besides this, they are as susceptible to negative fashion trends as MySpace.

This is a great scene from the British TV Show “Yes, Minister”. It shows two very distinguished older gentlemen at what is obviously a very exclusive club.

Sir Humphrey: "Didn't you read the Financial Times this morning?"
Sir Desmond Glazebrook: "Never do."
Sir Humphrey: "Well you're a banker, surely you read the Financial Times?"
Sir Desmond: "Can't understand it. Full of economic theory."
Sir Humphrey: "Why do you buy it?"
Sir Desmond: "Oh, you know, it's part of the uniform."

Yes, Minister.
Series 2
Episode 6
The Quality of Life
First Aired: 3/30/81

I’ve heard so many things about how newspapers are struggling. The New York Times’ troubles are making the national headlines almost every day. There are those who say that newspapers are dead and I’m very happy that the above research proves them half-way wrong. I think that the old time delivery methods are going and the old time business models are gone. But the local news sites are going to become increasingly popular and local newspapers have a huge start on building their infrastructure, staff, resources, audience and branding. The business model for web sites is very different than the 200 year old newspaper model, but that doesn’t make it any less profitable.

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