Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Newspapers Anxious Over Web

Newspapers are in a dither over falling newspaper revenue and the growing competition from online sources.

Mike Butcher

Question: Why?

Sure, Craigslist is killing them on classifieds and printing costs are through the roof. But, so what?

There's a saying that goes, "People don't buy drills because they want drills. They buy drills because they want holes."
Likewise people don't buy newspapers because they like killing trees. They buy newspapers because they want fast, thoroughly researched and reliable information and insight.

Ink and paper does not provide reasearch, information or integrity, no matter how big your press. Dump it.

Printing newspapers is huge, expensive and a hassle. Online publishing is quicker, more energy and time efficient and has the potential to reach many more people. If you really must supply newspapers to a shrinking number of subscribers, outsource it.

So what does that leave? Journalists and editors. Before your start rolling your eyes, think about why you want to roll your eyes. Perhaps you're thinking, "Journalists?!!?? Thhhppppttt. Please! There hasn't been a decent journalst for 20 years."

You're probably thinking that because of the way media has sacrificed its bread and butter on the altar of yellow journalism.

*Anyone* can publish "news". TV, radio, E!... anyone with an internet connection. That's been the biggest problem with media for the past 10+ years. Newspapers, TV & radio counted on their respective monopolies to place ad revenue above all other concerns, especially journalistic integrity. Years of slashing research costs in the name of attracting readers with stories of blood, bread and circuses. "If it bleeds it leads!" Anyone can do that. What's worrying newspapers is now anyone is doing that.

Sure, online newspapers are going to have a hard time getting readers to pay a fee to read fluff pieces about the latest Katie Couric hairdo. But they have a staff of hundreds of trained and willing professionals who would love nothing more than to be paid for researching hard news. You know, the stuff no one seems to want to do anymore.

Yes, everyone will have access to the first few paragraphs of a story, with internet ads flashing in the boundaries. But a large percentage of internet readers will desire more in-depth information. They will want the information and stories that only hard work, research and beating the pavement can provide. Something very few bloggers, TV stations or gossip rags are wont -- or even able -- to do.

So will these "new" newspapers destined to compete against the likes of monthly magazines such as US News and others? Yes. Do they have what it takes? Probably. Will people pay for in-depth, credible reporting on hidden stories they can't find anywhere else? Yup. Always have.

The carpet that's being yanked from under newspapers isn't capability or medium. Its monopoly. Soon they're be competing against folks that can publish worldwide almost for free. But now so can newspapers.

The folks that succeed online (at least in this near-term of hyper-competition to build a customer following) will be the ones that go back to "old-school" journalism. In-depth reporting of news, political scandals and information that is there but must be dug up.

Getting the news that no one has is a requisite step, but there's another, more important resource, one that is not available for the taking, but must instead be grown and nutured in-house: Integrity.

That's how the large newspapers beat their previous competitors to get to where they are today. It is just as important for fighting their way to the top in this new media.

Hard news, research and integrity. The basics. He who provides it will rise to the top, at least in the near term... before monopoly and laziness again take over.

Those that don't offer hard news and integrity will be just another blog, much like this one.

Heck, you don't even know me. Why should you believe a word of this? Would you believe it more if it came from a respected New York Times Journalist?

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