Clueless Newspapers

Way back in deepest darkest web history, 1997, CNet reported:

Looking ahead…Forrester expects online news to be dominated by two to three titans who get the upper hand in distribution technology and content.

Uh-huh. They thought it would be a duel between CNN, ABC, and MSNBC. Turns out the titan was none of these, the Google titan wasn’t even born.

Newspapers have been losing ground ever since. They’ve needlessly given away market share to young upstarts who don’t lock their pages behind paid subscription walls. Some newspapers still insist on doing so, and they’ll surely slip further and further behind as a result. The money is in the traffic.

Time:

On the one hand, newspapers are expected to supply their content free on the Web. On the other hand, their most profitable advertising–classifieds–is being lost to sites like Craigslist…Meanwhile, there is the blog terror: people are getting their understanding of the world from random lunatics riffing in their underwear, rather than professional journalists with standards and passports

It’s tough being in the newspaper game, but the Time article does raise a good point:

And where do these wannabes get most of their information? From newspapers, of course. But that is mere irony. It doesn’t pay the cost of a Baghdad bureau.

As the article suggests, the newspapers need to adapt their revenue models and leverage their brands. They need to start competiting directly with the Craiglists of this world, if it’s not too late. They certainly shouldn’t be looking a gift horse in the mouth – search engine traffic.

Here’s a prediction. Those who court search engine traffic will survive. Those who block it, will end up in the same place as the random lunatics riffing in their underwear.

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