The other day I listed eight mistakes newspapers made in the past.Â I tried to sound a hopeful note even while bemoaning the lost opportunities because Iâ€™m not a pessimist at all about the state of our industry.
Maybe weâ€™ve made mistakes, but as I said, the game is not lost â€¦ yet.
- Advertising revenue will improve. Advertising models will become refined. Advertisers will increasingly see the value of the local newspaper.com reach, and weâ€™ll figure out how better to apply the network effect to appeal to national advertisers, and just like the early days of cable TV, our rates will only go up.
- People still want and need reliable news sources. And by reliable, I donâ€™t mean that only professional reporters can get the right information (professionals, as we well know by now, hold no special dispensation here); by reliable I mean, the day-in-day-out information gathering and dissemination that seems to go hand â€“in-hand with a steady paycheck.Â Volunteers are great, but volunteers have lives and few can afford to devote the kind of sustained dedication to a topic area that communities need.Â Volunteers are hard to replace. There are lots of people in need of a regular paycheck.
- We know community. Iâ€™ve said it many times, community is in our DNA.Â So when it comes to creating online communities â€“ web 2.0, virtual communities, platforms for participation â€“ we know how to do this. Itâ€™s a natural fit for what weâ€™ve always done.Â We just need to build better tools and a more web-native infrastructure.Â I believe weâ€™ll get there.Â Social networks and newspaper organizations are a natural fit.Â Long term, I have more hope for newspaper networks than Facebook and MySpace. Frankly. And I think we can learn from their mistakes as well as their successes.
- Classifieds. I still believe we can get classifieds right. There may be lots of free classified sites now, but free classifieds wonâ€™t be around forever.Â Whether free or paid, in order for classifieds to succeed for a publisher, you need mass.Â In most communities, even in many where craigslist is strong, newspapers retain and maintain mass dominance. Classifieds are a natural fit for the web and I believe classified revenue will start to grow again, and dramatically. Just give it some time.
- Resources. Even after cut backs, most newspapers have good-sized news staffs.Â Newspaper staffs are never as big as in-newsroom personnel believe they should be (we always want to do more than we can, being the kind of people we are), but we can still gather, sort and disseminate a boat load of information in a amazingly short amount of time. That is and will remain a competitive advantage, especially against other media trying to transition to the web (think, TV).
- Reach.Â Almost every local newspaper in the country is by far the #1 medium in its DMA.Â In most markets, it usually takes all three of the top TV stations combined to reach as many people as the newspaper reaches, even after all recent readership declines. Thatâ€™s incredible marketing power for the newspaper.com.Â Most newspapers are not yet fully exploiting that power, but they should.
- Video. Iâ€™ve long believed that video presents a substantial audience and revenue opportunity for newspaper sites.Â When you combine our reach, resources and our fresh outlook on video, you have an opportunity to dominate local web video in a way TV will struggle to match.Â Here is our chance to be the disruptor rather than the disruptee.
- Trust and brand equity. In most communities, newspapers are seen not just as big media, but as part of the community.Â This is especially true in smaller communities, but even in large metros, the love/hate relationship that is sometimes displayed by readers for the local rag is still brand equity. So long as we are around, large segments of our communities well need what we do, and turn to us first for not just the big stories, but the small stories other media ignores.Â We donâ€™t need to reach everybody, just enough (and we can always develop other products to reach the people not interested in general purpose news).
And the bonus ninth reason: I believe the sleeping giant is awake. For the past year or more, weâ€™ve seen newspaper companies giving the web more attention and more money. A concentrated effort by lots of smart people working the same problems, and with some money to make things happen, is bound to pay dividends.
I think point #9 is the most critical one though – even with all this fantastic brand (and more importantly, ‘trust’), in a way, that trust is being mis-managed.
From a cumbersome classifieds system (my local paper for a city with a population of 800k has an absolutely horrendous system) to login requirements to half a dozen issues, newspaper.coms have been ‘abusing’ their trust. And while they sit on their laurels, sites like Yelp and Craigslist are building up what newspapers already have – brand and trust.
I like newspapers. I subscribe to the newspaper + several print magazines. Reading them online just doesn’t do it for me. Evan’s said it best (http://evansink.com/2007/07/06/rip-backfence/):
“can this be done by the newspapers? sure. will it? hmmm.
I am constantly pleased by the insight I read from newspaper new media executives. Nothing I am saying hasnâ€™t been said, debated and documented in the newspaper industry. Having said that, the gap between understanding and execution is one perplexing motherload of a gap.”
[…] Eight reasons to be hopeful if you work for a newspaper company. Howard Owens follows his list of eight historic newpaper mistakes with a more positive list. One that’smissing from the list: newspaper companies have got the dough to buy up successful online competitors and add them to their core property. […]
Great posting Howard.
Newspapers have to concentrate on their strengths and use the benefits of the online facility,namely as a means of interaction with their readers.
As your earlier post points out,at the start a lot of content was simply transcribing the print version onto the web .
You make valid points about the community aspect and this micro news concept may well be the salvation of the newspaper industry.
My major worry about the future is however revenue.We have yet to reach the business model which if online sites were to stand alone would enable them to stand alone.
[…] Howard Owens turned his frown upside down yesterday and wrote about eight hopeful things in newspapers’ futures. I’m happy that one reason is video. […]
[…] howardowens.com: media blog Â»Eight reasons to be hopeful if you work for a newspaper company |Howard in a more possitve frame of mide. Especially for video: When you combine our reach, resources and our fresh outlook on video, you have an opportunity to dominate local web video in a way TV will struggle to match.” (tags: business internet Journalism newmedia newspapers video) […]
[…] Owens has a more uplifting piece today about the hopeful future of journalism. He makes a great point that newspapers need to realize: We know community. Iâ€™ve said it many times, community is in our DNA. So when it comes to creating online communities â€“ web 2.0, virtual communities, platforms for participation â€“ we know how to do this. Itâ€™s a natural fit for what weâ€™ve always done. We just need to build better tools and a more web-native infrastructure. I believe weâ€™ll get there. Social networks and newspaper organizations are a natural fit. Long term, I have more hope for newspaper networks than Facebook and MySpace. Frankly. […]
Echoing that newspapers know community. It is currently a question of rebuilding it. Can the communities where we live and neighborhoods where we play become vibrant again? Lets hope so
Your comment on the resurgence of Classified Advertising seems optimistic with no basis in reality. The old newspaper classifiedsâ€™ business model succeeded because it was the only information stream in town to reliably reach a large targeted audience. People were beating down newspapersâ€™ doors to send them money to print their ads. It was a cash cow, a no-brainer, an idiot proof revenue stream. People running the papers just sat back and let the money come to them. This is no longer the case considering the ubiquitous reach of the internet and the brainpower going into refining all aspects of how that medium operates.
Younger audiences have turned away from traditional media outlets and have left for FREE sites and FREE print publications. There is no value in a paid classified system if there are no eyeballs viewing them. These audiences are using sites like craigslist, monster, hotjobs, careerbuilder, or just visiting the websites of companies and applying online.
There are creative ways of driving this content back to print, but do not expect it be the premier destination newspaper classifieds once were. Take for example the fact that Careerbuilder, the #1 job site in America, is owned by Gannett, Tribune, McClatchy, and Microsoft. The service is free and best used online and when reprinted in newspapers, serves not as a direct revenue stream, but as a means to drive readers to the paper.
I feel the traditional paid classified business model is dead and will never add the value to a newspaper that it once did.
Monster is free? CareerBuilder is free? What are you smoking?
For newspapers that use CareerBuilder, ad placement is a premium up sell on top of the print ad. The up sell model in recruitment has been very successful for newspapers. It’s one of the reasons I’m optimistic about classifieds for newspapers.
If all of the free-placement sites such as craigslist eventually win all of the audience, and we all go out of business, then there will be fewer outlets for classifieds, and the value will go up. It won’t be long before people start paying for placement again. That’s how capitalism works.
Classifieds is a “critical mass” business, and newspapers still have some strong advantages in that area. It’s also a strongly local business, another area where newspapers have an edge. Alternatives to local newspapers in local markets have found it tougher to get traction than you might think. Craigslist has really only proven a real threat in a limited number of markets.
Besides the glaring error of saying CareerBuilder is free (and begins with the online ad, rather than the other way around, as is the case with vast majority of CareerBuilder ads), Microsoft is NOT a partner in it.
My apologies to Metaprinter … he sends along this link, which shows that Microsoft took a minority stake in CB earlier this year. I did not know this. I had used Ask.com to search for any affiliation between MS and CB and did not find one. I apologize for the error.
Interesting blog and post
Would you be interested in exchanging links? My blog is on advertising, media and creative thinking.
My background is in advertising account planning (the person behind the ‘big idea’ in an advertising campaign, TV research and IT).
Regarding newspapers: how about the fact that people just like the feel of a newspaper in their hand. Humans are tactile (people will always go shopping in shops even if they don’t have to because they enjoy touching / smelling / looking at food – which is why many online food companies haven’t taken off as much as they had predicted).