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.