Newspaper sites still behind where they could be

Steve Outing’s column asks: Have we come far enough?

Outing’s question is prompted by a sliver of archive from a mailing list he started in 1995 1994 called online-news. Steve is nice enough to credit me with unearthing this archive through Google, and it’s true I had been on a quest to find this archive, but really — this find was purely accidental.

But my motivation in looking for the archive is tied very much to the subject matter of Steve’s latest column: Have we come far enough.

I’m not sure, however, the online-news archive is really needed to answer the question.

If you look at the newspaper industry as a whole, most newspaper sites are under performing. In some things, some sites are doing well while other sites do well in other areas, but after more than a decade of trying to get up to speed, newspapers still lag behind.

Here’s where I see sites failing to fully tap the power of the Web, or properly react to the competitive threat:

  • They are not online hub of their community. Resources and information remain sketchy if they exist at all.
  • Classified sites are not often rich, compelling, community-driven experiences.
  • Classified verticals lack the depth to engage and meet consumer needs.
  • sites are not engaging place for local citizens to meet, discuss, debate and contribute.
  • Newspaper journalists are too seldom fully developing their stories for online, by skipping over multimedia opportunities.
  • Where are the niche products to reach the long tail of local audience interest?
  • Newspapers have more than just a commitment to citizens and readers: They owe it to local businesses to help them succeed in a digital world. So where are the compelling ecommerce sites and the full service of advertising options? Where is self-service retail advertising?
  • Too few newspapers even spend a dime on outside promotion so that local readers know that the should be a habit.
  • Too few newsrooms have grasped the basic fundamental need to keep content fresh and that all news should go on the Web first and frequently.
  • And almost no newspaper has realized the need to create virtual community to serve the real community.

Some sites do some of these things, as I said. Some are making good strides in some of these areas, but at this stage of the game, newspaper.coms should be a lot further along than they are. IMHO.

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