Friday, December 19, 2008

Newspapers are in the Education Business

Now all they have to do is realize it. The real job of newspapers is to educate, inform and entertain. Lately they thought their job was to aggregate "eyeballs" and sell them to advertisers. Now that advertising is moving to Search, it's hard to make a dollar selling eyeballs.

It's the railroad problem.
Papers now seem to be the equivalent of the railroads at the start of the twentieth century—a once-great business eclipsed by a new technology. In a famous 1960 article called “Marketing Myopia,” Theodore Levitt held up the railroads as a quintessential example of companies’ inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Levitt argued that a focus on products rather than on customers led the companies to misunderstand their core business. Had the bosses realized that they were in the transportation business, rather than the railroad business, they could have moved into trucking and air transport, rather than letting other companies dominate. By extension, many argue that if newspapers had understood they were in the information business, rather than the print business, they would have adapted more quickly and more successfully to the Net. from the New Yorker
But, it seems that at least one paper, has started an "Institute." Sooner or later someone at a newspaper will notice that the education business is the most profitable business in the USA.

Found this at Editor's Weblog
A California daily has formed "The Oakland Press Institute for Citizen Journalism," in response to the "changing face" of the industry, according to an editor.
. . .
The course, instructed by Press staff, is open to anyone, "from high school students to retirees," and upon completing the course participants will be considered for freelance positions.
The natural next step is to restrict admissions and get some school to give them cert cover. Or to make it a Charter Technical Education High School. Or to replace the textbook industry that is ready to fall, anyway. If they deliver education, the cert giving school gets a small piece of the revenue, the newspaper has a new source of income, the kids get a really useful education. If newspapers replace textbooks, the revenue stream is pretty clear.

Advances in communication makes much of the educational overhead less necessary. Higher Ed lives in a protected market. The State controls the right to sell certification. The cost of producing learning should be going down. But it's going up. No doubt, there is a top tier of schools that are doing the traditional sort 'em out and nourish the smart ones. But there are also many schools of Higher Ed, that talk the talk, but don't really do their jobs. Not doing their job does not mean not making money. Consider newspapers in the 70's,80's and 90's.

Meanwhile, everyone "knows" that everyone needs a college degree. The market naturally renews every year. More money for "education" is Mom and Apple Pie. My bet is that after January 20, the Federal Government is going to be in the market for lots of Apple Pie. Meanwhile, adjuncts teach most courses at low salaries. Buildings and overhead go up. The spread between cost of learning and the price charged is captured by the institution as opposed to shared with students and teachers.

Sooner or later, a newspaper will realize that the value of learning is the activity and the teacher. Newspapers just have to hire the teachers and change the activities slightly, and they can get a piece of the action.

It may well turn out that as newspapers search for new revenue streams, it's going to mean the end of the textbooks industry and the end of Higher Ed as we've known it.

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