Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Newspaper blablabla coming to a head

There is a neat discussion happening over at the Buzz Machine, 45 comments and counting. It seems to me that the great Newspaper Debate of 2008 is starting to really get somewhere. My favorite comment so far is by Peter (no link)
Peter says:

Because the business model for books still works. Book publishing is a growth industry. Newspaper is a dying one.

Peter says:

. . . Bottom line, most of the so called news out there are just a waste of ink. That’s why no one wants to pay for it.

Someplace in the thread David asked a question about the business model. So I said, (slightly edited version here)

@ David,

Step one: produce a product that people will willingly pay for. Consider Cooks or the New Yorker. Note: this is the really hard part.

Step two: deliver that product in various ways that get paid. One way is selling CPM’s to a website. Another way is to take seriously “read for free, pay for Print.” Produce various Print products that are worth reading. Then get an advertiser to underwrite the costs or much better, get the reader to pay for it.

Step three: create events with the people that your advertisers want to talk to.

Step four: Do the analytics on your readers who come to the web and sell the analysis of your readership to your advertisers, as either competitive intelligence or a way for the advertiser to better understand their audience.

Consider that Wal-Mart pulled out of the deal with Prism because they didn’t want to share their customer exchange data. It must be worth something to someone.

And then over at WSJ blog, Interesting post about analysis being the real value. Sidin Vadukut says
Does this mean that every newspaper should aspire to become the New Yorker?You are the reader. You tell me.
So I said,
You ask "Does this mean that every newspaper should aspire to become the New Yorker?" The short answer is yes.

But, the real problem is one of excellence. For those who love to read, the New Yorker is pretty excellent. Their readers have the expectation that they will find at least one or two things that are both beautifully written and present a new way of looking at something. The New Yorker has both the audience and the talent to be able to embrace the "read for free, pay for print" model and seem to be doing fine.

Most "analysis" in most newspapers most of the time tends to be talking heads and the latest version of the conventional wisdom. So, when you say, "How do we generate, position and sell analysis as profitably as possible?" I would suggest every newspaper concentrates on "generate." Given the internet and the blogosphere, marketing and positioning are subsidiary issues until you have the product.
And then I found this conversation over at Pub 2.0 from one of the posts, Chuck Taylor
A clearer way to look at this is to start with the ideal online-only newsroom budget and figure out how much ad revenue you need to support that and the overhead cost of selling the ads.

The whole bit about The New York Times needing X-times page views to match print revenue is a red herring. It’s all about covering the newsroom budget.

That budget should be reconfigured to eliminate coverage and editing of content better served elsewhere on the Web. When you’re done refocusing the mission to core competencies, you will have a leaner, more impactful newsroom and a less expensive news operation. And I bet you’re damned close to covering that with existing online revenue.

Mr. Webb is absolutely right: Newspapers have under-invested in technology all along, and in terms of the platform, they do need to start from scratch.

Meanwhile some folks are talking about the deeper issues at newsless.org and civilites.net.

Once the newspaper people and media gurus stop being blind to the value of Print, this should all settle down and we can get back to the business of trying to fix the real problem, the state of the world and our local economies.

Maybe some of our viewers who are in the world of Print would like to take some time out of the day to have a meeting with your local newspaper publisher and help them with their problem. Tell them about versioned print, database publishing and ultra niche publications. You can also point them to this story about local advertising.

Then we will all have a lot more time to curl up with a really good book.

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