Thursday, January 15, 2009

How to fix newspapers: Listen to the Music

When I opened my Google Reader this am, I found the following in the conversation over at Just to remind our viewers. The topic at hand is the Role of Print (and newspapers).
Dan Haugen said:
A local music/art magazine in the Twin Cities is doing something along these lines. It's called Rift. They started out as a print publication, then ceased to exist for a while before returning as a website. Now it's publishing sporadic "best of" print editions that also include content from a few partner website. The publication schedule is determined by reader donations. There's a donation widget on the homepage, and when they reach their goal they print another issue.
Meanwhile over at The Seattle Post-Times Blog. Chuck Talyor asked:
I can't imagine how a printed Seattle Times survives, even without the P-I.

So I said, (slightly edited below)

Suppose the Times uses the web to collect content and locate fans. Different parts of the paper will have different fans. Money made from advertising on the web, will be small, but nice.

Then once a twice a week, put out the Friday/Sunday edition.

Then everyday, put out an issue with a "table of contents" to the web stories, and a "best of" for each fan base.

Then figure out which "fan base" congregates where and put out zoned editions with different "best of's" for different people.

Some advertising, probably a good piece of change.

But the real money is in selling stuff to the fan base.
A fan will buy lots of stuff that is cheap and easy to produce...think special edition books, or t shirts or baseball caps...or stories and pictures from the newspapers long tail of content.

The trick is to stop focusing on advertising to pay for media. It's about innovating stuff that can be sold directly to loyal fans.

It figures that it would come from the music people. The story of the music business is the story of an IP protected business with loyal fans. Publishing newspapers, anyone?

At any rate, lots of people think they know how the story ends. Actually it's still evolving. According to the interview I heard yesterday while driving in the car, iTunes is or has (hard to remember what I heard) their pricing structure from .99 to a tiered pricing structure .$69, $.99 and $1.29. And they are allowing iTunes to be played on not-the-iPod.

It's a long, informative story. I can't wait to buy the book so I can get all the details and understand how a major business has been destroyed and is now re-emerging in a new form. My bet is that if I can make the time to read it, the book will provoke lots of thoughts about how Print publishing and newspapers are going to play out.

You can hear the whole show at Fresh Air. It will take 38 minutes and 12 seconds. The description from the NPR website is:
Fresh Air from WHYY, January 14, 2009 - Rolling Stone contributing editor Steve Knopper chronicles the rise of the record industry — and its subsequent digital-age collapse — in his new book, Appetite For Self-Destruction.
Too bad there isn't a Print version. That would take about 5 or 10 minutes while taking the subway to work. Then I could put it in my back pocket and scan it, while I'm waiting for coffee. Imagine how cool would it be if I found the transcript in my local newspaper.

Come to think of it, if NPR sold PDF's of transcripts to local newspapers and charged a reasonable price, they could probably make money from the long tail of their listener paid for content on the web, by selling it to Print pubs. Plus it would increase the number of listeners, so they have more people to ask for contributions.

For our Print producer viewers:
We know how to do this. If someone can make a little time to talk to your local NPR station maybe you can find some new business, help NPR, and help civilize the public discourse, all at the same time.

For our newspaper publisher (especially the college papers) viewers:
You could probably do the same thing. Make a deal with your local NPR station or college station. They probably could use the money, but don't get greedy. You don't want "to kill the goose." Figure out a way to do transcripts in close to real time and get your layout people to design the page. Nice way to fill a news hole with stuff some people will like alot. Hint: the secret of newspaper success is to publish things that some people will like alot. Later, you can sell this fan base lots of stuff.

For our journalist viewers:
I'm not sure there is a value add in this application. Keep beat blogging and stay focused on the story, not the article. (I stole the phrase from Matt Thompson at

No comments:

Post a Comment