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The question posed over at Friendfeed asks, “Are blogs killing newspapers?”
The answer, quite simply, is no they are not.
I have talked about the newspaper industry quite a lot and part directions with many others in the new media space. In a world of absolute positions staked by nearly everyone, that paint issues in stark contrasts of black and white with no grey in between, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that if blogs are successful over newspapers in some area, then they must be killing the newspaper across the board.
In my old age of nearly 33, I’ve learned something in this life. That absolutes are generally far from absolute. The passion that is put forward by belief in something is enough to cause issue-oriented myopia, wherein it is impossible to consider other possible alternatives.
Thus is the case when the question is posed, “Are blogs killing newspapers?”
Let me pose both sides of the argument.
Early last month, after the Tribune Company announced that it would enter bankruptcy protection, the conversation surrounding the demise of newspapers and the newspaper industry heated back up. Of course, we suggested that there should be an opportunity for new media to emerge in the newsrooms.
Today, the news comes from the New York Times that Phillip Bennett, the number two man at the Washington Post is stepping down joining the former WashingtonPost.com executive editor, Jim Brady, who also resigned recently.
The Washington Post was one of the early newspapers who tinkered with social media tools in their online offering by utilizing a widget to display links to blogs that wrote about their stories. However, since then, they have not innovated all that much. Sure, they have blogs, but what major newspapers doesn’t? And really, does a blog matter if it isn’t compelling?
If I were on the inside of the Washington Post, I’d offer the following roadmap to a viable business entity.
- Combine resources of online and print media. No story should be exclusive to one or the other.
- Recognize that the business future does not lie in print and print subscriptions, but in online. Change business model to reflect a more traditional online content network. This is a wide swing from a subscription paper model.
- Develop content sharing partnerships with other newspapers. Washington Post has already done this with the Baltimore Sun. Suggest the The Times of London, Sydney Morning Herald or the San Francisco Chronicle to round out other-coastly or international perspective. Not sure how this would be mutually beneficial, but each publication will have its own interests that would need to be examined.
- Replace the Op-Ed section with blogs but use syndicated content from external blogs. Eliminate home grown blogs altogether.
- Develop online video channel on YouTube and bring into the online WaPo offering.
- In a related sense, develop a rich media network of content including podcasts – maybe primarily podcasts, due to the lack of exclusive attention required.
- Hire internally, or bring someone in from outside, to help the online business adapt to the new and changing landscape involving the internet and social media. The Toronto Globe & Mail did this with Mat Ingram.
I’d like to throw out one self-serving offer, since I know that there are increasingly a number of newspapers who are watching, reading or otherwise paying attention to our content here – I’m happy to discuss opportunities where I can step in and help. Sometimes that outside set of eyes is what is needed. Drop me a line at email@example.com or call me at (410) 608-6620.