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Editorial The Media

A Recipe for Newspaper Survival in the Internet Age 349

Posted by Roblimo
from the speaking-ex-cathedra-from-his-belly-button dept.
I've spent seven years working as a writer and editor for Slashdot's parent company. During this time I've been to at least a dozen mainstream journalists' and editors' conferences where the most-asked question was, "How do we adapt to the Internet?" You'd think, with all the smart people working for newspapers, that by now most of them would have figured out how to use the Internet effectively enough that it would produce a significant percentage of their profits. But they haven't. In this essay I will tell you why they've failed to adapt, and what they must do if they want to survive in a world where the Internet dominates the news business.
I'm going to use the Bradenton Herald as an example, not because it's a bad newspaper but because I live in the middle of its circulation area. The Herald is a typical Knight Ridder small-city newspaper in every way except one: it serves Manatee County, an area with a fast-growing population where most new residents are old enough that they grew up reading newspapers every day. Despite these favorable factors, the Herald's circulation has declined by 3.5% in the last year. Of course, newspaper circulation declines are now normal rather than exceptional. Other newspapers have done far worse, with the San Francisco Chronicle recording a 16.4% drop in the last six months alone.

Readership vs. Circulation

Much of the Chron's circulation decrease was because it stopped giving away free papers. The Boston Globe also stopped a giveaway program and suffered a circulation decline as a result, although only about half as big a loss as the Chron's, but the Globe's marketing people have said that only half of the loss came from stopping the giveaways, and blamed the rest of it on the usual suspects, notably TV and the Internet.

These figures only measure paper newspaper circulation. They don't include Web readership, which generally seems to be trending (slowly) upwards on newspaper Web sites. Circulation figures can also be misleading because they only measure the total number of newspapers distributed, not the kind of people who read them. And readership quality can often be more important, in a business sense, than quantity. This is especially true for those newspapers (namely, just about all of them) that rely on advertising for the bulk of their income.

By definition, anyone who reads a newspaper online at home can afford a computer and an Internet connection, which means they aren't at the very bottom of the economic pile. Online readers are also likely to be more open to new experiences, products, and services than those who don't feel they need to use the Internet -- which by some estimates may be as many as half of all households within the Herald's circulation area, which has a higher percentage of retirees than all but a few other U.S. counties.

Journalism professor Douglas Fisher and media executive Alan Mutter have both talked about intentional circulation losses on their blogs. In his post, Fisher says, "The industry evolves to the point of small, expensive print publications and most of the 'mass' news on the Web somehow. Then, as we evolve toward paid content online will come issues such as whether a certain amount of 'base' information should be free for every person -- sort of like a public utility of information (perhaps presented as a social utility necessary in a functioning democratic society)."

Meanwhile, when newspapers talk about readership vs. circulation, they're typically trying to estimate how many people read each copy of their print product (pdf download) rather than come up with a total picture of their publication's readership, including its online presence. This is a mistake. Instead of treating their Web sites like unwelcome stepchildren, newspapers should turn them into their primary method of news delivery -- and teach their reporters, editors, and ad sales people how to work effectively with this new -- to them -- medium.

Slashdot Lessons

1. No matter how much I or any other reporter or editor may know about a subject, some of the readers know more. What's more, if you give those readers an easy way to contribute their knowledge to a story, they will.

Imagine a newspaper with a space for comments below each story on its Web site. This Slashdot story has comments directly attached to it, not tucked away from public view the way the Bradenton Herald's site hides reader comments on Bulletin Boards that aren't directly connected to any of the paper's articles or editorials. To make matters worse, the Herald's Bulletin Boards require a separate login to post. Even if you're a logged-in reader you must put in your username and password again to use them.

As a result of these posting barriers, you hardly see any reader comments on the Herald's site, and what few there are seem to come from a small group that posts over and over. Even the Herald's single (hard to find) blog, maintained by token hip-dude entertainment reporter Wade Tatangelo, draws so few daily comments that you could count them on the fingers of one hand -- and usually have four or five fingers left over.

By contrast, the Washington Post's Web site has two blogs, Achenblog and The Debate, prominently displayed on the Opinions page that almost always draw 100+ comments per post.

A truly Web-hip newspaper would not only allow but encourage reader comments on all of its stories, not just on a blog or two. With thousands of readers as fact-checkers, mistakes would rarely go uncorrected for long, and if there was any perceived bias in a controversial article, reader comments would make sure the other side got heard. Even better, a reader who witnessed an event the paper covered would be able to add his or her account of it to the reporter's, which would give other readers a richer and deeper view of it.

2. Not all readers know what they're talking about.

While some readers know more about any given topic than a professional journalist writing about it, most don't. Some, indeed, post anything about anything, including misleading or false information. This is why Slashdot has a moderation system, and why all newspaper Web sites need to have moderation systems in place before they allow reader posts attached directly to stories. Slashdot's, which is built into the code that runs the whole site, is probably too complicated for most newspapers, but everyone (including newspaper publishers) is free to download, use, and modify it. For those who don't want to use the code behind Slashdot, there are many other free (and proprietary) content management programs available that have similar -- and often simpler and less geeky -- moderation features built into them.

3. No matter what you do, some readers will post malicious and/or obscene comments

Slashdot removes posts only in response to Cease and Desist orders or legitimate copyright infringement complaints. We find that malicious or obscene posts are usually moderated into oblivion almost immediately, because our readers -- hundreds of whom have moderation power at any given moment -- have a sharp eye for stupid stuff.

A mainstream newspaper might choose to remove blatantly disgusting posts, which would take some staff time. There would also -- inevitably -- be second-guessing and complaints, including whines from readers who believed their posts were removed because they didn't follow the [fill in political party here] line, not because they used offensive language.

Moderation never makes everyone happy. Someone will always feel the rules are too loose, while someone else will believe they're too tight. And moderates -- I mean moderators -- will always get flak from ____-wingers who think they're biased. But these problems shouldn't stop grown-up newspaper people from soliciting and publishing readers' posts. They should already be accustomed to bias accusations.

4. What if readers post comments that advertisers don't like?

This is a problem, and one to which some newspapers are extremely sensitive --not just over readers' comments but sometimes over their own reporters' stories. A 1999 Washington Monthly article had some examples of how newspapers sometimes cater to advertisers instead of their readers. Allowing readers to comment on stories, and allowing them to post anything they want (other than obscenities, blatant hate speech, and personal attacks) increases readers' faith in the newspaper, which makes it a more effective advertising medium in the long run because some of that trust will rub off on advertisers that support it.

The Business Side of a Newspaper Web Site

Slashdot, like almost all other Web, broadcast, and print media outlets, depends on ad revenue for most of its income. For the first few years of its existence as a commercial entity, major advertisers were afraid to buy ads on Slashdot or other free-wheeling, community-driven sites. They worried that every time they touted a product, all the customers they'd ever irritated would post bad things about them. It's impossible to run a company of any scale without having at least a few dissatisfied customers, no matter how good your products and services are, so this was not an unjustified fear.

Luckily for Slashdot (and our parent company), many companies have learned that they are going to get criticized online whether they like it or not, so at the very worst, running ads on pages where they get slammed gives them a chance to tell their side of the story.

Keyword-based ad placement helps them do this. Imagine making software that's often knocked for its security vulnerabilities, while competing software is available that costs little or nothing and doesn't share your product's problems. You'd want to run a Get the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) campaign on every Web page where the competing product was being discussed so that you could tell people who are (obviously) interested in the competing product how awful it is, and why they should buy yours instead.

On a local newspaper Web site, a developer intent on replacing pristine wilderness along a scenic river with ugly condominium towers in the face of opposition from local citizens' groups could run a keyword-targeted campaign explaining why their buildings would be better than a swampy, mosquito-ridden riverfront. They could stress the fact that they would reduce the population of turtles, spiders, alligators, shore birds, frogs, and other annoying wildlife, and that runoff from their chemically-fertilized landscaping would help keep local fish populations down by contributing to red tide, thereby reducing the number of smelly fishermen infesting the area.

Other, more sensible, businesses would use the same tactic -- keyword ad placement -- to sponsor discussions in a positive way. An obvious example here in Florida would be resort property owners linking ads to tourism-related stories and the discussions attached to them. With geotargeting becoming common on the Web, ads aimed at visitors could be visible to all of a Florida newspaper's online readers, while ads for a local business would only be shown to local residents -- unless the local advertiser was canny enough to realize that Florida has many thousands of seasonal residents, and that reaching these snowbirds through the local newspaper's Web site before they come South is a great way to get a leg up on competitors.

Some other ways to exploit the Web that newspapers don't seem to do well:
  • Print-them-yourself coupons. This is lots cheaper than putting coupons in a print newspaper. Many newspapers boast that today's paper contains $___ worth of coupon savings. Why don't more papers make this boast about their online editions? TV stations could do this on their sites, too. This would be an entirely new source of revenue for them, since there is no way to put a coupon in a TV spot.
  • Online ad circulars, similar to the paper ones that pack print newspapers on Sundays and holidays. The print ones are expensive to produce and deliver, especially in color. Online circulars would be far less costly.
  • Selling sponsorships for community calendars and other "public interest" sections that should be on every newspaper's Web site -- but often aren't or are produced in too scattered a manner to be useful for readers. C'mon, newspaper (and local TV) people! A well-organized, database-driven events calendar is easy to produce. If you don't have one (and sponsors for it), you should.
  • Sponsored, "free to individuals and small businesses," local classifieds. craigslist and eBay are busily taking the classified ad market away from newspapers, with Google getting ready to help them with this effort. The Poynter Institute's Steve Outing suggests that the best way to beat back this threat is to "Turn newspaper classifieds into an active and interactive community, instead of just static, dull listings. A cold-hearted newspaper classifieds database could well be smothered by Google classifieds. A local-focused interactive community may be less vulnerable."
The Local-Focused Interactive Community

I believe the future of not only classified ads but of local news gathering and distribution is the "local-focused interactive community." According to this article, craigslist founder Craig Newmark agrees with me. So do plenty of other Web entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who are busily building and financing "community" sites.

Local newspapers should have dominated all of this interactivity from the beginning. They had the name recognition and -- through their print editions -- the promotional muscle to make their Web sites into unassailable community hubs. But they didn't, and now they're reduced to playing catch-up.

If the Sarasota Herald-Tribune had followed through on its plans to incorporate reader-written blogs into its site, Suncoastblog.com probably wouldn't exist. This group blog is an admittedly lame effort, barely begun, put together by several people in this area (including me) who thought it would be nice to have a local site that might eventually cover events and places that don't make their way into the local papers. We know the Herald-Tribune, whose circulation area overlaps the Bradenton Herald's, had thought about hosting reader blogs at one point, because they asked readers to submit blog ideas several months ago. I submitted one and never heard back.

I also submitted a local computer business column concept to the Herald. I came up with it because the Herald has a Sunday business page it calls "Digital Manatee," on which I have never seen anything other than out-of-town wire service material even though there is more than enough local computer and Internet business activity to fill a weekly column, and enough local computer and computer service vendors to surround that column with profitable advertising.

The Herald's editor didn't respond to my proposal. I've written three computer-oriented books, and thousands of articles that have run online and in print all over the world, but I am apparently not worth even a polite turndown from my local paper's editor. No problem. A week later I was having lunch with a couple of local entrepreneur buddies. I told them what had happened. They suggested an online computer business magazine instead of a Herald column, and offered to finance it on the spot, out of their pockets.

I don't have time to start a new publication. But I am in a position to help someone else start one, and to write a story or two for it now and then. Financing's in place. So is a domain name. So at some point the Herald and Herald-Tribune may have (yet) another niche publication competing with them. It won't be a big competitor, but its ad revenue will come from lucrative business-to-business accounts you'd think a local newspaper would be eager to lock up with a weekly (or more frequent) column for local computer-using business people.

This doesn't mean the Herald has a bad editor or that another small paper would have reacted differently. I use this anecdote only to point out that it is now easier to start an online publication than for even a highly-qualified outsider to get his or her work into a local paper. Is it any wonder that local blogs and other online niche publications are springing up like mad? And as a corollary, is it any wonder that newspaper circulation and influence continues to decline?

Newspapers need to open up more to the communities around them. They need to stop confining their interaction with readers to advisory board meetings and questionnaires, and allow readers' stories, opinions, and thoughts to become an integral part of the newspaper itself. They should not allow readers to alter the newspaper's own words, as the Los Angeles Times did back in June with their laughable wikitorial experiment. Moderated comments are a much better way to give readers a voice. So are journals that allow (logged-in) readers the same level of freedom they'd have with their own blogs, but also give them the cachet of being published on a "major brand" Web site.

'Local' is the Key Word

The Herald, Herald-Tribune, and many other (if not most) local newspapers seem to think that they are still their readers' primary source of national and international news, just as they were 20 years ago. So that's what fills their front pages most of the time, with local and regional news stuck in a "B" or "C" section.

Welcome to the Internet age, local newspaper (and TV) people. I can and do get my national and international news from the New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC, Al Jazeera, Fox News, CNN, and other online media that cover faraway events better and faster than you ever will. I turn to you for local news. You tell me more about last week's home invasion robbery on 11th Street East than they ever will.

It's time for local newspapers to become truly local; to feature local news on the front pages of both their Web sites and print editions, with only a few out-of-the-area stories up front, augmented by an above-the-fold story list that tells readers where to find national and international news on their inside pages.

Add readers' stories and comments to the mix and you suddenly have a local online community, not just a newspaper. This will not take work away from professional reporters, photographers, and editors, who will still be the foundation of local news-gathering. In fact, increased interaction with local community members will probably give them more work than ever, because they will find themselves inundated with news tips and story suggestions they never would have found on their own. Some of these story ideas will be dreck and some will be invaluable. It will be up to the newspaper's editors to find the (rare) nuggets in the huge pile of dross they will need to sort through every day, and up to the newspaper's reporters to follow up on them.

One important thing a community-oriented, Web-based newspaper must do is credit readers for their story leads unless they specifically request anonymity. Another good idea is to pay readers who submit news stories that are written well enough that they can run with only routine editing and fact-checking. Those readers are, in effect, doing a reporter's work, and they should get some sort of compensation for it. Some may even turn into stringers capable of covering government meetings and other events when staff reporters aren't available, and a few of those stringers eventually ought to become staff members. After all, if a newspaper is going to be about, by, and for its local community, shouldn't that community be its primary recruiting ground?

Newspapers Will Not Die

Some newspapers (and newspaper chains) will probably not survive the shift from news-as-monologue to news-as-dialog. Most will, although those that wait too long to adjust will have much of their audience, influence, and ad revenue taken away by more agile competitors.

The smartest newspapers will follow my survival recipe or come up with their own way to become an integral part of their community instead of a building full of people who have been sprinkled with Secret Journalism Powder that makes them better and smarter than their readers. These newspapers will not only survive, but prosper. They may even become the prime outlets for bloggers in their communities, which will increase their readership and ad revenue. Extreme ____-wing bloggers won't want their words associated with the hated Mainstream Media, but most others will be happy to have a widely-read, influential outlet for their work.

Eventually, I expect print newspapers to become "snapshots" of their Web editions taken at 1 a.m. or another arbitrary time, poured into page templates and massaged a little by layout people, then sent to the printing presses, a pattern that has potential for significant production cost reductions if handled adroitly. From that point on, their paper editions will be distributed the same way newspapers are now.

Senior citizens and others who can't afford (or don't want) computers are and will continue to be a viable market. So will commuters who use public transportation. Then there are those -- a substantial part of the population -- who simply prefer reading words and looking at pictures on paper to seeing them on a screen. They will still want physical newspapers, even if they are not as up-to-date or as complete as what they'd get on the Web.

However it is delivered, text will not go away anytime soon. For a fast reader, it is the most efficient way to take in large quantities of information. Most people speak at a rate of between 130 and 200 words per minute. Most college students, according to a Virginia Tech student guide, can read non-technical material at 250 to 300 words per minute, and can increase that reading speed significantly with a little thought and practice. Listening to a city council meeting at 150 words per minute takes much longer than reading a meeting transcript at two, three, four or ten times that speed. Now have a skilled reporter -- whether a staff member, paid contributor or volunteer -- write an intelligent summary of that meeting, and even an average reader can learn what happened there in a few minutes instead of slogging through a two hour audio or video recording.

The Web version of that summary can be posted without waiting for the printing presses and delivery trucks to roll, and can have audio or video snippets embedded in it, but there is no reason not to make the text portion of it available on paper for those who prefer it in that form, unless the paper's editors decide so few people are interested in a city council meeting that it doesn't deserve a spot in the print version -- and tracking page readership on the Web version of the paper before the paper edition goes to press should give those editors a good idea of what they should and shouldn't put on paper.

Printed newspapers will have a significant following for many years to come. They may or may not become "expensive," as Professor Fisher predicts, but they will likely become smaller than they are now, and subscription sales efforts will probably be targeted more closely at groups unlikely to have Internet connections, especially senior citizens.

On the Web side, it's likely that newspapers will end up keeping most of their content free, with specialty sections (and posting privileges) reserved for logged-in users. Whether they'll be able to charge for some or all of their Web content is questionable. I paid $50 for a year's subscription to the NYT's Times Select program, and I don't think it's a good enough value that I'll renew my subscription when it runs out. I would be more likely to pay if I lived in New York and that subscription, in addition to what it gives me now, offered access to additional features like complete transcripts of government meetings. Indeed, I would happily pay at least $30 per year to the Bradenton Herald for a well-organized Web edition that gave me what I now get in the paper edition, plus government meeting transcripts and other useful subscriber-only features.

But if I paid for an online subscription to the Herald, I'd probably drop my subscription to the paper edition. I'd still be the same person, with the same interests, earning power and spending habits. The only thing that would change about me, from the newspaper's perspective, would be my news delivery preference.

The challenge for local newspapers that beef up their Web editions at the expense of their paper versions won't be to keep (or add) readers, but to teach advertisers that the Web, not paper, is the best way to reach their most lucrative potential customers.

This may not be easy, but it will be a lot easier than explaining to advertisers why they should keep spending money in a newspaper that has fewer readers, and less influence, every year.
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A Recipe for Newspaper Survival in the Internet Age

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:33PM (#14147763)
    Print journalists should throw sway standards like searching for duplicate articles, insisting on proper spelling, or even writing coherent articles. If all print media matched Hemos' Yellow Box review, think of the savings!
  • by RacerZero (848545) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:33PM (#14147766) Homepage

    You'd think, with all the smart people working for newspapers...

    Ha ha, ha ha.!

    • Re:Smart People? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SamSim (630795) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:49PM (#14147938) Homepage Journal
      No, no, no. Don't think that the target demographic reflects the intelligence of the journalists. The people who write tabloids like The Sun are very, very clever. They know how to get people to buy newspapers - and that's to sensationalise, and write in big block capitals and short, punchy, easy-to-read sentences and paragraphs, using language suitable for the third-grade.
      • Re:Smart People? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hogwash McFly (678207)
        and that's to sensationalise, and write in big block capitals and short, punchy, easy-to-read sentences and paragraphs, using language suitable for the third-grade.

        You forgot the PUNS, PUNS, PUNS!

        It's bad enough that they're in the headlines, let alone the article text itself. Also, I love how they embolden (or is it italicise?) the puns, just incase the drooling readers can't spot them as-is.
    • Re:Smart People? (Score:5, Informative)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) <Satanicpuppy@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @01:25PM (#14148331) Journal
      As a smart person working for a newpaper, I'd like to say, kiss my ass. You'd be hard pressed to find another industry that has more interesting data handling issues than a newspaper. We've got financial data, image data, text data (which is stored in a version tracking system similar to, but more extensive than, CVS), and massive archiving which is seperate from and connected to all of the above.

      And all of this data has to be able to transition from pure digital to paper through a conversion and optimization process that requires raster processing and laser lithography like a goddamn microchip fabrication plant. You've got disaster recovery and stress like you wouldn't believe.

      That being said, I have to agree with Rob. Interesting that he picked a KR paper. Knight Ridder has a terrible online presence...It's not done by individual papers either, it's all done on the corporate level. Check the websites: Charlotte [charlotte.com], Philaphelphia [philly.com], Biloxi [sunherald.com], Macon [macon.com]...Notice anything? One size fits all.

      The reason Knight Ridder is a bad example is because they don't take the web seriously in the least. They don't spend any money on it, and they don't let their individual papers do it themselves. Until they make more of an effort, they're not going to grow their web readership or their web presence. That's just common sense.

    • Re:Smart People? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Your average reporter is a journalism major. That means no background in science, math, accounting, architecture, art, business, law enforcement, law, administration, history beyond Roe v Wade, social studies, geography, military history, or anything else requiring a triple digit IQ. Oh, and their the lowest life form at the paper and are paid the least and have the most turnover. It's easy to why the articles are so shallow.

      The only qualifications for a reporter are that anything Planned Parenthood and

  • As long as there are "old people" there will always be newspapers. It is a fact that people enjoy getting their paper, sitting down and reading. I have noticed that my technically sharp father has started reading less online and going back to the traditional paper. When I ask him why he says "it's relaxing."

    I know when I fly (which seems to be every other day) I prefer to read a paper than fire up my computer to read a downloaded electronic format paper. Why? It is, interestingly enough, relaxing, even for me...a geek.

    VERY interesting article Robin. Thanks for sharing.
    • I've been reading news "online" since 1984 when I received my first Hayes 300 baud full length internal ISA modem.

      I am so accustomed to online news that I only read the news on my PDA phone (on the go, on the throne, in the plane). I will read zines and some opinion ed newsletters in paper form, but that's about it.

      One of my businesses is a retail store with the customers being generally 13-31 year old males. The younger ones (under 25) don't read the paper at all, in fact, more news gets passed through S
    • by SlashSquatch (928150) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:53PM (#14147987) Homepage
      Bill Watterson had the right idea. I used to go straight for the comics when I had the newspaper. Not any more. They took the funny out of the funnies. Oh well, I'll just get my jollies online. It's so much more fun.
    • May be just may be we need to rethink what Newspapers are essentially meant for in this modern age. Certainly the "news" in newspapers is old by the time they go to print. So what is the benefit to the consumer to subscribe to a newspaper? Your reasoning could be valid - relaxing. But how many people feel that way? I do enjoy a lazy sunny afternoon break where I can catch my breath and get a cup of coffee and read newspaper. Its certainly relaxing, but at the same time I am not looking for "news". I already

    • As long as there are "old people" there will always be newspapers.

      Newspaper circulation is in decline. [stateofthenewsmedia.org] Evening newspapers (popular for closing stock information) have declined the fastest, but the overall trend is not encouraging. Since 1970 the number of us households has approximately doubled, but newspaper circulation has decreased slightly. This coupled with recent drops of 2.6 percent in the last six months [businessweek.com] paint a bleak picture.

      It is naive to say that there will always be newspapers. It is l
      • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @01:12PM (#14148178) Homepage Journal
        The decline percentage is misleading as well. The MORE important figure to go with (IMHO) is advertiser decline, which is not readily published.

        In the last 6 months, I have received more phone calls from my ad people at the local radio station, cable network, newspaper, coupon clipper and movie theaters that I used to advertise in. One of the ladies earned mid 6 figures just 5 years ago, this year she's considering bankruptcy.

        I feel a little responsible in hurting the ad industry in my region. When I found out that most of my ad sales people bought through the Internet the same items I sell, I thought twice about what they were selling me. I asked myself this basic question: What do I do with the product I am advertising through?

        TV ADS: PVR skip. RADIO ADS: Change station. COUPON CLIPPER: Throw in trash. NEWSPAPER: Never buy. MOVIE THEATER ADS: Show up 10 minutes after start.

        I started to tell this to other businesses in my area. Now, when new sales people come through the store, I tell my managers to tell the sales people we only buy advertising from sales people who shop at our store for at least a year. Guess how many ads we run now?

        If you think newspapers are dying, try the periodicals industry. More and more periodicals I used to read seem to have become strictly advertising for one massive dotcom. One "trade" magazine I used to read had 70% of its ads from one megadistributer that owns about 100 brand names.
      • It is naive to say that there will always be newspapers. It is like saying there will always be record players. Digital technology will eventually destroy newspapers. Even if someday they get replaced by high res flexible digital "paper", the traditional model of a printed paper that has to be distributed is doomed. It is simply too expensive.

        There will always be written news, but the market for news is likely to shrink. Increased communication of information will destroy the market for printing Reuters pre
    • I spend an hour sat on a train every morning and evening on my commute. I don't have a laptop or PDA, so if I want to spend the time reading my choices are either a book or a newspaper.

      That said, I can't remember the last time I actually bought a newspaper; here in London there's a free one called the Metro that's just left at Tube stations, handed out outside major stations, etc. If I read a paper, that's it. (It's not particularly good, but it beats paying for one)
  • by xzvf (924443) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:34PM (#14147789)
    "You'd think, with all the smart people working for newspapers," That assumption doesn't stand up. In college journalism students are taught how to write badly. Then they get jobs as political reporters without a poly sci degree, business reporters without business degrees, and technology reporters without being able to do basic math.
    • by NineNine (235196) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:40PM (#14147848)
      Well, journalism isn't concerned with knowing the industry you're writing about. That's like getting a comp sci degree and learning how to use Visual Studio. All of the subject matter can be learned pretty easily. What people (bloggers and their fans) don't understand is that journalism deals with being able to write coherently, using facts, and as little bias as possible. Journalism is a real skill/profession that people such as yourself just don't understand. That doesn't mean that they don't provide society a very valuable service.
    • by BewireNomali (618969) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:59PM (#14148047)
      agreed. Movie critics who did not go to film school, et al.

      I have a similar problem with teachers. New teachers are usually in my age range, and don't have much real world experience, are probably not mature enough to teach, et al. But they teach because they were in the lower range of their graduating class with generic degrees and as thus are willing to take meager salaries (this is my general experience with my friends who teach; no offense to those of you who teach on /., are competent, and love it). My solution: so many people are retiring younger and healthier than ever before. These people should teach. They've already led successful lives, have loads of life experience and thus have loads of things to teach that aren't in textbooks. More importantly, they have nest eggs so the meager salary isn't an issue to them because they're secure financially. They can afford to do it and are the most suited to do it. It's actually a program here in NY - where the school system is actively recruiting young retirees. This way you dramatically increase the quality of the school system with marginal cost increases.

      My experience is that many of my friends in journalism are similar. They face similar issues: meager salaries, low barriers to entry, etc. I propose a similar solution - young retirees move into the journalism space. They've worked in the industry - have decades of perspective. With telecommuting what it is - they can perpetually report from the field... which would be where they choose to retire, etc. They can take the meager salaries because they have nest eggs, etc.

      The secondary issue is that modern journalism is vertically integrated with political agendas in large politically vested corporations. I can imagine that the general public often feels hoodwinked and manipulated by the media - coerced into groupthink. That mistrust and the ease with which a motivated individual can self publish will continue a dramatic shift in the power dynamic. There will no longer be a monopoly on information (unless you're google).

      The only time I pick up a paper is because an enterprising drug dealer disguises ads for pot in the classified section of the village voice. And they deliver.
      • My solution: so many people are retiring younger and healthier than ever before. These people should teach.

        One of the best teachers I had was a student teacher on a placement. He was teaching physics, although I believe his degree was in engineering of some kind. He'd done the whole being in industry thing, and decided to become a teacher to give something back (I got the impression that he'd been well enough paid in his previous job not to really need a job anymore). Everything he taught us about cam

    • That is because in K-12 They were taught History by a teacher without a History Degree, Math by a teacher without a degree in mathmatics, English...you get the picture.
    • In college journalism students are taught how to write badly.

      Got any facts on your assumption? Doubt it.

      You miss the whole point of reporting. They're not supposed to be experts. They're not supposed to put their own knowledge in the article at all. They're supposed to go out and find experts, and put their knowledge in the article. By your logic, a random guy who can write and knows some physics is more qualified to write than a person who can write well (and they can, despite what you seem to think), and
    • Can't say about other colleges, but at the time I was in college, at either Universitiy that offered degrees Journalism in Canada, students must take 2 years of undergraduate work, and must take briefer versions of what students with majors in the subject take, similar to what, say, other students might take outside their Majors. They won't even let you in to the College of Journalism and Communications (you're a Pre-Journalism student).

      Specific classes in subjects: PoliSci, History, Art, English, Engineeri
  • There's a hobby shop [hobbylobby.com] near where I grew up that has it's flyer and an internet coupon on their site in addition to having a print version of the flyer in newspapers.

    I'm not sure how long they've been doing this, at least a couple of years now...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:36PM (#14147804)
    Basic competence in English grammar and spelling are to be avoided at all costs.

    Reading your own paper is to be avoided at all costs.

    Posting the same stories again can make your site twice as newsy.

    Posting incoherent rants always rates over sober journalism.

    Your job isn't to inform, but to generate the highest number of page-views for your advertisers.

    People who don't like ads can be fooled by hiding ads inside so-called news stories.

    • For some reason I hear Dr Nick Riviera when I read the parent's post; probably because it's advice for achieving results by implementing lazy and inane ideas. You can almost picture the Simpsons episode where Dr Nick is hosting an 'Increase your news site traffic' class at the adult education centre.

      It's especially funny when you get to the line:

      Posting the same stories again can make your site twice as newsy.

      Ahh, brings back memories of the Juice Loosener! It's whisper quiet!
    • Your job isn't to inform, but to generate the highest number of page-views for your advertisers.

      People who don't like ads can be fooled by hiding ads inside so-called news stories.


      Heh, I wish those points were Slashdot-specific.
  • Rags should make ad-free, for pay, RSS feeds of NY Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. Make it deliverd to Blackberries and cellphones. The cheap distribution costs make it financially possible to cut down on ads.
  • by AEton (654737) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:38PM (#14147828)
    So in short, you're saying

    1) Newspapers should all have Web sites that run something like Slashcode.
    Have you considered that Slashdot, where people come for the comments and not the stories, is the exception and not the rule?

    2) Newspapers should run Slashvertisements.
    One thing newspapers have which Slashdot does not is journalistic integrity.

    3) Local newspapers should not ignore their audience.
    Sure, I'll buy that. But this is just a way of saying that customer service is important to a business.

    4) Rumors of the New York Times's death have been greatly exaggerated.
    But times are tight. Layoffs at the Times and the Journal, KRT looking to sell itself -- yuck.
    • Have you considered that Slashdot, where people come for the comments and not the stories, is the exception and not the rule?

      I don't think even that's true -- Rob has said a number of times that the vast majority of readers (as opposed to page views) don't go past the main page.

    • Have you considered that Slashdot, where people come for the comments and not the stories, is the exception and not the rule?

      In your statement, you are overlooking an important point. People come to slasdot for comments and not for news. That means, people are not interested in some absent minded journalist reporting what has happened. The reader probably already knows it by now. What he/she wants to know is what his fellow human being thinks about it. If you take same concept to national newspapers, may b

    • Slashdot, where people come for the comments and not the stories

      I attended a presentation Taco gave last year in which he said that only about 25% of /.'s visitors read or post comments.

      Something like half only view the front page.
  • Keen insight (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MikeURL (890801) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:38PM (#14147829) Journal
    YOu mean to tell me that newspapers should be more interactive? I'm shocked that this is the kind of thing any professional in the news business would need to be told. Granted, perhaps boomers are not all that interested in interacting with their news but X'ers on down pretty much require it. Honestly I think slashcode or something similar is a first step to getting the interactivity without the "ha poop is funny" posts totally destroying the message board. I sometimes wonder why trolls even bother on /.

    Perhaps what is REALLY going in is that your comment about the readers inevitably knowing more about the subject than the writer has a chilling effect. Here on /. the eds know darn well they don't know much and as such they focus on the technology for comments. A professional news site is staffed with people who really think they know their stuff and may not want to be consistently "shown up" by their readers.
    • A professional news site is staffed with people who really think they know their stuff and may not want to be consistently "shown up" by their readers.

      A preofessional news site is staffed by generalists who may have specific areas of knowledge, but that doesn't not translate into knowing everything.

      If a journalist is constantly getting "shown up" by their readers... then maybe that journalist needs to do a better job preparing background & researching for his articles.

      I'm not even sure what you mean by

  • by lbrandy (923907) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:38PM (#14147831)
    Ego and arrogance. Newspapers need to let go of the idea that they are the harbinger and gateway of all information. The lofty self-appointed (and aritificial) perch they've created for themselves is obvious. What kind of self-respecting person would get news from any of these simpletons when they can get it from us. Blogs have been more successful as a news source exactly because of the print medias long and constant arrogant approach to them. Now, some are finally starting to catch up, but for the most part, vast and entire new media entities are taking huge market share from newspaper because of their elitism causing a massive delay in switching to web.

    Your "recipe" assumes that newspaper editors are of the correct mindset, already. I think alot of them have a long way to go. The entire concept of an editorial, in print form, as the golden platonic representation of "opinion" is going to be nothing more than a quaint idea of yesteryear...
    • Now, some are finally starting to catch up, but for the most part, vast and entire new media entities are taking huge market share from newspaper because of their elitism causing a massive delay in switching to web.

      Even when they did switch to the web they did so in a reduced and limited format. Some require personally identifiable information (yeah, you can fake it or use bugmenot but it's still a royal pain in the ass).

      The only reason I even randomly bother with newspapers these days is to get the groce
    • Speaking of Ego and Arrogance, Roblimo confidently states, "In this essay I will tell you why they've failed to adapt, and what they must do if they want to survive..."

      So, apparently he alone, has figured out the solution for all newspapers? Some of his comments are valid, but his whole idea of a comment and moderation system probably won't work for lots of smaller newspapers because they probably won't have enough online readers that such a system would be feasible. Consider the percentage of slashdot use
    • The problem with newspapers is similar to broadcast television. They have gotten this idea in their head that their reports should never be challenged and what they decide to print will BE the truth.

      The internet has allowed individuals to challenge the accuracy and fairness of the newspaper and broadcast television industry. No longer do people just blindly accept what they read in their local paper or see on the nightly news. They are now exposed to many views and many sources of information. This brin
    • Ego and arrogance

      You mean the arrogance of a Slashdot editor telling editors of more professional and more successful sites how to do their jobs? Maybe he should concentrate on fixing duplicates, moderation-abuse and spelling and grammar errors before criticising others.

      Newspapers need to let go of the idea that they are the harbinger and gateway of all information.

      You mean like when Slashdot editors merge their own opinions into the article summaries, arrogantly assuming that their biased opinion is hard f
    • Blogs are editorial, not reporting. How many bloggers actually go out and gather news--hard facts that were not know previously? Hardly. The basis for the vast majority of blog posts is a link to a news story, and then the commentary begins.

      BTW you've somehow missed the most essential architecture element of any newspaper--the wall between reporting and editorial. I agree that a blogger's editorial is not inherently any better or worse than a newspaper editors. But as I said above, pretty much no blogger
  • Survival is unlikely (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:39PM (#14147841) Homepage Journal
    There is no survival of defunct and obsolete media.

    Television advertisers will return to product placement, billboards and bus advertisements. DVR's are becoming so prevalent that the TV ad is dead. I ran tens of thousands of dollars over advertising in TV and radio over the years and this year my ads cost almost $2000 per customer gained (versus $20 just a few years ago). My newspaper ads are never read any longer.

    The "Everything" newspapers will be the first to die -- they are at least 6 hours and at most 18 hours late on the news. The TV news channels are dying as well as the information that is read is obviously of no concern to the talking heads, and the information is so generic that it likely affects no one.

    I still see room for opinion media forms -- preaching to the choir is a great income source.

    The commentary of the editor is interesting:

    Much of the Chron's circulation decrease was because it stopped giving away free papers.

    How do you give away a paper for free when the advertisers pull out en masse? I will never advertise in a newspaper or magazine or coupon clipper ever again. More and more advertisers are pulling out as well.

    Achenblog and The Debate, prominently displayed on the Opinions page that almost always draw 100+ comments per post.

    100 comments out of a paper that used to reach millions is piss-poor sorry. If I was an advertiser and saw only 100 comments, I'd dump that paper in seconds. No thanks.

    With RSS feeds and the number of specific blogs with actually decent information growing every day, classic news on the web is as ancient as the newspaper idea. Consumers can now create their own content papers. I'd rather find a decent RSS-Newspaper portal that helps me formulate my own daily paper than go to Washpost.com.

    Print-them-yourself coupons.

    I like this idea, and I have tried it in many avenues and I have never seen a coupon come in that was generated online. Not one (and my customer is usually a 13-31 year old male). I've tried e-mail coupons, too, and I believe we received one customer out of it. Coupons are dead when you have Froogle and Amazon already telling your customer that your store is too expensive.

    Online ad circulars

    Again, dead. Froogle and Amazon make this idea bunk. "Hey I can save $5 on the Widget at Dada's Shop, oh but wait it's $15 cheaper at Amazon with free shipping!"

    Selling sponsorships for community calendars and other "public interest" sections that should be on every newspaper's Web site

    And as the web grows bigger, I see more people ignoring their communities of people dissimilar to them and gain respect for their web communities of people similar to themselves. More geeks on /. know others here than they do their own real life neighbors.

    Sponsored, "free to individuals and small businesses," local classifieds.

    Great idea. Advertise to 500 readers for free, or sell it on ebay to 5M readers for $1. Hmm, I think I'll take option 2.

    'Local' is the Key Word

    I wish that was the case. When I attempted to create some local scenes over the years online, as more of my customer base jumped on the internet, more of the local scenes online fell way to the nationally-oriented scenes. The punks that used to stick to our punk rock forum (we sold punk music) dropped us for the national scene. The paintballers that used to frequent our paintball forum (we sell paintball equipment) dumped us for the national scene. The skateboards that used to frequent our skate spot forum (we sell skate equipment) did the same. Why? 5 messages a day from the same 100 people is boring compared to hundreds of opinions.

    It's time for local newspapers to become truly local

    And attempt to sell itself to 500 people? I think it is more important for newspaper to face reality -- you can't please all of the people all of the time if the group is small. It is bet
    • No offence, but I think you are approaching this from a somewhat biased point of view. We (here on Slashdot) are a bunch of geeks, we have very long feed lists, and are completely comfortable with reading everything online. Most people have no idea what a feed is, much less an aggragater. Most people (myself included) find reading things on a computer screen unnatural, and uncomfortable (I only do so because most places with feeds don't have pulp).

      I like reading the paper, nothing like spending the mor
      • We (here on Slashdot) are a bunch of geeks, we have very long feed lists, and are completely comfortable with reading everything online.

        I employ teenagers who are NOT geeks. My customer base is either teenage or has siblings or kids who are teenagers. Teenagers, in general, are VERY Internet savvy. I bet the majority of blogs out there are teen blogs (MySpace, etc).

        I like reading the paper, nothing like spending the morning sitting on the porch reading pulp, sipping coffee, and yes, going through the ads
  • The NYT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by locutus2k (103517) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:41PM (#14147853)
    Robin,

    Pretty well written, and looking at papers like the NY Times that are distributed all over the damn world, you'd think they would know how to leverage the internet to augment the lack of interest by most people under the age of 50 who are not in the financial business.

    I work for a company in the financial industry and we ge the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal every day. Oddly, its only read by one person... maybe two. For the most part, our staff goes to their web sites to read what is in the papers.

    By far, the complaint i get the most is that a registration is required. this isn't a money problem, its a logistical one. My users are quite lazy and don't want to have to be bothered to log into another web site to read the news. Thankfully, they're finding that they can get the same articles, and often from those papers from Google News, and Yahoo Finance.

    If these papers want to avoid the fate of the dinosaur, as you said, they need to focus on advertising are an income source, not charging the people that actually would like to read what they have to say.
  • I have found with books that releasing electronic copies drives the sales of print copies, because a book printed on thin paper and bound professionally is way better than three to four inches of photocopy paper with bent staples in the corner. Therefor readers become purchasers.

    I wonder how much the form factor affects newspapers.

    --dave

  • The problem I see with Slashdot is that most of what I read is complete and udder crap. I'm not just talking about the comments. Have you read submissions lately? Just take a look at stuff that Zonk and Scuttlemonkey post as fact. Complete and udder crap, usually from a rumor site. And that's the editors!

    Even with the moderation system, misinformation can become fact. A well written post of complete misinformation (especially if posted early on) gets modded up to Informative. The facts don't matter,
    • Keep in mind journalistic integrity only applies to the article and not those commenting. Just because a comment is wrong does not make it un-informative. People are being informed, just incorrectly. Remember, these are comments (see peanut gallery) and should be taken as such. I bet that the inaccuracy rates of "real" newspapers are about the same as Slashdot. Have you really read a newspaper and checked it for fact and objectivity recently.

      Slashdot, and other user moderated sites have an unwritten "soci
  • by xmas2003 (739875) * on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:42PM (#14147867) Homepage
    But I wonder how many mainstream journalists will read what you wrote ... or perhaps even more importantly, the business people associated with those operations.
  • Despite the emergence of online papers, blogs, and TV content, advertisers persist. They have no other choice but to try. Things like bittorrent and Adblock have taken a chunk out of the effectiveness of advertising, yet these companies still need to tell the consumers that they exist. They are desperate. They can't email everyone without spamming and being looked negatively upon by savvy consumers for doing that.

    My rural parents started to get the paper online in the 1990s, and stopped getting the prin
    • They have no other choice but to try.

      Yet the best form of advertising today is not advertising at all. It is an amazing free market resource that can never be regulated nor disturbed, and the Internet allowed it to come to complete fruition.

      Consumer Rating.

      Yes, you can find out about products from a TV commercial (or skip it). You can find out about products in a mailer (or throw them out). The future is to just make quality products, and let the new huge version of "word of mouth" carry you to success.
  • When I look at the big newpapers out there, I am reminded of the big auto makers of the past like GM, Ford, etc. They are so used to doing business the way they did decades ago and are hesitant to change. This is somewhat understandable because it worked for so long. Now look at GM, they are hurting bad because they haven't adapted to the changing times. Back in the 70's when gas was expensive for a period, America kept making gas guzzlers, while Japan focused on fuel efficient designs. Gas prices eased up

  • by CDPatten (907182) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:45PM (#14147901) Homepage
    "You'd think, with all the smart people working for newspapers, that by now most of them would have figured out how to use the Internet effectively enough that it would produce a significant percentage of their profits."

    Well that's just it. There aren't allot of "smart people" working for newspapers. Don't get me wrong, the writers and editors (as we just saw) think they are smart, but they are the only ones who believe that. As the internet has developed society has started to hold them more accountable, and as it turns out they plagiarize continually, make up facts, or outright lie/misquote people. Jason Blaire anyone? Dan Rather?
    I'd say the mainstream newspaper's biggest problem (e.g. new York Times) is they are reporting OPIOIN more then news (I'm talking about in the news section not just the op-ed). A bigger problem for them is that most people in the country disagree with those opinions.

    Blogs have become so popular because people are getting to see some insightful commentary other then the dribble we get from the self proclaimed "smart people" in the media. The problem for the newspapers is their staff, not the internet.
  • by theurge14 (820596) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:46PM (#14147907)
    I can pay a buck for the Sunday paper and get a tree trunk's worth of printed ads.

    Or, I can browse to a website for free and nuke the ads with Adblock.

    I guess someone's definition of a "relaxing read" is purely generational.
  • "You'd think, with all the smart people working for newspapers..."
    Erm.. I don't know about your local newspaper, but the folks at my local newspaper seems to working on the same reading age as those that they write for (about 8th grade).

    Then again.. maybe this person is refering to the New York Times... 'cause we all know they've never screwed up a story...

    • Newspapers are filled with brilliance. I was laughing just last night about examples in the local rag. One was "overcame a stiff tailwind [to win the sprint]". Two days ago I read online that Ricky Ray, who had completed only one touchdown pass in his previous eight starts, now had "more detractors than touchdown passes". A valiant attempt at hyperbole, but I think the ball was dropped somewhere between the ears. Plus amazing leaps of mathematics: I remember one stat that boiled down to the claim that
  • Nice analysis, including one suggestion I hadn't thought of myself (geotargeting of news and ads), but my main gripe with newspaper websites is that most of them still do not hyperlink to the material they're reporting on. See my rant [slashdot.org] from a year and a half ago. Amazing that Yahoo! has been around for 11 years and most newspaper websites still do not hyperlink.
  • I would want to read all of these posts. Getting your information hand-fed or advocated by certain advertisers kills free speech and free thought.

    If newspapers want to adapt, the first thing they need to do is write stories that are truly interesting as well as informative. Greater in-depth and investigative reporting will attract readers to their newspapers. Also, please avoid all stories about Paris Hilton, Nick & Jessica, Brad & Angelina, and pseudo-advertisments posing as 'news.'
  • Offer up a reader (think e-book) with the subscription for a set price. If need be, offer it up at half/price combined with subscription.

    With that, offer up much more than is on the web. In particular, minimize the ads. One neat feature of this, is that ads can be very targeted (no sense selling MS windows ads to bill gates; Apple may decide to target Linux users (BTW, considering that browser ID themselves, I am amazed that nobody is doing that; The same ads that I get on MS are the same on Linux)).
  • by sphealey (2855) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:53PM (#14147985)
    This issue is also being discussed at TPMCafe [tpmcafe.com], a politics blog.

    sPh

  • by cyberbob2010 (312049) <cyberbob2010@techie.com> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @12:54PM (#14148002) Homepage Journal

    They all seem to have some major backer that I don't feel I can trust to give me honest, unbiased news.
    Oh, and before you start, I know that they aren't the most reliable source ever to get information but to be entirely honest with you, I would rather get my news from 100 blogs of different positions than from the New York Times, The Wallstreet Journal, or any of my local papers.
    At least then I can pick through the crap, mix together the different points of view and come out with a fairly wellrounded understanding of things.
    (That is also why I don't watch television news, but they have a whole other type of corruption going on there!!! *coughs..fox *coughs*)

    • "I would rather get my news from 100 blogs of different positions than from the New York Times, The Wallstreet Journal, or any of my local papers.
      At least then I can pick through the crap, mix together the different points of view and come out with a fairly wellrounded understanding of things."

      Well rounded? Or just lots of biased opinions based on a limited number of sets of reported facts? Pick up a paper, even the large ones, and you will notice that most of the articles are from the wire. Not reported by
  • You should submit this as a letter to the editor of a national paper (NYT or LA Times). The only way to get newspaper people to read it is to get it in a newspaper... and they should read it. This is the sort of good advice they need, and they're lucky to get it for free without having to pay for it. ...but then again, maybe you should offer a consulting service and charge them a hundred grand for the same opinions as in this article, then maybe they'd listen.
  • Imagine a newspaper with a space for comments below each story on its Web site.

    The Globe and Mail [theglobeandmail.com] already does this.


  • ...newpapers should all become like Slashdot.

    I wonder if this is a case of "to a man with a hammer, every problem is a nail." This site's readership is not representative of the public at large. I don't believe what works at Slashdot applies to more general news sites.
  • Maybe the poster should consider the content and not the medium itself. There is a reason why FOX News now has a higher rating than CNN. There are obviously millions of Americans who don't agree with the left-wing slant in many of today's papers (especially the editorials). Just a thought...
  • A famous newspaper provided us with the easy recipe to survive in the internet [nytimes.com] (Subscription required).
  • Dear print media,

    To survive and thrive on the Internet, newspapers should remake themselves to include proximal space for readership commentary, moderation systems to rein in the flamethrowers/idiots/newbies while fostering meaningful dialog, real-time vox populi fact checking, national news and general interest stuff on the front page, local news and special interest stuff on dedicated subpages that people can access directly.

    In other words, be like Slashdot.

    Sincerely,

    Roblimo
  • Two words,
    Add value.

    As long as the newspaper (paper delivery, web page, mailing list, or text message service) can continue to provide a competative service at an appropriate price they will survive.

    Sure if your purpose is to debate the articles go slashdot. (Although some other sites do the debate better)
    But this isn't the be all end all of news. For many topics people just want an informed report by a professional. Sorting the news and summarizing it intelligently is a service people will pay for.
  • Dead Tree Destiny (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196)
    I'd settle for more citations of named sources, including references to other articles, especially across publications. The Web is killing print not just by convenience and cost, but by corroboration. Cross-referencing is half the battle in learning whether to trust a published report. The other half includes interactivity, between reader and author as well as among readers. When reporters quote anonymous sources, it's a dead end. And especially with the recent revelations of just how often reporters merely
  • More often than not, newspapers are simply publishers of articles written and researched elsewhere.

    Likewise, most news blogs are restatements of what the blogger read on some other page.

    http://reuters.com/ [reuters.com] is a fine web site. We now pay an ISP do to what we once payed the newspapers to do: deliver the news to us.

    Slashdot has very little original content. It can be useful as a way to organize news from disparate sources, but the standards for review of submissions seem inconsistent.

    Newspapers can be better t
  • My wife continually gets a number of different virus and other malware on her computer - despite the fact she doesn't surf the web other than news/weather sites. When I complained to my ISP about it, the operator said/claimed that the worst sites for catching something are the news sites which will accept advertising from just about anybody and link stories from other sites. Going by my wife as a sample, this is definitely true. I admit the sample size is small, but there does seem to be

    So, I would think
  • instead of a conduit for Corporate press releases and slanted political nonsense.

    like it's going to happen.

    banning blogs is probably their best bet. shows how screwed they are.
  • Some facts are wrong with the way adverts/coupons/circulars are placed.

    The way that works is a big media company pays to have the their book of coupons inserted into many regional papers.

    They sell pages in that book to corporations who can afford to pay. This works for the corporations many ways.

    1. 1 buy covers many markets
    2. This buy is probably cheaper than them trying to get a single insert in many papers.
    3. It's easier to do than setting up buys at many papers.

    A corporation-newspaper business model pre
  • No matter how much I or any other reporter or editor may know about a subject, some of the readers know more. What's more, if you give those readers an easy way to contribute their knowledge to a story, they will.

    This is not such a new concept. Back in the early days of the newspaper in the US, it was not commonplace to have a subscription and newspapers were not in as wide circulation, so people passed papers from household to household. The newspapers always contained blank pages at the end so that
  • Users suggest stories. We tell you what we want to read about, and you decide what you write about. This is the pefect mix. Newspapers are not built for this type of input and the head Editor will be unconfortable with any system where the readers decide what they want to read.
  • (1) Newspapers should be a factual source that can be counted on for as close to objectivity as can be. Dialog sites like /. are fine for what they do - but remember what they do: we've been told in recent weeks (most notably during the they-took-my-game-name-away episode) that this is essentially CmdrTaco's journal and we've been allowed to hang out and talk. I for one am not going to consider this a definitive source, as lively, diverse and rich as it may be. Yes, the contributors may now more than the
  • There are just too many other ways to get the information a newspaper gives you. ESPECIALLY if you live in a major city.

    And if you DON'T live in a major city, then the local newspaper probably sucks. There just isn't much news of interest to report in a small town. So the newspapers reprint national news, and then fill the rest of the paper with advertisements and boring local issues that few people care about.

    Seriously, the newspaper market is going to end up existing solely to server that small perc
  • Is it always that slow, or did they just /. themselves?
  • I still occasionally like to buy a hard copy newspaper. I would do it more often if not for the physical format of most newspapers, which I find to be a nuisance.

    I hate the large sized paper. I hate having to pull it apart and refold it so I can I can read it in the same physical spaces as I read magazines in. I would buy more hard copy newspapers if they were of similar size and format as magazines( please no more plastic coated paper ).
  • 'Local' is the Key Word

    The Herald, Herald-Tribune, and many other (if not most) local newspapers seem to think that they are still their readers' primary source of national and international news, just as they were 20 years ago. So that's what fills their front pages most of the time, with local and regional news stuck in a "B" or "C" section.


    This really resonated with me. It reminded me of all the times I wondered why in the world every major newspaper and TV station in the US felt compelled to send
  • by digitalhermit (113459) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @02:04PM (#14148763) Homepage
    I can't speak for anyone else, but I know why I stopped reading the paper and listening to the radio.

    1) Internet -- news is a lot more timely and a lot better customized for me. I can customize my content so that topics which interest me are readily available on a single page. I don't have to wade through dozens of pages of advertisement and tear-stained human interest stories that are irrelevant to me.

    2) Credibility -- My local newspaper (the Miami Herald) has often run glowing articles when some big company is in the area. E.g., when Microsoft visited some local schools, the Herald ran front page articles full of press releases from Microsoft, yet ignored stories about the issues they were having with schools and donated computers. Not to mention the tech reporter's parroting of Microsoft press releases.

    3) Irrelevance -- the newspapers have added to so many special-interest sections that it's largely irrelevant to me, a typical geek who was once a multi-newspaper subscriber.

    4) Bland -- They try to appeal to everyone and end up making themselves bland. In some cases it's because they write to a 5th grade level. In others, it's that they are so afraid of alienating a portion of their readership that they won't print anything edgy. I'm not saying that they should become a bigger "New Times" (an alternative area newspaper), but at least cover something else besides the same pseudo-controversial topics... There's an old adage that you're doing a bad job as a journalist if the readership on one side of an issue thinks you're biased. You're doing a great job if people on both sides think you're biased.
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @02:42PM (#14149153) Homepage
    When I saw the headline, I expected an article about newspaper survival in the internet age, but what I got was an article about website survival in the internet age. There is a difference between the two topics. Like most of the ultra-wired generation the author fails to realize that the market encompasses much more than their self-centered world. (Furthermore he suggests the failed Slashdot and wiki concepts as being the replacement.)

    Jim Lileks has been touting the solution [lileks.com] for a couple of years now - and it's not (as the slashdot article proposes) by attempting to compete where your strengths are not. (We have a newish local paper that's been following that advice for a couple of years now... And it's circulation is growing, at the current rates of growth in that paper and decline of the 'traditional' paper, they'll cross in another few years.) The author of the slashdot article eventually gets around to this point but again confuses newspapers and web boards.

  • by sielwolf (246764) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @03:11PM (#14149459) Homepage Journal
    I read this with an arched eyebrow as /. (and much of the web-based/blog journalism) is one thing above all else: not a content provider. In fact they can be considered content-parasitic as /. makes advertising dollars over people reading content from somewhere else and comments provided for free by unpaid users. If one were to work in the hyperlinking of mainstream media providers by blogs or aggregators like /. we'd probably get a different picture: MSM readership has probably grown but has now been forced into a long-tail economy [wired.com]. Of course the problem is that they are shouldering the bulk of the cost (i.e. the actual reporting and maintenance of foreign bureaus) while sites like /. pay only for basic bandwidth and site-costs and use their content for free.

    In the old 80/20 economy newspapers could offset this by having control of the market: to get any news, consumers had to pay for all of the news they deemed to print. Now users are just as able to find their news elsewhere, specialized down to just what they're looking for (the sport's score, the stock-tip, the local police blotter).

    And the long-tail doesn't meant he death of the newspaper either, it just means a change in scope. A short, intelligent article on the East Flagstaff Chronicle might get linked up by thousands of blogs and register hundreds of thousand hits from an international audience that might have never read the paper (and probably won't ever again). Smart advertising (Google Ads, Slashvertisements) could customize to the suddenly exponentially larger (and divergent) readership. Local content and editorial that is easily aggregatable and paid via micropayment (or by targetted advertisement) would satisfy the consistent local demand and the papers would thrive (i.e. I'm not going to read the Baltimore Sun for analysis of my Cleveland Browns). This is how the wire services have always been (the only difference being that the papers would no longer be middlemen between wire reports and the readers).

    There will always be a demand for international news/editorial and the well-worn names (NYT, WaPo, WSJ) can provide a similar service for news of national and international content. And as much as we like to think our opinions are ours alone, most of them are driven by these very MSM sources we read. Remove that and the content quality of these blog/web communities would drop off savagely from its already debateable level of quality. The only lethal fallacy would be to assume things have never changed, that they can still charge for the whole cow when we just want the milk.
  • by ediron2 (246908) * on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @04:31PM (#14150117) Journal
    Great column, Roblimo. I've got 3 colleagues who're nth-generation newsies and my local paper's online subscription plan is essentially 'pay again for the same content' that even *I* won't buy (and I'd say I'm their prime demographic). Wanting to help 'em with constructive criticism, I had thought things through to answer this same question and many of my ideas were in my remarks. I'll be printing your column out and handing it to them.

    I probably overlooked a few overlaps, but here are some ideas that I don't see you mentioning, tied to your 'community news' theme:

    Take advantage of the web-news' ability to add color, and take advantage of locals carrying digital cameras everywhere. Don't be afraid to let your online edition gradually become indistinguishable from a streaming-content-enriched website for CNN or some TV station, even. After all, large color photos on newsprint is expensive and paper-based A/V streams are impossible -- but online, it becomes stupid-cheap. Rather than just web-publishing the same single-best image from last night's high-school game, have the best shot in the paper and then link to your website's five, ten or twenty best photos. Let readers write captions (to identify players, etc). Content-overload should be your motto everywhere: include edited highlights, unedited footage, streaming-audio archives of town meetings, etc. Embrace coral-cache and bittorrent, whereever possible. To use a business cliche, try to eat local TV's lunch!

    While slashdot seems incapable of growing a substantial and credible trusted-expert base (sorry for the knock), it is reasonable for sub-million-population communities to grow a large, trusted group of regular readers that are recognized as impartial, interested topical experts, and grant them minor editorial powers. Rather than a 12-member reader's advisory board, aim for dozen or more such groups, each on a field of expertise or interest: town planning, public meetings, sports, crime, courts, restaurants, local politics, summarizers or aggregators of state or national political news with local impact, entertainment and music, outdoors/activities, events, technology, businesses, state news aggregators, national or international news aggregators, etc. For example, let any 'vetted' enthusiast provide any local sport stats, even if you've never covered scuba-lacrosse before. Unlike with large anonymous sites, locals face the loss of privileges and a tarnished daily reputation if they act unscrupulously or doctor things, so they usually WON'T! The goal here is twofold: you answer the locals who regularly complain you're not covering 'their' favorite news adequately, and you embrace a commonly-stated strength that newspapers have over other media: readership studies consistently show that people turn to newspapers for DETAIL and DEPTH in the stories that interest them.

    Never forget: a news *website* doesn't need to restrict the quantity of news or data... you're not limited to a single page of local sports in the online edition. Find ways (like the many-advisory-boards above) to enable trusted locals to write and peer-edit or moderate things. Spend your editorial time choosing the gems that ripple up in those categories to your printed edition, rather than restricting your content because you're overworked.

    I didn't see roblimo mention anything about NY Times vs. WSJ editorials: the former has deemed editorials 'premium' content, the latter gives them away freely. Early results seem to show that the WSJ got it right: pushing editorial content acts as a draw to a news website while increasing a paper's prestige and increasing their impact on public discourse. Charging for it so far has caused NYT to diminish both their ability to influence public policy and their overall readership. Recognize that anything that grabs eyeballs (and ad viewership) increases ad revenues.

    Color reprints (of images or archive pages) are an income prospect (Local TV stations, the same thing goes for your news/video footage!) Whe
  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Wednesday November 30, 2005 @07:26PM (#14151939)
    I'm sure many of you have read Alvin Toffler's book The Third Wave, one of his best books.

    One particular chapter of that book was extraordinarily prophetic--"De-masssifying the Media." In that chapter, Toffler wrote that as communications technologies improve, the age of a few companies completely dominating the dissemination of what you read in newspapers/periodicals, what you hear on radio and sound recordings, and what you see on TV and the movies will come to an end. Since the publication of The Third Wave in 1979, look at what has happened:

    1. Videocassette recorders (and increasingly digital video recorders) have pretty much made the idea of prime time meaningless, since recorders allow you to time-shift TV programming to whatever time later you want to watch the program. As a result, instead of wondering what people were saying about all the latest plot revelations in Lost, you can play back your VCR or DVR recording and find out yourself. :-)

    2. Pre-recorded home videos--especially since the arrival of the DVD in 1997--has substantially altered movie theater patronage. Except for a few "event" films (e.g., The Lord of the Rings movies) and high-quality screening rooms with THX-certified sound systems and Kodak-certified projectors, who wants to fight the exorbitant price of tickets, the exorbitant price of concessions and the annoyance of other audience members when you can enjoy the movie in peace at home?

    3. The development of cheap and powerful desktop computers plus cheaper printing press operations has made it possible to print more magazines for a niche audience, hence the reduction of influence of the major newsmagazines. Look at the magazine stands of any major bookstore nowadays--most of these magazines couldn't exist without today's computer and cheap printing press technology.

    4. The rise of proprietary online services in the 1980's and the arrival of the public Internet in the early 1990's has really caused a major revolution in the dissemination of information. We can now disseminate information at breathtaking speeds that makes the major media outlets--even newspapers--look ultra slow in comparison. Also, the public Internet has begun to offer services that could SERIOUSLY cut into newspaper revenue; Craigslist and eBay are doing major end-runs around newspaper classified ads in a big way already, and several Realtor companies have begun to put their public listings of homes for sale online, also a major blow to newspapers.

    5. The rise of high-quality cheap camcorders using the MiniDV format has been a huge boon for small-time filmmakers. Why do you think film festivals are discovering many surprisingly talented filmmakers that use these "cheap" equipment to make very good films? And the small-time filmmaker will soon get access to low-cost high-definition camcorders that (in my humble opinion!) by 2008-2009 could equal the US$150,000 digital cameras used by George Lucas for the second and third Star Wars trilogy films. In the long run, this could hurt the power of the major studios because the smaller filmmakers will incur far less overhead costs in terms of production.

    All these changes have seriously buffetted the mainstream media, especially in the last ten years. In the case of newspapers, they have to recognize this and start changing their format to recognize that newspapers can be use to write longer, more thoughtful stories. Also, the powerful watchdog capability of users on the Internet from both political Right and Left will start forcing newspapers to write stories that cover both sides of the arguement equally.

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