Monday, May 07, 2007


David Reich has an excellent analysis of a WSJ Op/Ed piece by Walter Hussman, publisher for the Arkansas Democrat-Express, on how to sink a newspaper. David calls his blog my 2 cents but today I feel like its worth way more than 2 cents! I'd say he gives a dime's worth :) The reason? Its about the comments and the conversation that follows the post. Call it a cheap thrill but anytime blog creators and readers talk about newspapers its a happy day in the neighborhood. It means they care about the community here and where they live. Its easy NOT to read a newspaper - easier still not to pay attention to issues affecting the local world. You know, the one you pay taxes to and expect the water to flow when you flush the toilet. I'm being a little harsh but lets face it - culturally we've slipped a notch or two when citizens don't find $.50 worth of value in their local fish wrap. That has got to be one bad newspaper! But thats the way it is...its not my point, however.

To paraphrase the post, Hussman makes the case that some newspapers blew the cannonball through the hull of the ship by giving away their news on line - and they are paying for it now. Hussman says its a mistake to give away then news that publishers spend hard earned money on. His model suggests a mix of free and paid. I think thats the way to go, too.

Giving it away was very popular as the WWW expanded - or is that exploded?!?! - about 15 years ago. As the Yahoos, MSNs, and Googles developed ways to get the news out cheaper, faster, 24/7/365 - newspapers continued to print everyday AND tried to get news online. In the not too distant past high speed connections to the home became available. Then we got cellphones - or is that vice versa? Then we get Blackberries or Treos or iPods...all of which can send/receive "news" messages. Now this thing called Web 2.0 whereby even a dinosaur (my wife's term) like me can create - and publish - a blog. This is a very brief history of publishing through my lens. And the "publish for free" battle is still being fought .

Its about the worthy and worthwhile comments David's readers make - Matt Dickman, Techno//Marketer Supreme, (dig his Monday post on the term "blog" :) weighs in by asking why would anybody pay for news when its free? Good question - I don't actually pay for free news either - unless you count time as money (which my Boss does). But my time is of less value than my money. Matt pays for WSJ news online. Its a value to him. And he reads his local news online. Check this post he published after reading a story in the NYT. Now there's a good use of bloggers. I also think, secretly, that Matt reads a printed newspaper more often than he admits ;). he certainly grasps the concept of relevance.

Its about the comments - Ann Handley at MarketingProfs Daily Fix weighs in on the conversation with a passion statement for the NYT and web 2.0. MarketingProfs is not a newspaper but newspapers might think about stealing a page from their business model. Post a lot of stuff - most of it good - but invite the reader to pay for the real good stuff. Stuff being a technical term I picked up in grad school :)

Comments? you want comments? CK talks about the economy of sharing in todays publishing world. And she brings up the dough in newspapers comes from advertising. Isn't that where the dough online comes from - hmmmm? There seems to be a pattern developing here. You need people to read so advertisers can sell. The kicker is newspapers have figured out a way to measure those eyeballs - or so most advertisers believe - and online hasn't quite got there...its real close. But really, really, really - I'm not kidding - check out CK's post here. NOW! GO! CK's blog is all about interaction, relevance and conversation!

Mark Goren, Transmission Marketing publisher, newspaper fan and now I find out baseball free agent, adds to the dialogue with a great understanding of advertising revenues - print and online. More to come from Mark as we exchange more information.

David's post is a classic example of the feedback and encouragement that surrounds blog communities. That it focuses on newspapers - my livelihood - makes it a bonus. Newspapers in one form will be with us for a while. My belief is they will remain ink on paper for some time to come. There is no denying pixels on a screen add value to some readers. Its finding the balance for readers, advertisers and publishers. The dinosaur meets the computer.

Update: Pardon the Disruption adds to the conversation here.


Matt Dickman said...

Bob -- You are right. Secretly I pick up a copy of the paper, but it's my local weekly that gets my eyeballs.

I really do want to read the paper. There is something satisfying about flipping through the pages and running into new stories, but as much as I try I can't connect with it. I've given up on print.

Just yesterday I got the news of a local Ford plant closing from a blogger a full hour before the online version of the paper had it up. Add 12 hours to that before I could get the same news in print.

Lewis Green said...


I am a newspaper junkie but not an ink on paper one. Although I still receive a Sunday paper (what would Sunday be without one), I read all my other news online, including the NYT, AP, Reuters and the Hartford Courant. It's faster, easier and updated frequently. One hopes that advertising will keep newspaper online presence free.

Mario Vellandi said...

I like the analogy to MarketingProfs for a mix of content, free and premium-paid. I would add MarketingSherpa as well. The difference in these two companies and traditional newspapers, is that the former are selling not only news but also educational resources and reports and webinars.

There's a lot of bridgework to be done between online and print. From one of David's earlier posts and my subsequent comments, I think connecting readers to feedback/discussion online on stories is a great way to draw loyalty. It might be marginal, but still worth it.

BobG said...

I remember now why I don't post to my blog on Mondays...its happy meeting day on Tuesday and I can't respond quickly enough - oh well -

Matt - You show your passion and desire for what you want...all I can say is never give up a passion. Your Ford story is the perfect example/reason/determinant that newsrooms need to work faster. Was the blogger an employee at the plant?

Lewis - You being a junkie is one reason your comments are valued. You know the value of unbiased, fair and accurate journalism - sorely lacking in some corners of the nation and world. While advertising supports the cost of paper and ink - not to mention salaries (spendy items all of them) online is cheap - Are we truly ready to turn over support of news to merchants? I ask in all seriousness - does the value of news become diluted at that point? Online advertising is mostly an upsell at this stage of the game.

Mario - thank you - MarketingProfs and MarketingSherpa understand that people plunk down $$$ for information - some people at least. Is this an example of the type feedback you suggest?

(don't know how to make this hot:)

Thanks each of you for your comments!

David Reich said...

I know I'm old-fashioned, but I still like to see and feel the newspaper. I do read more online, though, when I want to see what papers around the country are saying, so I am an online reader as well.

Re. the Ford story, Matt-- yes, you might get some news first from "amateur" news sources, but I'd still want to check the paper and/or TV news for the full story. Often, immediate news passed on by non-news sources is not totally accurate and lacks the details.

BobG said...

David - We'll all be old fashion one day LOL... it seems it happens so quickly in the current times :)
I've really been tussling with this concept of bloggers get the news first. Granted, a bit of information is frequently - and quickly - posted on a blog. I view that "news" through my skeptics lens. I might follow it for a bit - see if anyone else is talking about it. Sometimes it pans out - sometimes it doesn't. While not definitive research (so I hesitate to say overwhelmingly) blog entries and posts are reactions to news. They may be the starting point for a communities response (just like your recent post on WSJ op/ed). Then they take on a life of their own.
So how is it we can recreate the value of well-researched, well-written, "make me learn more" information?

Hattie said...

I do find I read the paper less, and I never watch the local news. The best news sources these days are blogs.

BobG said...

Thanks for commenting, Hattie. As you read from my post newspapers and citizen participation are part of me. Its a bias developed through many years of working at a daily paper. While I rarely watch the evening news, I continue to find value in a balanced newspaper and the stories it contains. Its the pulse of local events and people.

I absolutely love blogs - and blogging - but they hold a different media place in my perspective. I view them more like the opinion page of a newspaper. Most have a decided slant. Like most humans, I particularly enjoy the ones that slant in my direction :). I hope you continue reading, visiting and joining in the ongoing conversation developing around "what is news"? Your point is well taken.