Newspapers Striving to Evolve

There's been a lot of interesting writing about the evolution of the newspaper industry lately, especially in the face of the rising popularity of social media. Since it's a recurring fixation of mine, I am hoping to share it with you.

First, Winning Online -- A Manifesto, by Tom Mohr, former President of Knight Ridder Digital. Tom offers the following:

I believe newspapers’ social purpose — the building of civil society in cities and towns across America through the daily output of good journalism — is worth fighting for. Securing the future of the industry’s social purpose requires securing its financial future. And I have concluded that depends on an industry-wide understanding of seven key points:

  • Local newspapers will not be the innovation source for top online products.
  • "Local” is not, in itself, defensible online.
  • The big money is not in newspaper websites, but in gaining access to top-tier product via partnerships with vertical online leaders.
  • Moving newspaper websites onto common platforms will deliver improvements in quality, cost reduction, traffic and revenue.
  • When networked, newspapers bring critical assets to the table that strengthen their competitive position vs. online-only players.
  • The window of opportunity is closing; failure to act will compromise the future of the business.
  • Ultimately, the key is leadership at the highest levels.

Closer to my geek heart is Adrian Holovaty's description of a fundamental way that newspaper websites need to change. Adrian is the best technologist working in service of journalism today, and his insights are invaluable. Having him on the team both helps explain why the Washington Post is doing such an exceptional job online, and should make other newspapers glad that they have access to his thinking. His core point? "Newspapers need to stop the story-centric worldview."

Adrian's post was inspired by Nine ways for newspapers to improve their websites, by Todd Zeigler. I fear some of Todd's points may not age very well in the future, but they're all certainly worth considering and debating today.

If you're really interested in this topic, you might also appreciate my ruminations on the impact Craigslist has had on alternative weeklies. Though it was primarily aimed at alt weeklies, there's a lot that applies to local papers in general.

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