Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Where is the market for versioned newspapers? Part 4

The discussion at Harvard keeps growing. If you want to see what the Print is Dead meme looks like from the journalist's point of view, this is a must read.

The remarkable event is that a well respected journalist, Martin Langeveld, had the temerity to suggest that only 3% of newspaper readers read their news on the web. While the numbers may or may not be spot on, just raising the issue started a fascinating and revealing conversation.

As far as I can tell, I'm the only Print Evangelist engaged. It would be very nice to have some company. HP? Oce? Screen? Kodak? a VAR? a PSP? a MPS? a PSD? Somebody over at WTT?

Here's the link again. Print is still king . . . Perhaps at the very least some of the PR people at HP/ Oce/Screen/Kodak could weigh in. It could be a great way to engage with an ongoing conversation. It's that whole "social media" and "word of mouth" thing that everyone says is so important.

Today we're up to 25 linkbacks and 65 comments. If you follow the linkbacks you will be able to see how the conversation tracks through the blabla-o-sphere.

Anyway, here's what I said this morning at post 64.

Interesting post, but I think by not clarifying the role of news-on-paper, there is a blind spot for a very clear business model that is proven and eminently clear.

“They just need to figure out how to migrate from paper (it will happen and some of us will miss being able to NOT look at a screen for a few minutes a day) and get paid for content generation.”

As long as the focus is “migrating from paper”, it’s going to be harder and harder to find the business model.

Journalists have to face the fact that mass circulation is not built on “news.” While that is the primary focus of journalism, it is not the basis of a mass market product.

Since at least Hearst and the steam driven printing press, news-on-paper is first and foremost a product manufacturing business. The product is an advertising medium. The purpose of news for that product is to attract a niche audience. The sports news consistently attracts the biggest niche market. Crosswords, book reviews, Wednesday coupons for the supermarket,and gossip all attracted different niches.

The mass audience was an aggregation of all these niches. Using legacy print technology it was forced to be a “one size fits all” that hopefully has at least one or two items of interest for everyone.

News-on-paper as a manufactured product will most likely move to the same business model as other manufactured products - mass customization. The same thought model that allowed Dell to mass customize computer product is now available to newspapers to deliver less irrelevant content to interested niches directly. Sports news on the front page to some. Supermarket coupons to others.
And even long form investigative reports for still others.

Meanwhile, the physical newspaper product is still the best media for local advertising for small, medium business. Given that the globals are now moving on, there is a huge presently under served market of SMB that needs to advertise.

The business problem for the product is that the process of ad buying is not built nor priced for SMB. There are any number of community papers and shoppers that have solved that problem and are doing quite ok.

Whether journalism can continue to be supported by the excess revenue of news-on-paper advertising is a much bigger problem. I think if hyperlocal reporting is delivered in hyperlocal print it would naturally garner hyperlocal advertising and all the incentives would be aligned.

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