Very few folks on the web actually do what built the newspaper business in the first place – investigative reporting, the stuff of Pulitzer Prizes.
It doesn’t make any sense to me at all for a newspaper to be in the “pass through” news business, that’s a commodity, as you pointed out.
So it seems to me the right move is to let the web deal with the commodity news business (and the commodity ad space that goes with it) and take the newspaper upstream, where it’s not about quantity of subscriptions, it’s about quality of subscriptions, and the associated premium ad space.
In other words, newspapers should move somewhere closer to a magazine. If investigative reporting drives the model, the newspaper would have control of time – not the web. If you want to know the “breaking news”, you *have* to buy the newspaper.
Then the stories are released to the web site to monetize the “common knowledge” traffic.
Newspapers have been dealing with “electronic is faster” since radio. The general model was TV breaks the story but does the commodity reporting, the newspaper gets the complete, high value story out. I think they coud turn this model around for the web.
Novo forces me to realize that the Newspaper has been in decline for quite some time, long before 1997, to a time that long predates myself (gasp, what did you do without me? 🙂 ) (The concept of news radio is a complete contradiction in my mind. You don’t listen to the radio for news no more than you watch Entertainment Tonight for Entertainment.)
But, yes, the medium has been in trouble for quite some time.
In this era of tribalism (neo-tribalism), we’re getting more breaking news from our Twitter – so even the breaking ‘news’ sites are in trouble. Why would I go to BBC, Fox News or People’s Daily when I can get breaking news from eyewitnesses, unfilttered?
Going up the value chain, more towards magazines, is important. It can probably add a few years of viability to the model, to be sure. And, perhaps this is far more beneficial.
However, it’s precisely that investigative capacity that has been slashed and burned – and I don’t know if publishers are really cognizant of the damage their doing. Meh. Who needs investigative journalism when you can pay a handful of people from the peanut gallery to write editorials for a fraction of the cost?
I’m pessimistic on the survival of certain conglomorates that pursued such a lowest common denominator approach. Canwest Global carried on the policies of Conrad Black with respect to gutting editorial and investigative capacity, and as such, fully deserve a stock valuation of below 2 dollars. Quebecor, too, engaged on a very similar course from the outset, and they too, I’m sad to say, deserve to fail.
Rogers Media and the CBC continue to invest in such deep journalism – though, their pageview paradigm is going to keep on eating away…unless we can find more satisfying business models.
Let the hunt continue.