The hot topic on the net today is, once again, the imminent demise of newspapers, with added hyperbole.
Robert Scoble thinks that they are dead already:
On November 18, 2005, I told San Jose State’s Journalism school that my son would never subscribe to, nor read, a newspaper.
In sincerely hope his son is smarter than he is. He might never subscribe, but to assume that he would never read a newspaper is to ignore a valuable source of information. Does he assume his son would never read a book either?Tim O’Reilly got his start in book publishing after all.
Don Dodge is a bit more insightful:
As hard as it is to build a start-up company from nothing, it is even harder to kill a giant business. IBM, Ford, Goodyear, and many other American business icons are not the giants they once were but they are still players. New leaders will emerge. Music, video, news, and software is not dead, but history tells us the entrenched market leaders will not survive even though there is plenty of time to make the necessary changes. It is just the natural order of life and business.
Mathew Ingram, who writes for a newspaper, notes that people tend to focus on the "print" part rather that the business part:
To me, part of the problem is that everyone focuses on the “paper” part of the word “newspaper,” which to me is the least important part of the term. There’s no question that the paper part of the business is decreasing in importance, and news may no longer be primarily distributed on smashed-up trees. Does that change the nature of the business? Definitely.
But it doesn’t mean newspaper companies have to die — it just means they need to evolve.
Newspapers are experts at gathering and disseminating information, and over the years they have established credentials and credibility that others do not have. And let’s not forget the fact that a lot of the information people distribute and comment on originated with newspapers.
I get my news from the net, but I still subscribe to the local paper for local news. My kids don’t subscribe, but they do occasionally buy and read a newspaper. But there isn’t enough to engage them there, and I think that people don’t understand the value of newspapers until they are raising families and things like local sports become important to them. Everyone saves the first story or photo of their kid on a sports team.
Doc Searls has the best suggestions of all for saving newspapers. The first and best suggestion is this one:
1) Stop giving away the news and charging for the olds. Okay, give away the news, if you have to, on your website. There’s advertising money there. But please, open up the archives. Stop putting tomorrow’s fishwrap behind paywalls. (Dean Landsman was the first to call this a "fishwrap fee".) Writers hate it. Readers hate it. Worst of all, Google and Yahoo and Technorati and Icerocket and all your other search engines ignore it. Today we see the networked world through search engines. Hiding your archives behind a paywall makes your part of the world completely invisilble. If you open the archives, and make them crawlable by search engine spiders, your authority in your commmunity will increase immeasurably.
My local newspaper, The Record, does this.They are giving away today’s news, but I can’t link to an old article (beyond today) because they are behind a pay wall. So I can’t even point potential readers to their website. And believe me, even if you were a paying subscriber the search is so bad you would never find the article anyway. And they don’t get the sharing and linking concept of blogging either; their blogs carry this warning:
Distribution and transmission or republication of any material is stricly (sic) prohibited without the prior written permission of The Record.
Newspapers aren’t dead but they’re going to have to rethink their business if they want to survive. And I expect that many won’t.