The local news.

Commenting on an opinion piece on the future of newspapers in the Wall Street Journal by Andy Kessler, Doc Searls suggests that being in print is actually a huge advantage for newspapers, and that their model is backwards:

In addition to Andy’s excellent suggestions, I’d add the ten I listed here in March (along with what Dave Winer added). The first of those was Stop giving away the news and charging for the olds. Sure, daily papers make advertising money by selling inventory on the free Web versions of the papers that subscribers pay for. But by doing that they’re also dissing both those subscibers and their legacy franchise. Put more simply, they’re competiting with themselves while cheapening their main product.

Mathew Ingram disagrees:

Okay — maybe not totally wrong. I think he is right that some people will always want to hold a paper in their hands, just as some people want to hold books, or listen to radio plays. But the number of those people is dwindling. As I mentioned on my friend Kent Newsome’s blog, I think Doc would probably like to return to a happier time when newspapers ruled the world. So would I. But that’s not happening. And to say that newspapers should charge people for the news and give away their archives is — sorry Doc — one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Almost as dumb as the guy Jeff writes about here.

Isubscribe to my local paper and the New York Times. I do enjoy reading the paper on the front porch, though I also read news online. But my kids will likely never subscribe to a newspaper.

The only reason I subscribe to the local paper is for local news and events. And that consists of a couple of locally written stories combined with a lot of AP content. Their national and international coverage consists of stuff I can read anywhere else. If there was any other decent source of local information I wouldn’t be a subscriber. And frankly. I’d have better luck actually achieving time travel than finding an item from their news archive.

So if newspapers were smart, they would try to maximize the value of being a local information portal since they already have the feet on the street. Of course, as Mathew recently noted, that may escape the kind of people who would outsource the coverage of local Pasadena news to Mumbai. In the meantime, sites like Five One Nine (519 is the local area code) have already popped up to meet the needs of people like my kids.

Fewer and fewer people read newspapers and while it used to be an excellent medium for reaching people that is no longer the case. Newspapers need to reverse that trend and dispel that idea. Otherwise with the readers go the advertisers, and then why would you need a newspaper at all?


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