A future for newspapers?

Andy Kessler’s A Future for Newspapers in the (subscription required) WSJ makes a few good points:

“Media, after all, is about owning a pipe …. The tighter the pipe, the less the competition.”

For broadcasters, the pipe is spectrum
For cable operators, it is often the sole cable franchise

For phone companies
, it’s those regulated copper wires
And newspapers? … unless you are the only paper in town there is not much of a pipe to control.

In NZ pretty much every newspaper has no competition in their area – so you could say that they do control the pipe. The competitive exception is the Sunday Star Times and the Herald on Sunday – both national papers.

Instead, reputation, quality news gathering, trust and credibility maintain the franchise, something The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times enjoy on a national level and the Washington Post and others have locally.

I could not agree more – and it applies in NZ as well.

Even a 30-inch screen can’t match the readability of what cheaply spits out of a printing press.

I’m reading his article on a 30 inch screen – and I can tell you it is a whole lot better than waiting for the WSJ to get delivered to me in Wellington. Not to mention cheaper, and easier on the environment.

I really believe that the copy protection mechanism for newspapers is their consumer interface, in the form of ink spurted on newsprint… thanks to a form that’s hard to duplicate, newspapers still have time.

Sure – but it’s not the format of what you are reading which is the deliverer of value to the reader – it is the editorial and the advertising. Some of us have already migrated to reading almost solely online, and the remainder will follow as technology (pervasive broadband, big, flexible, cheap and tough screens etc.) matures.

In the meantime, rather than just charge for content, I’d be licensing every type of newfangled software and Web service until I could come up with a tight community of interest around my newspaper, local or national. Don’t just start the discussion, keep it. This means comments, reviews, personalized newsfeeds, social networks of like-minded readers, whatever. Give advertisers a little “link love” so they don’t stray to generic search engines.

Though there is no point paying to add features if you do not have the content – either created by journalists or the community. I believe that readers migrate to quality writing that is targeted at them..

Google, Microsoft and others dropped over $10 billion to buy online ad-delivery companies in the last few weeks alone. The value is there: Newspapers aren’t in the printing business, they’re in the ad business.

Yes. Which explains the Trade Me purchaser type, and the current rush online by NZ media companies.

Published by Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs