Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Survival of the Fittest - Newspaper Style

San Francisco Chronicle columnist David Lazarus wrote on Wednesday about the lack of a functional business model for the online portion of the newspaper despite growing audiences and decreases in readers wanting to get their fingers dirty. Lazurus said “newspapers' online operations typically account for only about 5 percent of overall revenue.” He offers several of his ideas for how to make online newspapers more profitable.

Now, I’ll offer mine.

  • I already know that Bill Gates is a billionaire and Microsoft is very profitable. Let’s hear about what smaller companies are doing to change the landscape of particular industries. I want to know what solutions exist to stop cyber crimes like phishng and man-in-the-middle attacks, not about how Microsoft fell short of expectations this quarter and only made $4 billion while Gates was sleeping last night.
  • Leverage assets you already have and get assets you need. I don’t blame publications for laying off reporters for cost cutting measures. However, newspapers need to better integrate with local news channels. More and more local news stations have Web sites that have great video interviews but some very poor articles. Sometimes I’ll watch it on the news or hear about it the next day and I want to go back to the clip. But other times, I’ll see a video and want to hear about what’s being written about it. But if I can find it all in one place, then that would be even better. This will attract more readers and viewers and enable revenues to go up on both sides. So, you might be asking, wouldn’t television revenues go down? Not really, unless you have Internet clips in HD, it should remain steady. Then get some young guys who surf the Web frequently to find creative new multimedia techniques for the latest vehicles for news delivery.
  • Personalize newspaper content. This is a challenge and may not be doable. When I went away to college, I wanted to read my local newspapers. Primarily for the sports section but also for some of the local news. With so many connected newspapers you might think it’d be possible to live outside the Bay Area and get my daily dose of the A’s, 49ers and Warriors while still getting my fingers dirty. I had to instead resort to viewing stories on the Internet. And instead of getting my local news through family and friends, I can read what is happening beyond my block. Now I can’t get enough of the Trojans. Fight on!

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