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A Recipe for Newspaper Survival in the Internet Age

Roblimo posted more than 8 years ago | from the speaking-ex-cathedra-from-his-belly-button dept.

Editorial 349

I've spent seven years working as a writer and editor for Slashdot's parent company. During this time I've been to at least a dozen mainstream journalists' and editors' conferences where the most-asked question was, "How do we adapt to the Internet?" You'd think, with all the smart people working for newspapers, that by now most of them would have figured out how to use the Internet effectively enough that it would produce a significant percentage of their profits. But they haven't. In this essay I will tell you why they've failed to adapt, and what they must do if they want to survive in a world where the Internet dominates the news business.I'm going to use the Bradenton Herald as an example, not because it's a bad newspaper but because I live in the middle of its circulation area. The Herald is a typical Knight Ridder small-city newspaper in every way except one: it serves Manatee County, an area with a fast-growing population where most new residents are old enough that they grew up reading newspapers every day. Despite these favorable factors, the Herald's circulation has declined by 3.5% in the last year. Of course, newspaper circulation declines are now normal rather than exceptional. Other newspapers have done far worse, with the San Francisco Chronicle recording a 16.4% drop in the last six months alone.

Readership vs. Circulation

Much of the Chron's circulation decrease was because it stopped giving away free papers. The Boston Globe also stopped a giveaway program and suffered a circulation decline as a result, although only about half as big a loss as the Chron's, but the Globe's marketing people have said that only half of the loss came from stopping the giveaways, and blamed the rest of it on the usual suspects, notably TV and the Internet.

These figures only measure paper newspaper circulation. They don't include Web readership, which generally seems to be trending (slowly) upwards on newspaper Web sites. Circulation figures can also be misleading because they only measure the total number of newspapers distributed, not the kind of people who read them. And readership quality can often be more important, in a business sense, than quantity. This is especially true for those newspapers (namely, just about all of them) that rely on advertising for the bulk of their income.

By definition, anyone who reads a newspaper online at home can afford a computer and an Internet connection, which means they aren't at the very bottom of the economic pile. Online readers are also likely to be more open to new experiences, products, and services than those who don't feel they need to use the Internet -- which by some estimates may be as many as half of all households within the Herald's circulation area, which has a higher percentage of retirees than all but a few other U.S. counties.

Journalism professor Douglas Fisher and media executive Alan Mutter have both talked about intentional circulation losses on their blogs. In his post, Fisher says, "The industry evolves to the point of small, expensive print publications and most of the 'mass' news on the Web somehow. Then, as we evolve toward paid content online will come issues such as whether a certain amount of 'base' information should be free for every person -- sort of like a public utility of information (perhaps presented as a social utility necessary in a functioning democratic society)."

Meanwhile, when newspapers talk about readership vs. circulation, they're typically trying to estimate how many people read each copy of their print product (pdf download) rather than come up with a total picture of their publication's readership, including its online presence. This is a mistake. Instead of treating their Web sites like unwelcome stepchildren, newspapers should turn them into their primary method of news delivery -- and teach their reporters, editors, and ad sales people how to work effectively with this new -- to them -- medium.

Slashdot Lessons

1. No matter how much I or any other reporter or editor may know about a subject, some of the readers know more. What's more, if you give those readers an easy way to contribute their knowledge to a story, they will.

Imagine a newspaper with a space for comments below each story on its Web site. This Slashdot story has comments directly attached to it, not tucked away from public view the way the Bradenton Herald's site hides reader comments on Bulletin Boards that aren't directly connected to any of the paper's articles or editorials. To make matters worse, the Herald's Bulletin Boards require a separate login to post. Even if you're a logged-in reader you must put in your username and password again to use them.

As a result of these posting barriers, you hardly see any reader comments on the Herald's site, and what few there are seem to come from a small group that posts over and over. Even the Herald's single (hard to find) blog, maintained by token hip-dude entertainment reporter Wade Tatangelo, draws so few daily comments that you could count them on the fingers of one hand -- and usually have four or five fingers left over.

By contrast, the Washington Post's Web site has two blogs, Achenblog and The Debate, prominently displayed on the Opinions page that almost always draw 100+ comments per post.

A truly Web-hip newspaper would not only allow but encourage reader comments on all of its stories, not just on a blog or two. With thousands of readers as fact-checkers, mistakes would rarely go uncorrected for long, and if there was any perceived bias in a controversial article, reader comments would make sure the other side got heard. Even better, a reader who witnessed an event the paper covered would be able to add his or her account of it to the reporter's, which would give other readers a richer and deeper view of it.

2. Not all readers know what they're talking about.

While some readers know more about any given topic than a professional journalist writing about it, most don't. Some, indeed, post anything about anything, including misleading or false information. This is why Slashdot has a moderation system, and why all newspaper Web sites need to have moderation systems in place before they allow reader posts attached directly to stories. Slashdot's, which is built into the code that runs the whole site, is probably too complicated for most newspapers, but everyone (including newspaper publishers) is free to download, use, and modify it. For those who don't want to use the code behind Slashdot, there are many other free (and proprietary) content management programs available that have similar -- and often simpler and less geeky -- moderation features built into them.

3. No matter what you do, some readers will post malicious and/or obscene comments

Slashdot removes posts only in response to Cease and Desist orders or legitimate copyright infringement complaints. We find that malicious or obscene posts are usually moderated into oblivion almost immediately, because our readers -- hundreds of whom have moderation power at any given moment -- have a sharp eye for stupid stuff.

A mainstream newspaper might choose to remove blatantly disgusting posts, which would take some staff time. There would also -- inevitably -- be second-guessing and complaints, including whines from readers who believed their posts were removed because they didn't follow the [fill in political party here] line, not because they used offensive language.

Moderation never makes everyone happy. Someone will always feel the rules are too loose, while someone else will believe they're too tight. And moderates -- I mean moderators -- will always get flak from ____-wingers who think they're biased. But these problems shouldn't stop grown-up newspaper people from soliciting and publishing readers' posts. They should already be accustomed to bias accusations.

4. What if readers post comments that advertisers don't like?

This is a problem, and one to which some newspapers are extremely sensitive --not just over readers' comments but sometimes over their own reporters' stories. A 1999 Washington Monthly article had some examples of how newspapers sometimes cater to advertisers instead of their readers. Allowing readers to comment on stories, and allowing them to post anything they want (other than obscenities, blatant hate speech, and personal attacks) increases readers' faith in the newspaper, which makes it a more effective advertising medium in the long run because some of that trust will rub off on advertisers that support it.

The Business Side of a Newspaper Web Site

Slashdot, like almost all other Web, broadcast, and print media outlets, depends on ad revenue for most of its income. For the first few years of its existence as a commercial entity, major advertisers were afraid to buy ads on Slashdot or other free-wheeling, community-driven sites. They worried that every time they touted a product, all the customers they'd ever irritated would post bad things about them. It's impossible to run a company of any scale without having at least a few dissatisfied customers, no matter how good your products and services are, so this was not an unjustified fear.

Luckily for Slashdot (and our parent company), many companies have learned that they are going to get criticized online whether they like it or not, so at the very worst, running ads on pages where they get slammed gives them a chance to tell their side of the story.

Keyword-based ad placement helps them do this. Imagine making software that's often knocked for its security vulnerabilities, while competing software is available that costs little or nothing and doesn't share your product's problems. You'd want to run a Get the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) campaign on every Web page where the competing product was being discussed so that you could tell people who are (obviously) interested in the competing product how awful it is, and why they should buy yours instead.

On a local newspaper Web site, a developer intent on replacing pristine wilderness along a scenic river with ugly condominium towers in the face of opposition from local citizens' groups could run a keyword-targeted campaign explaining why their buildings would be better than a swampy, mosquito-ridden riverfront. They could stress the fact that they would reduce the population of turtles, spiders, alligators, shore birds, frogs, and other annoying wildlife, and that runoff from their chemically-fertilized landscaping would help keep local fish populations down by contributing to red tide, thereby reducing the number of smelly fishermen infesting the area.

Other, more sensible, businesses would use the same tactic -- keyword ad placement -- to sponsor discussions in a positive way. An obvious example here in Florida would be resort property owners linking ads to tourism-related stories and the discussions attached to them. With geotargeting becoming common on the Web, ads aimed at visitors could be visible to all of a Florida newspaper's online readers, while ads for a local business would only be shown to local residents -- unless the local advertiser was canny enough to realize that Florida has many thousands of seasonal residents, and that reaching these snowbirds through the local newspaper's Web site before they come South is a great way to get a leg up on competitors.

Some other ways to exploit the Web that newspapers don't seem to do well:

  • Print-them-yourself coupons. This is lots cheaper than putting coupons in a print newspaper. Many newspapers boast that today's paper contains $___ worth of coupon savings. Why don't more papers make this boast about their online editions? TV stations could do this on their sites, too. This would be an entirely new source of revenue for them, since there is no way to put a coupon in a TV spot.
  • Online ad circulars, similar to the paper ones that pack print newspapers on Sundays and holidays. The print ones are expensive to produce and deliver, especially in color. Online circulars would be far less costly.
  • Selling sponsorships for community calendars and other "public interest" sections that should be on every newspaper's Web site -- but often aren't or are produced in too scattered a manner to be useful for readers. C'mon, newspaper (and local TV) people! A well-organized, database-driven events calendar is easy to produce. If you don't have one (and sponsors for it), you should.
  • Sponsored, "free to individuals and small businesses," local classifieds. craigslist and eBay are busily taking the classified ad market away from newspapers, with Google getting ready to help them with this effort. The Poynter Institute's Steve Outing suggests that the best way to beat back this threat is to "Turn newspaper classifieds into an active and interactive community, instead of just static, dull listings. A cold-hearted newspaper classifieds database could well be smothered by Google classifieds. A local-focused interactive community may be less vulnerable."
The Local-Focused Interactive Community

I believe the future of not only classified ads but of local news gathering and distribution is the "local-focused interactive community." According to this article, craigslist founder Craig Newmark agrees with me. So do plenty of other Web entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who are busily building and financing "community" sites.

Local newspapers should have dominated all of this interactivity from the beginning. They had the name recognition and -- through their print editions -- the promotional muscle to make their Web sites into unassailable community hubs. But they didn't, and now they're reduced to playing catch-up.

If the Sarasota Herald-Tribune had followed through on its plans to incorporate reader-written blogs into its site, Suncoastblog.com probably wouldn't exist. This group blog is an admittedly lame effort, barely begun, put together by several people in this area (including me) who thought it would be nice to have a local site that might eventually cover events and places that don't make their way into the local papers. We know the Herald-Tribune, whose circulation area overlaps the Bradenton Herald's, had thought about hosting reader blogs at one point, because they asked readers to submit blog ideas several months ago. I submitted one and never heard back.

I also submitted a local computer business column concept to the Herald. I came up with it because the Herald has a Sunday business page it calls "Digital Manatee," on which I have never seen anything other than out-of-town wire service material even though there is more than enough local computer and Internet business activity to fill a weekly column, and enough local computer and computer service vendors to surround that column with profitable advertising.

The Herald's editor didn't respond to my proposal. I've written three computer-oriented books, and thousands of articles that have run online and in print all over the world, but I am apparently not worth even a polite turndown from my local paper's editor. No problem. A week later I was having lunch with a couple of local entrepreneur buddies. I told them what had happened. They suggested an online computer business magazine instead of a Herald column, and offered to finance it on the spot, out of their pockets.

I don't have time to start a new publication. But I am in a position to help someone else start one, and to write a story or two for it now and then. Financing's in place. So is a domain name. So at some point the Herald and Herald-Tribune may have (yet) another niche publication competing with them. It won't be a big competitor, but its ad revenue will come from lucrative business-to-business accounts you'd think a local newspaper would be eager to lock up with a weekly (or more frequent) column for local computer-using business people.

This doesn't mean the Herald has a bad editor or that another small paper would have reacted differently. I use this anecdote only to point out that it is now easier to start an online publication than for even a highly-qualified outsider to get his or her work into a local paper. Is it any wonder that local blogs and other online niche publications are springing up like mad? And as a corollary, is it any wonder that newspaper circulation and influence continues to decline?

Newspapers need to open up more to the communities around them. They need to stop confining their interaction with readers to advisory board meetings and questionnaires, and allow readers' stories, opinions, and thoughts to become an integral part of the newspaper itself. They should not allow readers to alter the newspaper's own words, as the Los Angeles Times did back in June with their laughable wikitorial experiment. Moderated comments are a much better way to give readers a voice. So are journals that allow (logged-in) readers the same level of freedom they'd have with their own blogs, but also give them the cachet of being published on a "major brand" Web site.

'Local' is the Key Word

The Herald, Herald-Tribune, and many other (if not most) local newspapers seem to think that they are still their readers' primary source of national and international news, just as they were 20 years ago. So that's what fills their front pages most of the time, with local and regional news stuck in a "B" or "C" section.

Welcome to the Internet age, local newspaper (and TV) people. I can and do get my national and international news from the New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC, Al Jazeera, Fox News, CNN, and other online media that cover faraway events better and faster than you ever will. I turn to you for local news. You tell me more about last week's home invasion robbery on 11th Street East than they ever will.

It's time for local newspapers to become truly local; to feature local news on the front pages of both their Web sites and print editions, with only a few out-of-the-area stories up front, augmented by an above-the-fold story list that tells readers where to find national and international news on their inside pages.

Add readers' stories and comments to the mix and you suddenly have a local online community, not just a newspaper. This will not take work away from professional reporters, photographers, and editors, who will still be the foundation of local news-gathering. In fact, increased interaction with local community members will probably give them more work than ever, because they will find themselves inundated with news tips and story suggestions they never would have found on their own. Some of these story ideas will be dreck and some will be invaluable. It will be up to the newspaper's editors to find the (rare) nuggets in the huge pile of dross they will need to sort through every day, and up to the newspaper's reporters to follow up on them.

One important thing a community-oriented, Web-based newspaper must do is credit readers for their story leads unless they specifically request anonymity. Another good idea is to pay readers who submit news stories that are written well enough that they can run with only routine editing and fact-checking. Those readers are, in effect, doing a reporter's work, and they should get some sort of compensation for it. Some may even turn into stringers capable of covering government meetings and other events when staff reporters aren't available, and a few of those stringers eventually ought to become staff members. After all, if a newspaper is going to be about, by, and for its local community, shouldn't that community be its primary recruiting ground?

Newspapers Will Not Die

Some newspapers (and newspaper chains) will probably not survive the shift from news-as-monologue to news-as-dialog. Most will, although those that wait too long to adjust will have much of their audience, influence, and ad revenue taken away by more agile competitors.

The smartest newspapers will follow my survival recipe or come up with their own way to become an integral part of their community instead of a building full of people who have been sprinkled with Secret Journalism Powder that makes them better and smarter than their readers. These newspapers will not only survive, but prosper. They may even become the prime outlets for bloggers in their communities, which will increase their readership and ad revenue. Extreme ____-wing bloggers won't want their words associated with the hated Mainstream Media, but most others will be happy to have a widely-read, influential outlet for their work.

Eventually, I expect print newspapers to become "snapshots" of their Web editions taken at 1 a.m. or another arbitrary time, poured into page templates and massaged a little by layout people, then sent to the printing presses, a pattern that has potential for significant production cost reductions if handled adroitly. From that point on, their paper editions will be distributed the same way newspapers are now.

Senior citizens and others who can't afford (or don't want) computers are and will continue to be a viable market. So will commuters who use public transportation. Then there are those -- a substantial part of the population -- who simply prefer reading words and looking at pictures on paper to seeing them on a screen. They will still want physical newspapers, even if they are not as up-to-date or as complete as what they'd get on the Web.

However it is delivered, text will not go away anytime soon. For a fast reader, it is the most efficient way to take in large quantities of information. Most people speak at a rate of between 130 and 200 words per minute. Most college students, according to a Virginia Tech student guide, can read non-technical material at 250 to 300 words per minute, and can increase that reading speed significantly with a little thought and practice. Listening to a city council meeting at 150 words per minute takes much longer than reading a meeting transcript at two, three, four or ten times that speed. Now have a skilled reporter -- whether a staff member, paid contributor or volunteer -- write an intelligent summary of that meeting, and even an average reader can learn what happened there in a few minutes instead of slogging through a two hour audio or video recording.

The Web version of that summary can be posted without waiting for the printing presses and delivery trucks to roll, and can have audio or video snippets embedded in it, but there is no reason not to make the text portion of it available on paper for those who prefer it in that form, unless the paper's editors decide so few people are interested in a city council meeting that it doesn't deserve a spot in the print version -- and tracking page readership on the Web version of the paper before the paper edition goes to press should give those editors a good idea of what they should and shouldn't put on paper.

Printed newspapers will have a significant following for many years to come. They may or may not become "expensive," as Professor Fisher predicts, but they will likely become smaller than they are now, and subscription sales efforts will probably be targeted more closely at groups unlikely to have Internet connections, especially senior citizens.

On the Web side, it's likely that newspapers will end up keeping most of their content free, with specialty sections (and posting privileges) reserved for logged-in users. Whether they'll be able to charge for some or all of their Web content is questionable. I paid $50 for a year's subscription to the NYT's Times Select program, and I don't think it's a good enough value that I'll renew my subscription when it runs out. I would be more likely to pay if I lived in New York and that subscription, in addition to what it gives me now, offered access to additional features like complete transcripts of government meetings. Indeed, I would happily pay at least $30 per year to the Bradenton Herald for a well-organized Web edition that gave me what I now get in the paper edition, plus government meeting transcripts and other useful subscriber-only features.

But if I paid for an online subscription to the Herald, I'd probably drop my subscription to the paper edition. I'd still be the same person, with the same interests, earning power and spending habits. The only thing that would change about me, from the newspaper's perspective, would be my news delivery preference.

The challenge for local newspapers that beef up their Web editions at the expense of their paper versions won't be to keep (or add) readers, but to teach advertisers that the Web, not paper, is the best way to reach their most lucrative potential customers.

This may not be easy, but it will be a lot easier than explaining to advertisers why they should keep spending money in a newspaper that has fewer readers, and less influence, every year.

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349 comments

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dang. (0, Flamebait)

machine of god (569301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147756)

that's one long recipe.

Long Article and Attention Span (3, Insightful)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147905)

that's one long recipe

It's called an "in depth" article. Actually, it is typical for the length of article you saw in a major newspaper on a regular basis before the days of the internet.

Compare this with common blogs, and other similar media since the dawn of the television age.

yes there is more information about more things, but I think you could make an argument that the breadth of content has expanded at the cost of depth. Much content has become more shallow, because of the length of time it takes to type up, say, as a comment to slashdot, when you are rushing to get your thoughts online early in the chain of comments.

it takes time to develop an in depth knowledge of something, time that people are less willing to develop, blaming it on ADHD or whatever, when a summer without electronic technology in a library of dead tree edition books would be a start to a good cure.

Bush: Resign Or The 25 Amendment Or Impeachment (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14148051)


Three choices. Count them: 1, 2, 3.

I prefer the 25 amendment: Incapacity to govern.
Meanwhile, continue to excavate your bunker [whitehouse.org] .

Cheers,
Kilgore Trout, M.D.

I have reduced Roblimo's recipe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14148174)

to 5 keystrokes:

cp /.

Cost savings is the key (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14147763)

Print journalists should throw sway standards like searching for duplicate articles, insisting on proper spelling, or even writing coherent articles. If all print media matched Hemos' Yellow Box review, think of the savings!

Smart People? (5, Funny)

RacerZero (848545) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147766)

You'd think, with all the smart people working for newspapers...

Ha ha, ha ha.!

Re:Smart People? (5, Insightful)

SamSim (630795) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147938)

No, no, no. Don't think that the target demographic reflects the intelligence of the journalists. The people who write tabloids like The Sun are very, very clever. They know how to get people to buy newspapers - and that's to sensationalise, and write in big block capitals and short, punchy, easy-to-read sentences and paragraphs, using language suitable for the third-grade.

Re:Smart People? (2, Insightful)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148055)

and that's to sensationalise, and write in big block capitals and short, punchy, easy-to-read sentences and paragraphs, using language suitable for the third-grade.

You forgot the PUNS, PUNS, PUNS!

It's bad enough that they're in the headlines, let alone the article text itself. Also, I love how they embolden (or is it italicise?) the puns, just incase the drooling readers can't spot them as-is.

Firstus Postus (1)

NessusRed (710227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147768)

Do newspapers take into accoutn FIRUSTUS PSOSTUES!

Newspapers are dead. Long live newspapers. (5, Insightful)

PenguinBoyDave (806137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147779)

As long as there are "old people" there will always be newspapers. It is a fact that people enjoy getting their paper, sitting down and reading. I have noticed that my technically sharp father has started reading less online and going back to the traditional paper. When I ask him why he says "it's relaxing."

I know when I fly (which seems to be every other day) I prefer to read a paper than fire up my computer to read a downloaded electronic format paper. Why? It is, interestingly enough, relaxing, even for me...a geek.

VERY interesting article Robin. Thanks for sharing.

Re:Newspapers are dead. Long live newspapers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14147832)

I used to have a subscription to the local newspaper, but after a while I cancelled it because I felt guilty for using so much paper and never really reading it, even though I recycled it.

Re:Newspapers are dead. Long live newspapers. (2, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148033)

d

I used to have a subscription to the local newspaper, but after a while I cancelled it because I felt guilty for using so much paper and never really reading it, even though I recycled it.

I don't feel too hostile towards our local paper [pressconnects.com] even though they sold out to a souless conglomerate [gannett.com] that brings in most of the reporters from out of town. I would still have a subscription if it wasn't for the fact that my paper always seemed to be missing, four hours late, or soaking wet.

Instead of charging $3.75 a week for that "service" why don't they charge $2.50 and make everything available on a subscriber version of the website? I would pay for that -- access to local news is something that people should have, imho.

The altruistic side of me also thinks that they should release all news that is no longer economically viable (older then three months?) into the public domain and keep archives on their website. Of course they don't have much incentive to do this because they can sell "archive access", but it would be a public service. Between the money they originally made and the advertising dollars on the website I doubt it would be a losing game for them.

Re:Newspapers are dead. Long live newspapers. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14147834)

VERY interesting article Robin. Thanks for sharing. Ha ha. Like you read that in the 6 minutes between your post and the article.

Re:Newspapers are dead. Long live newspapers. (1)

PenguinBoyDave (806137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147874)

Sorry...I am a speed reader. Have been for most of my life.

Re:Newspapers are dead. Long live newspapers. (2, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147873)

I've been reading news "online" since 1984 when I received my first Hayes 300 baud full length internal ISA modem.

I am so accustomed to online news that I only read the news on my PDA phone (on the go, on the throne, in the plane). I will read zines and some opinion ed newsletters in paper form, but that's about it.

One of my businesses is a retail store with the customers being generally 13-31 year old males. The younger ones (under 25) don't read the paper at all, in fact, more news gets passed through SMS than even e-mail or web forum. I can't believe how many kids have AIM on their phones.

Old people are also transitioning to online and simple message information sharing. My father is legally blind yet he uses the Microsoft magnifying lens and his wife to read his news online rather than deal with the paper (he's retired).

Re:Newspapers are dead. Long live newspapers. (4, Insightful)

SlashSquatch (928150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147987)

Bill Watterson had the right idea. I used to go straight for the comics when I had the newspaper. Not any more. They took the funny out of the funnies. Oh well, I'll just get my jollies online. It's so much more fun.

Re:Newspapers are dead. Long live newspapers. (2, Insightful)

rovingeyes (575063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148035)

May be just may be we need to rethink what Newspapers are essentially meant for in this modern age. Certainly the "news" in newspapers is old by the time they go to print. So what is the benefit to the consumer to subscribe to a newspaper? Your reasoning could be valid - relaxing. But how many people feel that way? I do enjoy a lazy sunny afternoon break where I can catch my breath and get a cup of coffee and read newspaper. Its certainly relaxing, but at the same time I am not looking for "news". I already know it by then. In fact, by the time I am done reading the first paragraph I am bored. So may be newspapers need to shift focus.

Just telling me what happened might not be enough. It is all over the TV channels, online blogs and even if you missed all that, your know-it-all cubicle neighbor will make sure that you know about it. Now that means the obvious solution might be opinion or editorials etc. But there is already a section for that. But I think they should occupy front page headlines. How about editorials on the current events on front page? Since people already know what has happened, how about giving people an in-depth story about it. Going local is a key concept that the author discussed. How about editorials on local stuff? Forget about war on Iraq and ID. They are being beten to death on news channels and national newspapers.

I am not trying to provide a solution, I am just saying to that just "news" in newspaper will mean zero circulation eventually.

Re:Newspapers are dead. Long live newspapers. (2, Insightful)

MojoRilla (591502) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148037)

As long as there are "old people" there will always be newspapers.

Newspaper circulation is in decline. [stateofthenewsmedia.org] Evening newspapers (popular for closing stock information) have declined the fastest, but the overall trend is not encouraging. Since 1970 the number of us households has approximately doubled, but newspaper circulation has decreased slightly. This coupled with recent drops of 2.6 percent in the last six months [businessweek.com] paint a bleak picture.

It is naive to say that there will always be newspapers. It is like saying there will always be record players. Digital technology will eventually destroy newspapers. Even if someday they get replaced by high res flexible digital "paper", the traditional model of a printed paper that has to be distributed is doomed. It is simply too expensive.

Re:Newspapers are dead. Long live newspapers. (4, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148178)

The decline percentage is misleading as well. The MORE important figure to go with (IMHO) is advertiser decline, which is not readily published.

In the last 6 months, I have received more phone calls from my ad people at the local radio station, cable network, newspaper, coupon clipper and movie theaters that I used to advertise in. One of the ladies earned mid 6 figures just 5 years ago, this year she's considering bankruptcy.

I feel a little responsible in hurting the ad industry in my region. When I found out that most of my ad sales people bought through the Internet the same items I sell, I thought twice about what they were selling me. I asked myself this basic question: What do I do with the product I am advertising through?

TV ADS: PVR skip. RADIO ADS: Change station. COUPON CLIPPER: Throw in trash. NEWSPAPER: Never buy. MOVIE THEATER ADS: Show up 10 minutes after start.

I started to tell this to other businesses in my area. Now, when new sales people come through the store, I tell my managers to tell the sales people we only buy advertising from sales people who shop at our store for at least a year. Guess how many ads we run now?

If you think newspapers are dying, try the periodicals industry. More and more periodicals I used to read seem to have become strictly advertising for one massive dotcom. One "trade" magazine I used to read had 70% of its ads from one megadistributer that owns about 100 brand names.

You'd think, with all the smart people working for (3, Insightful)

xzvf (924443) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147789)

"You'd think, with all the smart people working for newspapers," That assumption doesn't stand up. In college journalism students are taught how to write badly. Then they get jobs as political reporters without a poly sci degree, business reporters without business degrees, and technology reporters without being able to do basic math.

Re:You'd think, with all the smart people working (5, Insightful)

NineNine (235196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147848)

Well, journalism isn't concerned with knowing the industry you're writing about. That's like getting a comp sci degree and learning how to use Visual Studio. All of the subject matter can be learned pretty easily. What people (bloggers and their fans) don't understand is that journalism deals with being able to write coherently, using facts, and as little bias as possible. Journalism is a real skill/profession that people such as yourself just don't understand. That doesn't mean that they don't provide society a very valuable service.

Re:You'd think, with all the smart people working (3, Interesting)

BewireNomali (618969) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148047)

agreed. Movie critics who did not go to film school, et al.

I have a similar problem with teachers. New teachers are usually in my age range, and don't have much real world experience, are probably not mature enough to teach, et al. But they teach because they were in the lower range of their graduating class with generic degrees and as thus are willing to take meager salaries (this is my general experience with my friends who teach; no offense to those of you who teach on /., are competent, and love it). My solution: so many people are retiring younger and healthier than ever before. These people should teach. They've already led successful lives, have loads of life experience and thus have loads of things to teach that aren't in textbooks. More importantly, they have nest eggs so the meager salary isn't an issue to them because they're secure financially. They can afford to do it and are the most suited to do it. It's actually a program here in NY - where the school system is actively recruiting young retirees. This way you dramatically increase the quality of the school system with marginal cost increases.

My experience is that many of my friends in journalism are similar. They face similar issues: meager salaries, low barriers to entry, etc. I propose a similar solution - young retirees move into the journalism space. They've worked in the industry - have decades of perspective. With telecommuting what it is - they can perpetually report from the field... which would be where they choose to retire, etc. They can take the meager salaries because they have nest eggs, etc.

The secondary issue is that modern journalism is vertically integrated with political agendas in large politically vested corporations. I can imagine that the general public often feels hoodwinked and manipulated by the media - coerced into groupthink. That mistrust and the ease with which a motivated individual can self publish will continue a dramatic shift in the power dynamic. There will no longer be a monopoly on information (unless you're google).

The only time I pick up a paper is because an enterprising drug dealer disguises ads for pot in the classified section of the village voice. And they deliver.

As for advertisers... (1)

Drantin (569921) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147800)

There's a hobby shop [hobbylobby.com] near where I grew up that has it's flyer and an internet coupon on their site in addition to having a print version of the flyer in newspapers.

I'm not sure how long they've been doing this, at least a couple of years now...

Re:As for advertisers... (1)

xoip (920266) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148152)

There is someone where I live that went out and got businesses to post their flyers on his site for a nominal fee in addition to those distributed by hand. Great source to find what is on sale without the hassle of keeping a pile of rubbish around the house. Funny the papers did not pick up on this...instead an ent

It journalism for the internet (1)

Bomarrow1 (903375) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147802)

If it is should money be made out of it. Or is the future in blogs and other free items. Should they all be made by journalists of just by ordaniary users like blogs and comments here.

Slashdot Lessons (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14147804)

Basic competence in English grammar and spelling are to be avoided at all costs.

Reading your own paper is to be avoided at all costs.

Posting the same stories again can make your site twice as newsy.

Posting incoherent rants always rates over sober journalism.

Your job isn't to inform, but to generate the highest number of page-views for your advertisers.

People who don't like ads can be fooled by hiding ads inside so-called news stories.

Wow, thanks for the advice. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14147852)

Basic competence in English grammar and spelling are to be avoided at all costs.

As you are referring to "competence", "are" should be "is".

Now what was that you were saying about proper grammar?

Re:Wow, thanks for the advice. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14147964)

Try this:
"Spelling and basic competence in English Grammar are to be avoided at all costs."
Then he was right...

Re:Slashdot Lessons (2, Funny)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147939)

For some reason I hear Dr Nick Riviera when I read the parent's post; probably because it's advice for achieving results by implementing lazy and inane ideas. You can almost picture the Simpsons episode where Dr Nick is hosting an 'Increase your news site traffic' class at the adult education centre.

It's especially funny when you get to the line:

Posting the same stories again can make your site twice as newsy.

Ahh, brings back memories of the Juice Loosener! It's whisper quiet!

Re:Slashdot Lessons (1)

dema (103780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148008)

Your job isn't to inform, but to generate the highest number of page-views for your advertisers.

People who don't like ads can be fooled by hiding ads inside so-called news stories.


Heh, I wish those points were Slashdot-specific.

Recipe For profitable newspapers (0, Redundant)

mrtroy (640746) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147812)

1. Have a newspaper, which has articles. 2. Sell this newspaper on streets, in washrooms, etc. 3. ??????????????? 4. Profit

(I just threw in the washroom part...cuz thats the only place I read a hardcopy of news anymore)

Solution (1)

pmike_bauer (763028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147822)

Rags should make ad-free, for pay, RSS feeds of NY Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. Make it deliverd to Blackberries and cellphones. The cheap distribution costs make it financially possible to cut down on ads.

Solution-Economic Rose Glasses. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14148117)

"The cheap distribution costs make it financially possible to cut down on ads."

OK all you Slashdot accountants out there. Which is the biggest expense of a newspaper? Distributing your product, or producing it? If the latter then may I make the observation that maybe the Internet has skewed people's thinking about the economics around everything, and that feasability isn't always about "cost of distribution".

I key point missing. (1, Offtopic)

nubbie (454788) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147826)

Do not *dupe* your stories!

Re:I key point missing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14147952)

Get with the current lingo. I think we're calling dupes Zonks now.

I'm not sure I buy these arguments (3, Interesting)

AEton (654737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147828)

So in short, you're saying

1) Newspapers should all have Web sites that run something like Slashcode.
Have you considered that Slashdot, where people come for the comments and not the stories, is the exception and not the rule?

2) Newspapers should run Slashvertisements.
One thing newspapers have which Slashdot does not is journalistic integrity.

3) Local newspapers should not ignore their audience.
Sure, I'll buy that. But this is just a way of saying that customer service is important to a business.

4) Rumors of the New York Times's death have been greatly exaggerated.
But times are tight. Layoffs at the Times and the Journal, KRT looking to sell itself -- yuck.

Re:I'm not sure I buy these arguments (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147877)

Have you considered that Slashdot, where people come for the comments and not the stories, is the exception and not the rule?

I don't think even that's true -- Rob has said a number of times that the vast majority of readers (as opposed to page views) don't go past the main page.

Journalistic integrity is dead (1, Informative)

alandd (243817) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148103)

One thing newspapers have which Slashdot does not is journalistic integrity.

I don't believe that anymore. There are 5 newspapers of various sizes in my area. Over time I have been had direct knowledge of various events that were then reported in the papers. Not one paper ever provided an accurate story without at least slant or blatent ommissions that amounted to a lie. If I find that every article describing events of which I have personal knowledge is wrong, how can I possibly trust any other article?

Nope, I don't subscribe to any of them. And when they call or come to the door, I tell them why I won't subscribe.

Re:I'm not sure I buy these arguments (1)

rovingeyes (575063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148203)

Have you considered that Slashdot, where people come for the comments and not the stories, is the exception and not the rule?

In your statement, you are overlooking an important point. People come to slasdot for comments and not for news. That means, people are not interested in some absent minded journalist reporting what has happened. The reader probably already knows it by now. What he/she wants to know is what his fellow human being thinks about it. If you take same concept to national newspapers, may be just may be the journalists will start paying more attention and hopefully we won't have more Judith Millers.

One thing newspapers have which Slashdot does not is journalistic integrity.

One example - Judith Miller. There are many. Sure you can claim that it is more an exception. But her part was a key role in getting us closer war and more troubles. That is costly on a national scale. Apparently we need checks and balances for our news media too.

Sure, I'll buy that. But this is just a way of saying that customer service is important to a business.

I think you are missing the point. I think what author is saying that provide the news or content that will appeal to local audience. That means provide a product that is relevant to the consumer. Obviously the customer service is a way to find what the readers want (read surveys). So no its not that obvious, its hard work.

Keen insight (2, Insightful)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147829)

YOu mean to tell me that newspapers should be more interactive? I'm shocked that this is the kind of thing any professional in the news business would need to be told. Granted, perhaps boomers are not all that interested in interacting with their news but X'ers on down pretty much require it. Honestly I think slashcode or something similar is a first step to getting the interactivity without the "ha poop is funny" posts totally destroying the message board. I sometimes wonder why trolls even bother on /.

Perhaps what is REALLY going in is that your comment about the readers inevitably knowing more about the subject than the writer has a chilling effect. Here on /. the eds know darn well they don't know much and as such they focus on the technology for comments. A professional news site is staffed with people who really think they know their stuff and may not want to be consistently "shown up" by their readers.

You missed a key ingredient... (4, Interesting)

lbrandy (923907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147831)

Ego and arrogance. Newspapers need to let go of the idea that they are the harbinger and gateway of all information. The lofty self-appointed (and aritificial) perch they've created for themselves is obvious. What kind of self-respecting person would get news from any of these simpletons when they can get it from us. Blogs have been more successful as a news source exactly because of the print medias long and constant arrogant approach to them. Now, some are finally starting to catch up, but for the most part, vast and entire new media entities are taking huge market share from newspaper because of their elitism causing a massive delay in switching to web.

Your "recipe" assumes that newspaper editors are of the correct mindset, already. I think alot of them have a long way to go. The entire concept of an editorial, in print form, as the golden platonic representation of "opinion" is going to be nothing more than a quaint idea of yesteryear...

Re:You missed a key ingredient... (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14147944)

the lofty self-appointed (and aritificial) perch they've created for themselves is obvious

I don't think that's true. Newspapers are old. They've been around for much longer than TV or the net, and during that time they definitely were the "harbinger and gateway of all information."

The problem is that they haven't adapted with the times. They need to change their model significantly or they will get left behind.

Simply put, it's hard to change after doing business virtually the same way for hundreds of years.

-too lazy to register

Re:You missed a key ingredient... (1)

Oldcynic (932802) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148139)

Your "recipe" assumes that newspaper editors are of the correct mindset

It's not a matter of correct as much as different. Newspaper editors are used to dictating public opinion not reporting it. One of our local papers only shows photos of acused criminals if they belong to a visible minority, then rails in the editorials about political correctness.
All this free speech is ruining the entire model.

Re:You missed a key ingredient... (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148151)

Now, some are finally starting to catch up, but for the most part, vast and entire new media entities are taking huge market share from newspaper because of their elitism causing a massive delay in switching to web.

Even when they did switch to the web they did so in a reduced and limited format. Some require personally identifiable information (yeah, you can fake it or use bugmenot but it's still a royal pain in the ass).

The only reason I even randomly bother with newspapers these days is to get the grocery store coupons.

Dupes and lack of proofreading (0, Offtopic)

Cereal Box (4286) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147833)

You forgot dupes and lack of proofreading -- the secret to Slashdot's success, no?

How to use the Internet (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14147839)

  1. google
  2. ???
  3. profit!

Survival is unlikely (4, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147841)

There is no survival of defunct and obsolete media.

Television advertisers will return to product placement, billboards and bus advertisements. DVR's are becoming so prevalent that the TV ad is dead. I ran tens of thousands of dollars over advertising in TV and radio over the years and this year my ads cost almost $2000 per customer gained (versus $20 just a few years ago). My newspaper ads are never read any longer.

The "Everything" newspapers will be the first to die -- they are at least 6 hours and at most 18 hours late on the news. The TV news channels are dying as well as the information that is read is obviously of no concern to the talking heads, and the information is so generic that it likely affects no one.

I still see room for opinion media forms -- preaching to the choir is a great income source.

The commentary of the editor is interesting:

Much of the Chron's circulation decrease was because it stopped giving away free papers.

How do you give away a paper for free when the advertisers pull out en masse? I will never advertise in a newspaper or magazine or coupon clipper ever again. More and more advertisers are pulling out as well.

Achenblog and The Debate, prominently displayed on the Opinions page that almost always draw 100+ comments per post.

100 comments out of a paper that used to reach millions is piss-poor sorry. If I was an advertiser and saw only 100 comments, I'd dump that paper in seconds. No thanks.

With RSS feeds and the number of specific blogs with actually decent information growing every day, classic news on the web is as ancient as the newspaper idea. Consumers can now create their own content papers. I'd rather find a decent RSS-Newspaper portal that helps me formulate my own daily paper than go to Washpost.com.

Print-them-yourself coupons.

I like this idea, and I have tried it in many avenues and I have never seen a coupon come in that was generated online. Not one (and my customer is usually a 13-31 year old male). I've tried e-mail coupons, too, and I believe we received one customer out of it. Coupons are dead when you have Froogle and Amazon already telling your customer that your store is too expensive.

Online ad circulars

Again, dead. Froogle and Amazon make this idea bunk. "Hey I can save $5 on the Widget at Dada's Shop, oh but wait it's $15 cheaper at Amazon with free shipping!"

Selling sponsorships for community calendars and other "public interest" sections that should be on every newspaper's Web site

And as the web grows bigger, I see more people ignoring their communities of people dissimilar to them and gain respect for their web communities of people similar to themselves. More geeks on /. know others here than they do their own real life neighbors.

Sponsored, "free to individuals and small businesses," local classifieds.

Great idea. Advertise to 500 readers for free, or sell it on ebay to 5M readers for $1. Hmm, I think I'll take option 2.

'Local' is the Key Word

I wish that was the case. When I attempted to create some local scenes over the years online, as more of my customer base jumped on the internet, more of the local scenes online fell way to the nationally-oriented scenes. The punks that used to stick to our punk rock forum (we sold punk music) dropped us for the national scene. The paintballers that used to frequent our paintball forum (we sell paintball equipment) dumped us for the national scene. The skateboards that used to frequent our skate spot forum (we sell skate equipment) did the same. Why? 5 messages a day from the same 100 people is boring compared to hundreds of opinions.

It's time for local newspapers to become truly local

And attempt to sell itself to 500 people? I think it is more important for newspaper to face reality -- you can't please all of the people all of the time if the group is small. It is better to become specific. A free market newsletter I subscribe to grew 1000% over the past few years by publishing decent OpEd pieces in print a few months before it went online. I pay so I can read the opinions early, but others find the newsletter through links.

Newspapers Will Not Die

Generic ones will.

The challenge for local newspapers is to become important to the people that they sell to. Unfortunately, the Internet makes the newspaper unimportant, and I see no real market anymore in the generic trades.

We WILL see a growing movement of zines, though. I've seen more zines pop up that appeal to only 100 or 500 fairly local consumers, and I happily advertise in those zines as a sponsor. Unfortunately, these zines are not huge profit makers for the producers of the content, so they will likely not last excessively long.

Re:Survival is unlikely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14148004)

I thought you were in construction? Quite an entrepreneur, eh.

Re:Survival is unlikely (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148105)

My dame runs the stores, but I'm a primary owner. I'm getting out of retail in the next 6-12 months (one store will be bankrupt and one will grow out of control likely) as I can't compete with the dotcoms any more. The sad thing is that the competition is great for consumers' pocketbooks but terrible for the scenes that are really needed to keep the sports alive. Oh well.

My construction business (engineering consulting) is a slow growth mid volume business that is really a concern as I do believe we're experiencing a terrible real estate bubble that will affect commercial properties before residential ones. I'll take advantage of the business while it lasts, but I don't forsee it lasting many more years.

My IT business was originally my main income but IT is more of a commodity business that gains a consistent customer base to sell other products and services to. Our market was only Chicagoland for the first 6 years but I am now focusing on an international market in 2006. There is so much money AND manpower floating around in the Middle East and Eastern Europe that is just waiting to be tapped by the right individuals.

Never be involved in only one form of business. In my 18 years of business, I've seen many companies disappear in literally months in years where I thought they'd gross 7 figures. Two words to success: cash flow!

The NYT (5, Interesting)

locutus2k (103517) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147853)

Robin,

Pretty well written, and looking at papers like the NY Times that are distributed all over the damn world, you'd think they would know how to leverage the internet to augment the lack of interest by most people under the age of 50 who are not in the financial business.

I work for a company in the financial industry and we ge the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal every day. Oddly, its only read by one person... maybe two. For the most part, our staff goes to their web sites to read what is in the papers.

By far, the complaint i get the most is that a registration is required. this isn't a money problem, its a logistical one. My users are quite lazy and don't want to have to be bothered to log into another web site to read the news. Thankfully, they're finding that they can get the same articles, and often from those papers from Google News, and Yahoo Finance.

If these papers want to avoid the fate of the dinosaur, as you said, they need to focus on advertising are an income source, not charging the people that actually would like to read what they have to say.

The "Slashdot lesson"? (1, Flamebait)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147857)

In TFA: With thousands of readers as fact-checkers, mistakes would rarely go uncorrected for long

Unless, like here, the editors don't read the comments (or the articles they greenlight).

I think the physical form means a lot, too (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147861)

I have found with books that releasing electronic copies drives the sales of print copies, because a book printed on thin paper and bound professionally is way better than three to four inches of photocopy paper with bent staples in the corner. Therefor readers become purchasers.

I wonder how much the form factor affects newspapers.

--dave

Slashdot as a newspaper model? (1)

Lxy (80823) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147865)

The problem I see with Slashdot is that most of what I read is complete and udder crap. I'm not just talking about the comments. Have you read submissions lately? Just take a look at stuff that Zonk and Scuttlemonkey post as fact. Complete and udder crap, usually from a rumor site. And that's the editors!

Even with the moderation system, misinformation can become fact. A well written post of complete misinformation (especially if posted early on) gets modded up to Informative. The facts don't matter, just the style of writing. Setting up a "post now, moderate later" system is a threat to journalistic intergrity. How do you know that a person is posting an educated comment and should be modded up? How do you know that the moderators aren't biased towards a certain poster? Anonymous posting is definitely a threat, any yahoo can post anything they want to and if they write intelligibly, will probably be modded up.

Maybe it's just me, but the last place I'd look to find a posting model would be Slashdot.

Re:Slashdot as a newspaper model? (1)

lutzomania (139132) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147911)

That would be "utter" crap. Udders are the things on cows that squirt out milk.

Re:Slashdot as a newspaper model? (1)

Lxy (80823) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147948)

Thus furthering my point. Even the well intended don't always know what they're talking about. And why can't crap come out of udders?

Re:Slashdot as a newspaper model? (1)

Gothic_Walrus (692125) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147997)

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that that's biologically impossible, dude.

The waste removal system isn't really tied to the udders at all.

Re:Slashdot as a newspaper model? (1)

Lxy (80823) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148026)

Maybe not real crap, but perhaps bad milk....

Re:Slashdot as a newspaper model? (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148063)

It's a hardware issue.

Re:Slashdot as a newspaper model? (2, Interesting)

pastpolls (585509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148067)

Keep in mind journalistic integrity only applies to the article and not those commenting. Just because a comment is wrong does not make it un-informative. People are being informed, just incorrectly. Remember, these are comments (see peanut gallery) and should be taken as such. I bet that the inaccuracy rates of "real" newspapers are about the same as Slashdot. Have you really read a newspaper and checked it for fact and objectivity recently.

Slashdot, and other user moderated sites have an unwritten "social contract." We except some mis-information in order to get some good stuff. We have words like Flaimbait and Troll to describe posts. I wish newspapers had such things, I would love to have gotten the opportunity to moderate the "missing white girl" stories as flaimbait... and most things political as trolls.

Don't have a cow, man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14148108)

EOF

WOW - Great writeup Rob (3, Insightful)

xmas2003 (739875) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147867)

But I wonder how many mainstream journalists will read what you wrote ... or perhaps even more importantly, the business people associated with those operations.

Advertising model won't die (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147878)

Despite the emergence of online papers, blogs, and TV content, advertisers persist. They have no other choice but to try. Things like bittorrent and Adblock have taken a chunk out of the effectiveness of advertising, yet these companies still need to tell the consumers that they exist. They are desperate. They can't email everyone without spamming and being looked negatively upon by savvy consumers for doing that.

My rural parents started to get the paper online in the 1990s, and stopped getting the print version because the soonest it could arrive was the afternoon of the same day. People like to read in-depth news, on paper just to give their backs and eyes a break from a computer chair and monitor, but they aren't happy to read the same weird news they read last week online, and the shabby clips from Reuters that are now 24 hours old with no details added.

Well Analyzed (1)

kmhebert (586931) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147885)

This was a very well thought-out essay with a lot of useful ideas that really should be implemented almost immediately by newapaper corporations on their web sites. I particularly liked the idea of TV stations putting printable coupons onto their web sites as a way to generate ad revenue. That's a great idea, and only begs the question of why they aren't doing it right now! Thanks for an insightful essay.

Fear of change just like the big auto makers (2, Insightful)

gasmonso (929871) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147892)

When I look at the big newpapers out there, I am reminded of the big auto makers of the past like GM, Ford, etc. They are so used to doing business the way they did decades ago and are hesitant to change. This is somewhat understandable because it worked for so long. Now look at GM, they are hurting bad because they haven't adapted to the changing times. Back in the 70's when gas was expensive for a period, America kept making gas guzzlers, while Japan focused on fuel efficient designs. Gas prices eased up and the American auto makers start cranking out minivans and SUVs that are just as bad as the cars in the 60's. Once again Japan comes through and put a lot of effort into hybrids and alternative energy sources. American auto companies are feeling the sting once again. Now as for newspapers, the tone is similar. Many smaller bloggers and independent reporters are gathering a large following because they give the public what they want... important news easily available online for free. The big papers like the New York Times still insist on stupid registration which pushed potential readers away. They should be focusing on getting as many readers as possible and the advertising revenue will flow. Just look at Google.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

gasmonso http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]

Re:Fear of change just like the big auto makers (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148110)

Back in the 70's when gas was expensive for a period, America kept making gas guzzlers
They were forced to by the government EPA regs. The average sedan went from a 400-460 ci V8 to a 350 ci V8 or 271 ci V6, but the fuel efficiency was still nearly as bad (and performance horrible) due to the restrictions being hurried in, state of the art be damned. Once computer controls were added in the early 1980s, things improved quite a bit.

Re:Fear of change just like the big auto makers (1)

gasmonso (929871) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148205)

Indeed, but what I don't see mentioned there is a 4 cylinder engine. That's what Japan was putting in most of their sedans. Sure computer controls help, but Japan didn't have them either in the 70's, yet they still had more efficient cars. The US automakers motto was bigger is better and thus the term land yacht was born.

gasmonso http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]

I've seen several newpapers get into trouble... (2, Interesting)

arussell (82932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147894)

The newspaper in San Antonio Tx did not seem clueful the last time I checked, but of all places the "Arkansas Democrat Gazette" http://www.ardemgaz.com/ [ardemgaz.com] has had several high tech experiments, that look interesting, some looked like they spent more money than was needful, but still they were striving for something useful on the internet.

The Internet is not the real problem. (3, Insightful)

CDPatten (907182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147901)

"You'd think, with all the smart people working for newspapers, that by now most of them would have figured out how to use the Internet effectively enough that it would produce a significant percentage of their profits."

Well that's just it. There aren't allot of "smart people" working for newspapers. Don't get me wrong, the writers and editors (as we just saw) think they are smart, but they are the only ones who believe that. As the internet has developed society has started to hold them more accountable, and as it turns out they plagiarize continually, make up facts, or outright lie/misquote people. Jason Blaire anyone? Dan Rather?
I'd say the mainstream newspaper's biggest problem (e.g. new York Times) is they are reporting OPIOIN more then news (I'm talking about in the news section not just the op-ed). A bigger problem for them is that most people in the country disagree with those opinions.

Blogs have become so popular because people are getting to see some insightful commentary other then the dribble we get from the self proclaimed "smart people" in the media. The problem for the newspapers is their staff, not the internet.

Re:The Internet is not the real problem. (2, Insightful)

mOoZik (698544) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147973)

Are you telling me that there aren't infinitely more bloggers who publish questionable, unverifiable material online almost as fact? You just described the internet, friend!

I can pay a buck for the Sunday paper (5, Insightful)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147907)

I can pay a buck for the Sunday paper and get a tree trunk's worth of printed ads.

Or, I can browse to a website for free and nuke the ads with Adblock.

I guess someone's definition of a "relaxing read" is purely generational.

Re:I can pay a buck for the Sunday paper (1)

Peter La Casse (3992) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148089)

Some of us subscribe to the Sunday paper *because* of those ads. I wish my newspaper had a "print your own coupon" setup.

Re: smart people at the newspapers.. (1, Funny)

ltwally (313043) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147913)

"You'd think, with all the smart people working for newspapers..."
Erm.. I don't know about your local newspaper, but the folks at my local newspaper seems to working on the same reading age as those that they write for (about 8th grade).

Then again.. maybe this person is refering to the New York Times... 'cause we all know they've never screwed up a story...

overcame two detractors and a stiff tailwind (1)

epine (68316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148160)


Newspapers are filled with brilliance. I was laughing just last night about examples in the local rag. One was "overcame a stiff tailwind [to win the sprint]". Two days ago I read online that Ricky Ray, who had completed only one touchdown pass in his previous eight starts, now had "more detractors than touchdown passes". A valiant attempt at hyperbole, but I think the ball was dropped somewhere between the ears. Plus amazing leaps of mathematics: I remember one stat that boiled down to the claim that "such and such a goalie has remained undefeated in the last ten games where the other team fails to score a goal". The next step for search engine technology is the ability to filter on sentient thought.

I'm not sure the average local paper could overcome a stiff tailwind.

Hyperlink to primary source material (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147916)

Nice analysis, including one suggestion I hadn't thought of myself (geotargeting of news and ads), but my main gripe with newspaper websites is that most of them still do not hyperlink to the material they're reporting on. See my rant [slashdot.org] from a year and a half ago. Amazing that Yahoo! has been around for 11 years and most newspaper websites still do not hyperlink.

Readers post things that advertisers don't like? (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147919)

I would want to read all of these posts. Getting your information hand-fed or advocated by certain advertisers kills free speech and free thought.

If newspapers want to adapt, the first thing they need to do is write stories that are truly interesting as well as informative. Greater in-depth and investigative reporting will attract readers to their newspapers. Also, please avoid all stories about Paris Hilton, Nick & Jessica, Brad & Angelina, and pseudo-advertisments posing as 'news.'

advertisers want their memes distributed too (1)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147927)

Some of your suggestions (like having knowledgeable readers contribute) would be counter to the interests of the advertisers. Remember that the vast majority of newspaper/tv/magazine revenue is not from sales of newspapers/mags, but from advertising. The newspapers are not only delivering an audience, they are also delivering MEMES, ideas about how the world is and should be. Advertisers will not advertise in a newspaper that distributes memes that are against the interests of the advertisers. For example, the advertisers' profits are enhanced by massive inflows of immigration into America. So therefore advertisers like newspapers to disseminate memes that favor mass immigration, especially illegal immigration, because mass illegal immigration provides a huge surplus of cheap labor, which drives down American wages, which drives up advertiser profits.

So if the newspaper just start giving voice to knowledgeable readers, then memes unfavorable to advertisers will be disseminated, which means the advertisers would shun that newspaper, and that newspaper would go broke.
Immigration is just one such meme. THere are many others.

If you saw a ten dollar bill in the mouth of a lion, would you put your hand in it to recover it?

So, the solution... (0)

Number6.2 (71553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147937)

to the newspaper circulation crisis is the Slashdot model of news distribution?

Surely, the End Times are upon us.

Cell phone approach can help (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147961)

Offer up a reader (think e-book) with the subscription for a set price. If need be, offer it up at half/price combined with subscription.

With that, offer up much more than is on the web. In particular, minimize the ads. One neat feature of this, is that ads can be very targeted (no sense selling MS windows ads to bill gates; Apple may decide to target Linux users (BTW, considering that browser ID themselves, I am amazed that nobody is doing that; The same ads that I get on MS are the same on Linux)).

Also being discussed at TPMCafe (2, Informative)

sphealey (2855) | more than 8 years ago | (#14147985)

This issue is also being discussed at TPMCafe [tpmcafe.com] , a politics blog.

sPh

My problem with them is (5, Insightful)

cyberbob2010 (312049) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148002)


They all seem to have some major backer that I don't feel I can trust to give me honest, unbiased news.
Oh, and before you start, I know that they aren't the most reliable source ever to get information but to be entirely honest with you, I would rather get my news from 100 blogs of different positions than from the New York Times, The Wallstreet Journal, or any of my local papers.
At least then I can pick through the crap, mix together the different points of view and come out with a fairly wellrounded understanding of things.
(That is also why I don't watch television news, but they have a whole other type of corruption going on there!!! *coughs..fox *coughs*)

Letter to the Editor (1)

EccentricAnomaly (451326) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148028)

You should submit this as a letter to the editor of a national paper (NYT or LA Times). The only way to get newspaper people to read it is to get it in a newspaper... and they should read it. This is the sort of good advice they need, and they're lucky to get it for free without having to pay for it. ...but then again, maybe you should offer a consulting service and charge them a hundred grand for the same opinions as in this article, then maybe they'd listen.

There's one newspaper allowing comments already... (1)

Saint Aardvark (159009) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148042)

Imagine a newspaper with a space for comments below each story on its Web site.

The Globe and Mail [theglobeandmail.com] already does this.

A Recipe for Newspaper Survival in the ... (1)

gpw1 (935061) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148050)

I really enjoy the page turning in a "paper" newspaper. How come nobody has done that on a internet paper? I read many papers each morning on line and would like to have at least one I can "turn the pages" not knowing what is on the other side. Instead of picking the stories from a list.

Newspapers still profitable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14148052)

Death of Newspapers Highly Exaggerated.

Last month's NY Review of Books had an article about how Newspapers are dying. Thing is, newspaper still bring in HUGE profits. They make 30% profit over operating costs. That's crazy in any publishing business. So, many newspapers get bought up by larger corporations to make the accounting look better, and being to bleed the newspapers of all their operating funds. That's been killing the newspapers.. not readership. Even with readership down they're making a generous profit. Are they making this profit becuase they are cowtowing to the advertisers? Maybe. But that doesn't matter. They making money, not doing a public service. Oh, wait, aren't they SUPPOSED to be doing a public service?

Ah, whatever.

-judd

In summary... (1)

Call Me Black Cloud (616282) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148069)


...newpapers should all become like Slashdot.

I wonder if this is a case of "to a man with a hammer, every problem is a nail." This site's readership is not representative of the public at large. I don't believe what works at Slashdot applies to more general news sites.

Integrated Revenue Model for New NewsPapers (1)

xoip (920266) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148077)

The Challenge facing all legacy media is erosion of their revenues. What Papers need to recognize is there are many niche sevices like community callendars that ad value to customer's lives and will attract visitors to ad sponsored areas of a site. Where papers fall down is in driving traffic to new site features that cannot be replicated in a print version. Use the print medium to drive traffic to the electronic forum. The The Globe & Mail [globeandmail.com] is a leading Canadian paper that offers comments on articles (albeit moderated) which adds depth and perspective to their stories.

What about content? (1)

1000101 (584896) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148091)

Maybe the poster should consider the content and not the medium itself. There is a reason why FOX News now has a higher rating than CNN. There are obviously millions of Americans who don't agree with the left-wing slant in many of today's papers (especially the editorials). Just a thought...

Re:What about content? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14148177)

I think the best way for a newspaper to improve its circulation is to advertise its utility as a bird cage liner or a potty training aid for puppies.

SPAMMERS (1)

GET THE FACTS! (850779) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148101)

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IMHO (1)

Graham1982 (933841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148113)

My good friend works for a local newspaper, doing graphical design aspects like page templates. He is 22 years old, and is the youngest person working there. The majority of newspaper readers are of an older generation, they drink their coffee in the morning and read their share before they go about their daily business. As a younger person, the image of today's newspaper is that it is something my parents do. I prefer to get my news from online sources because I find it much easier. I believe that there are many out there, like me, that also see the newspaper as a dying source of entertainment. Perhaps modern newspapers need to be re-tailored to suit a broader audience. The comics that were funny to children long ago are lost on the children of today. What if the newspapers dabled in reviewing things like video games, consumer electronics, and fashion trends? This is just a small idea of the possibilities available through this venue. Try to pull in younger readers now, and they will be more likely to subscribe to that newspaper when they move out and get a place of their own.

Either newspapers will adapt to attract new readers, or it will slowly die off like a dinosaur caught in a tar pit.

article summary (1)

The Fun Guy (21791) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148116)

Dear print media,

To survive and thrive on the Internet, newspapers should remake themselves to include proximal space for readership commentary, moderation systems to rein in the flamethrowers/idiots/newbies while fostering meaningful dialog, real-time vox populi fact checking, national news and general interest stuff on the front page, local news and special interest stuff on dedicated subpages that people can access directly.

In other words, be like Slashdot.

Sincerely,

Roblimo

Survival in the Internet age is simpler than that (1)

nuggz (69912) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148129)

Two words,
Add value.

As long as the newspaper (paper delivery, web page, mailing list, or text message service) can continue to provide a competative service at an appropriate price they will survive.

Sure if your purpose is to debate the articles go slashdot. (Although some other sites do the debate better)
But this isn't the be all end all of news. For many topics people just want an informed report by a professional. Sorting the news and summarizing it intelligently is a service people will pay for.

Dead Tree Destiny (1, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148141)

I'd settle for more citations of named sources, including references to other articles, especially across publications. The Web is killing print not just by convenience and cost, but by corroboration. Cross-referencing is half the battle in learning whether to trust a published report. The other half includes interactivity, between reader and author as well as among readers. When reporters quote anonymous sources, it's a dead end. And especially with the recent revelations of just how often reporters merely repeat conflicted interest sources, without skepticism, qualification or even a hint that they're not authoritative, those dead ends kill trust sooner or later.

Newspapers are mostly reprinters of others' writing. Standing alone, they've successfully hid the origins of their product, an artifact of the medium. Now people have gotten used to the Internet's exposure of the news reporting process. Newspapers can finally drop their pretense, now that they're forced, and leverage their accumulated wisdom, discipline, and internal communities. Or they can die as dead as the trees on which they're printed.

What is news? (1)

MulluskO (305219) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148148)

More often than not, newspapers are simply publishers of articles written and researched elsewhere.

Likewise, most news blogs are restatements of what the blogger read on some other page.

http://reuters.com/ [reuters.com] is a fine web site. We now pay an ISP do to what we once payed the newspapers to do: deliver the news to us.

Slashdot has very little original content. It can be useful as a way to organize news from disparate sources, but the standards for review of submissions seem inconsistent.

Newspapers can be better than slashdot at filtering and organizing the news. Newspapers can survive in this way.

online news paper annoyance (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148161)

I can see registering to submit comments to articles, but I certainly can't see registering to view content in the first place. As a prolific news reader and part time editor, I read a LOT of online copy, when I go to a link that requires registration I just blow that site off, not worth the hassle. Not going to register at one thousand sites. These papers seem to think they are the only place on the web or something, it's nuts. I can find (usually) the same wire service copy elsewhere without the hassle. And I am *certainly* not going to pay serious folding money to read one single article, that's ludicrous, yet some news sites and journals insist on it. No sale, no thanks.

Second annoyance these online papers will have to overcome is their habit of using annoying visual ads and flash based or scripted navigation, again, a major turn off, to enough people that blocking ads in general has become common. And insisting your visitors need active scripting turned on or Flash to use your site is a serious security concern in this age of quickly opening multiple tabs. People surf *fast* now. When the first popup or endless stream of open windows happened because of scripting, it went downhill from there, IMO. People just don't want the abuse, and abuse it is. Tasteful and relevant text ads with normal linking are preferrable and most people don't mind them if they are relevant to the site and article. Google got that part so-o-o-o correct.

Liberal-Biased News? (1)

trakwebster (132050) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148164)

When I was young I was quite liberal. However, looking back it appears that a lot of my liberal views were the same as my rebelliousness, meaning that like many young folks, I knew everything and thought anybody over 30 was an idiot, because I knew so much better.

Now I'm almost 62. As I grew older, I found myself agreeing less and less with the newspapers. These days I've become quite conservative. (I've heard it said that older folks tend to have something to conserve; maybe that's it.)

I resigned from the AARP (American Assn of Retired Persons) when it became apparent that their publications seem to be mainly left-wing lobbying. Now my point is not whether or not I am correct to be a conservative. My point is that many, many people become more conservative with aging.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian (very liberal and quite fun as well) had a motto which was a quote. It said their purpose was to "print the news and Raise Hell." They've done a good job of it.

And perhaps this might explain why newspapers grew so liberal over time. Appealing to the young and liberal audience paid off. But now things have changed.

The young and rebellious audience has gone to computers. Perhaps the core audience that made liberal bias profitable has gone.

I don't raise this idea to quibble about whether left-wing or right-wing is 'correct,' but to suggest that perhaps these days the newspapers should stick to printing the news, and perhaps the time for Raising Hell has come and gone.

The Truth (1)

d3funct (219863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148166)

I suspect that if these newspaper companies want to keep readership they should also quit editorializing news. Write a story fairly, present both sides without bias for either, tell the truth and let the readers think about what you wrote. You can editorialize in the "letters to the editor page." I know I go to the Net for my news because I can usually find a story or usually I have to find two (one for each side) so that I am informed. When I read a newspaper story I feel as though I'm being preached to or they think they're telling me what I should know, only to find that they are telling me what THEY think I should know.
    For instance, here in the Seattle area there was a story about a girl (12 years old) who was apparently babysitting and the child she was watching died in the bathtub. The girl told authorities that while she was bathing the kid ( 3 year old I think ), the kid went unconcious. She said she shook the kid to wake her up, to no avail the kid was dead. Well, she was indicted for the death. The newspapers and TV made this girl out to be evil, only reporting that she was babysitting and shook the baby to death. When I did a little more research I got the (insert Paul Harvey voice here) rest of the story. It seems the girl was invited over by the neighbor to just visit, there was no mention of babysitting. And the girl had gone 'visiting' over there quite a lot. But the mother was just using this poor kid as free babysitting, leaving it to the girl to watch the kid while momma went to the neighborhood pub, or just sat on the porch with friends drinking and partying. The girl's parents did not know that this was happening and stated they would not have let the girl babysit at her age had they known. It also turns out, unreported by major media (newspapers/tv) that momma had another child who also died under mysterious circumstances. This girl watched the child because she felt sorry for it because the babies mother was so neglectful. So, yeah, newspapers in particular should actually investigate a story and report everything or they are going the way of the Dodo.

Virus requirements for ads/links (1)

mykepredko (40154) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148202)

My wife continually gets a number of different virus and other malware on her computer - despite the fact she doesn't surf the web other than news/weather sites. When I complained to my ISP about it, the operator said/claimed that the worst sites for catching something are the news sites which will accept advertising from just about anybody and link stories from other sites. Going by my wife as a sample, this is definitely true. I admit the sample size is small, but there does seem to be

So, I would think that it is absolutely critical for a newspaper site to ensure that nothing can be downloaded into the users computer. Nothing will loose readers forever than if they have to reformat their hard files.

myke

Save themselves by being a newspaper (1)

wardk (3037) | more than 8 years ago | (#14148238)

instead of a conduit for Corporate press releases and slanted political nonsense.

like it's going to happen.

banning blogs is probably their best bet. shows how screwed they are.
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