Alson Kemp

Newspapers are dying… and?

Scoble opines on whether we can re-‘kindle’ the newspaper industry:

“For example, the Times‘ software architect Derek Gottfrid showed me his Times Machine, an app that lets you search and read old copies of the paper. I’d pay for that.”

I’m sure that the Times Machine is super cool, but I’m a bit puzzled by these articles.  I’m an old man (when measured in Internet years) and I have no idea why/how articles on how the newspaper industry can thrive/survive are relevant to me.  Scoble has to fill column inches, but he’s kinda trod this ground before.

There are lots of good [old] articles out there that do a nice job of thinking through the newspapers’ dilemma.

Big Juicy Brains

Seems that what we really care about is how we keep all of those big-brained investigative journalists employed gathering news…  And a Times Machine app doesn’t seem to be the solution to that problem.  Blogging doesn’t feel right, either.  Loads more fun certainly, but blogging usually serves up derivative works, not the original, investigative pieces of the big newspapers.

I’m not strong on the history of the Associated Press (or any of the other news production aggregators), but the Newspaper vs. Blog situation certainly points in the AP’s direction.  Newspapers mix advertising and content origination (reporting) together in one big package.  They also pay the AP for larger pieces of content that they’re happy to share with all of the other newspapers: international news; local stories which have high national relevance; random science stories; etc.  Basically, anything that the paper wants to report on, but doesn’t want to hire the people to do the reporting.  The Newspaper v. Blog situation suggests to me a complete decentralization of news production and news distribution, as opposed to the current situation in which newspapers mix the two.

So now we’re in the glorious future in which the AP produces news, legions of bloggers distribute the news and you subscribe to the feeds of 4-5 of your favorite bloggers so that you get both their news selections and their news interpretations.  Lovely.  So how does the AP make money?  Naturally, the bloggers are all making money on advertising.  So the AP should get a cut of the advertising revenues, but the AP can’t trust me to accurately report my advertising revenues.

The AP could create a partnership with a large advertising network or two and adopt a Publish-My-Content, you Publish-My-Ads business model.  Adopt a rev share (60% to publisher, 40% to AP ?) and let the blogosphere go nuts with their content.  (Probably need to hire a brigade or two of lawyers to make examples of a few people who’re abusing the system.)  I’ll get the bloggers I love feeding me digested bits of AP content with the particular spin I love.  I’m happy to be advertised to and the blogger will probably be happy to share revenue with the paper in order to get access to primo content.

Lots of wrinkles (e.g. how’s copyright affect this idea?) and implementation details (e.g. dude, you should totally use AJAX) left as an exercise to the reader, but it certainly feels like the newspaper industry is going to be decentralized.  The sooner the big papers (read: NYTimes, LATimes, WSJ, etc) get out in front of the decentralization the better.

Throw Away Line For Those Writing Hand-Wringing Articles About The Death Of The Newspaper Industry

Won’t someone write an article expressing deep concern about the health of the printing press industry?

Written by alson

September 23rd, 2008 at 10:27 pm

Posted in Business,Work

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  1. […] has more column inches on the pressing subject of the decline of newspapers…  I wrote a bit about this last week, concluding that we should probably be more worried about what to do […]

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