Friday, October 30, 2009

Paper Media Ax Falls


Ozarks Unbound has a list of job cuts from the merger of the Dem-Gaz and the Morning News. Looks like some good people lost their jobs. Gary Lookadoo of the Benton County Daily Record for example, was always very fair in his coverage.

Note also the comments below at that link. There is a lot of talk about how the people who run The Morning News are not good people to work for even in the best of times.

Can any of this save the print media in this state?

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On a distantly related side note, I entered an essay in a Washington Post contest, and did not win. Still, my topic was how do papers survive and I answered that question for WaPo. Much of it is applicable to the new state paper, so I offer it for your consideration:

Much has been said about the coming death of big newspapers. But newspapers don’t have to die, they only have to adapt. Paradoxically, the best way to save the newspaper business is for the top players to stop looking at themselves as a newspaper for one city, and start seeing themselves as providers of news and analysis that is distributed across many mediums throughout the nation.

If you see your market as Washington D.C. area newspaper readers, then you are limiting yourself to a pie that already has many players scrapping for tiny slices. The real potential lies in viewing Washington not as your market, but as your product. You are well positioned in the nation’s capitol to gather critical data and turn that data into information. Right now you mostly package and sell that information one way- as a D.C. area newspaper. The path to not only survival but prosperity lies in repackaging that information many ways and distributing it to what should be your primary market, the heartland of America.

What I am suggesting is that you take the same information you are generating from your newspaper reporting and use it to launch an internet-based twenty-four-hour news and information video channel. Let’s call it an I-channel. You would really only need about fifteen programs plus a top-of-the-hour news feed. Most of them would get replayed at night, and all of them archived for a week or so.

If Hulu can make money with what used to be television programming over the internet (and it is) then so can the Washington Post. You could even one-up Hulu because they can’t resell their content, but you can. You can syndicate it to cable companies and satellite television companies. Then you can syndicate the audio feeds from those programs all over again as radio. You are making money more ways on the same information presented in different packages. This will help capitalize your news-gathering, and that will add value to your downstream products.

With blue screens and net meeting software, the technical challenges of a distributed production network will not be the greatest obstacle. The marketing challenge will be harder. The heartland does not view the world the way the beltway does. To market to the heartland you need personalities who can bridge this gap.

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