It all comes down to business models.
We’ve heard from a lot of editors, reporters and educators on why newspapers are dying, what we haven’t heard a lot about is what new models are out there that might help them weather the storm. To start along that track we have Lauren Fine, a former newspaper analyst for Merrill Lynch. She believes that newspapers are ignoring one of their primary points of value, their brand, and if newspapers are going to see growth it will be in building on that brand across other forms of media,
The New York Times is a venerable brand and they’ve done a good job in the past at charging a premium for their content. I think the challenge for them is to act more like an integrated brand across all different distribution channels, without being as concerned as to whether it is in print or otherwise . . .They’ve got a lot of wonderful columnists which are brands that they could charge for as well, but ultimately they are a news organization and they should stick to that. It’s just a question of ferreting out which user groups might pay for which pieces of it.
Up until now, newspapers have been able to get away with trying to be all things for all people. We saw earlier that some papers were well over 100 pages long, with much of that content coming from wire services. Now that print is a liability, the brunt of their efforts should be directed towards developing new ways to package content to make it more attractive to a specific set of people.
When it comes to original reporting, newspapers still win out over bloggers, why then don’t they develop ways to sell that? Authors have known for a long time that compelling content, packaged in a way that people can understand, will sell. It might be time that newspapers started seeing themselves less as aggregators and more as content producers.