When was the last time anyone saw a newspaper company purchase something other than newsprint and/or another newspaper?
Microsoft's Steve Ballmer is quoted as saying that Microsoft's future is in advertising. Really? Nokia is acquiring online assets because it now considers itself an Internet company and wants to capture the next wave of mobile media.
I liked Seth's article because it started an important question: How should newspapers (not just the NY Times) adapt to a changing world? And not only does Seth get the conversation started, he also offered a lot of helpful suggestions.
I would add these few points:
1. Needed: Redefined Business Model
Some might argue that there's nothing wrong with the business model. If readership is down and advertising revenue is down and the cash cow of classified advertising is in decline -- then the model needs to be revisited before it's too late. There is not an issue with advertising as a revenue model. Today, the issue is depending on print advertising as a revenue model. The issue is depending on a printed publication in an interactive, 4-dimensional world.
It's the classic marketing case -- when the railroad companies finally realized that they were not merely in the train business but in the people-moving business, it was too late.
2. Needed: Redefined Revenue Channels
Back to my original question: When was the last time anyone saw a newspaper like the NY Times purchase an online asset? What if a company like Gannet (USA Today, etc.) purchased a webapp business like Evernote and offered it as a service to any of its subscribers? It seems to me that something like this would redefine the value proposition for newspapers -- and get them to compete for more than readers and eyeballs. Redefining the revenue channels means recognizing people are not readers, but consumers. Consumers are users in this day and age and not passive information gatherers. We desire more than just content. It's not just about content.
3. Needed: Redefined Asset Recognition
Seth made a good point about how the NY Times could leverage its big name columnists (point 2). I think the NY Times as well as other newspapers have an opportunity to be the quintessential resource for all things local. Newspapers, like cable television, has enjoyed near-monolopy status. To be competitive, the newspaper could become the mobile source for all things local -- and by doing so reignite its advertising base.
4. Needed: Redefined News
At P&G they say, "The Consumer is Boss." Who buys the news? Also at P&G they say, "Who's your WHO?" The news can be gleaned from various sources: blogs, feeds, friends, email, iGoogle, etc. Seth makes a great suggestion: "The Times has always used freelancers and stringers to report and contribute to the paper. But how many? Why doesn't the paper have 10,000 stringers, each with a blog, each angling to be picked up by the central site? You wouldn't have to pay much per story to build a semi-pro cadre of writers and reporters. When you organize the news (delivering unique perspectives to people who want to hear them) you influence the conversation."
My add is this: Multiple points of view mean you're appealing to individuals and not just masses. It's a matter of perspective and what it means to each of the various constituencies. It's humbly recognizing that the news itself has to change without compromising accuracy, authenticity, and trustworthiness. Blog feedback is the new Letter to the Editor. Dialogue is its own virus. And some news can be exclusive -- subscribers get more, period.
It's an exciting day to be in business and the next 10 years are going to be some of the most interesting. Consider for moment that newspapers are not too far behind...yet -- but if they're not careful they will go through the same survival issues as Kodak. Google is a 10 year old company. MySpace and Facebook have finally hit the 5 year mark -- and MySpace nearly made $1B in revenue. Microsoft says their future is in advertising and Nokia believes they will migrate into an Internet company. Newspapers, I believe, have an opportunity to redefine themselves -- who, what, where, how, and (especially) why -- in order to remain on top of their game.