Monday, July 21, 2008

Print to Web

A recovering editor sent me the following link and then his thoughts on what's going on in the news biz:

Eric Alterman in the Nation

And his thoughts:

It got me thinking. It mentions Lee Abrams, quotes Molly Ivins ("for some reason, they assume people will want to buy more newspapers if they have less news in them and are less useful.") and wraps up with something that has been nagging at me:
"... young people do not appear to want to pick up a newspaper, even for free. They often leave them lying around, even at journalism schools, where they are distributed gratis."

I am convinced it's a mistake for newspapers to chase readers who don't want to read (although many insist on doing it), and I'm also convinced it's a mistake to give away all of a newspaper's content on the Web in pursuit of non-readers and a vague dream that the Internet -- the future, we're assured -- in an of itself is the solution to the the industry's problems.

The current newspaper business model is a failure and has helped to accelerate the collapse of the industry. It obliterates the old newspaper model -- readers pay for the paper, they pay a premium for home delivery, and advertisers pay through the nose to get into reader's hands and, better yet, their homes -- but does not replace it with a business model to support the journalism people have come to expect, seriously damaging the "content engine" that's supposed to drive success on the Web.

Newspapers should use the Web strategically, of course, as the Wall Street Journal has.

A paper could post a news briefing each day based on the day's edition, enhancing it with some web-only features, news updates, even breaking news when appropriate. But giving away all of the newspaper's content for free to non-subscribers is dumb and doesn't work. Giving it for free to aggregators is even dumber.

Advertisers do not pay newspaper Web sites the same rates they pay to run in the paper. Why? Because people read newspapers and shop newspapers and no one has come up with anything that does it as well or better.

Just look at the success of the current newspaper/Web model so far -- newspapers shrink, staffs shrink, quality suffers, profits plummet.

Yes, the world is changing and the model that worked so well for so long must change. The Web is a fact of life and newspapers have to find a better way to make it part of what they do -- newspaper have to evolve. But rather than evolve, they've embraced the current model as if it's all there is. One newspaper has stopped printing and moved exclusively to the Web -- I wish them luck. Jumping from the newspaper as we knew it to the read-everything-online- free-for-nothing model has failed and it must be modified.

Well, that's my opinion, and....the rest of those knuckleheads take go jump in a lake.


And, on the outsourcing front, I'd completely overlooked Roy Peter Clark's column on the matter. The short version: It takes a lifetime of knowledge to be a good copy editor, no matter where you are. You can't just transplant the work to another country and expect someone in another culture to catch up, ever.



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