Hail And Farewell, Print Media

    August 25, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Old Media is in its final throes, as a New Media carillon tolls dismally in the distance, and the potential mourners are too busy with their mobiles to care about the inescapable grip of entropy upon the dying body politic of the newspaper industry.

Dramatic, isn’t it? True as well, it appears. News Corp magnate Rupert Murdoch, a wealthy man many times over thanks to his newspaper publishing, sees the bright white light and hears the ghosts beckoning to print media publishers. Come to the light, they intone.

The Economist painted a picture of the future of newspapers that do not embrace the Internet. Murdoch assailed newspapers last year, the story said, as he unmercifully called those who fail to grasp the reality of changes around them as “remarkably, unaccountably complacent.”

It’s why millions of News Corp’s dollars have flowed to Los Angeles over the past year, where Fox Interactive Media president Ross Levinsohn has had as much fun picking out an Internet lineup as Joe Torre does every time he goes to Yankee Stadium. Having a deep-pocketed boss who loves to win and will pave the street with cash to get there makes the job much more enjoyable.

Other newspapers have been spending like they were the Kansas City Royals – low on resources, tight budgeted, and seemingly unable at the ownership level to figure out how to compete. Or even to care.

The article described one success story, hailing from Oslo. Schibsted, a Norwegian newspaper firm, has come a long way from its 150-year-old origins as a news printer. They have built Scandinavia’s first- and second-ranked websites, built a classifieds portal, and even constructed a search engine that contends with the all-powerful Google.

Place the blame squarely at the feet of newspaper publishers who entrenched themselves against the onslaught of the Internet. When they chose to send out their writers and reporters, The Economist noted they selected younger and cheaper talent and kept the experienced and best on the print beat.

They may be able to save themselves, though. It will require a blend of quality writing and focusing on the local market, rather than the interminable drumbeat of news from the Middle East that online readers can get quickly from numerous other sources online.

This passage from the report may have summed up the key point best, when it comes to maintaining relevance for print in an increasingly online world:

At Zero Hora, a Brazilian paper owned by RBS Group, the circulation department asks 120 readers what they think of the paper every day and Marcelo Rech, the editor, receives a report at 1pm. “They usually want more of our supplements on cooking and houses and less of Hizbullah and earthquakes,” says Mr Rech.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.