What Does the Future of the Newspaper Look Like?

    January 15, 2008

Mediapost referenced a 66 slide powerpoint by The World Association of Newspapers, titled Shaping the Future of the Newspaper.

Each bulleted list below is a slide from their presentation. I grouped some of them together to discuss how/where I think they relate.

Product Packaging

  • Broken information asymmetry: Information is easy to charge for as long as only a few have access to it. Today’s information symmetry makes it increasingly difficult to charge for regular news/information.
  • Losing loyalty: Consumers are increasingly grazing media. If they don’t like it, they immediately move on to greener pastures.
  • Increased individualism: As we see a strong trend of individualism in the society, mass media has the downside of offering the same message to everybody.
  • Design Hype: 50-70 percent of buying decisions are made in the store means more focus on design.

They realize they are no longer able to sell what they once sold and they are losing loyalty each day. Eventually they won’t even be able to pay people to take what they once charged for.

They see that consumers want an individualized focused product. They realize that buying is largely a game of taste and packaging. And yet they do not realize that they are selling news, even if it is free. If packaging matters for products it also matters for information. Niche brands are a good thing. Niche bloggers get this. NTY got this when they bought About.com’s blog network. Why doesn’t the rest of the media get it? Probably because actually changing to give the market what it wants feels risky, and the only niche they appeal to is local.


  • The search for authenticy: In a world of fake stories the authentic and real becomes important.
  • PR and marketing merging: Editorial content has higher impact than ads, which turns PR into a sales activity.
  • Online transactions a new revenue source: As media goes online, transaction revenues for services become an increasingly important revenue stream.
  • New revenue models: Newspapers need new revenue models to keep being profitable. New technology offers endless options to reach the future customers (e.g. rich-media ads, virtual worlds, viral marketing, product placement, parasite distribution, maglogs)

They realize that the perception of authenticity is becoming more important, but their journalistic rules will keep their content too vanila to create it, and they are fine with promoting public relations and looking for new business models including affiliate marketing, product placement, and parasite distribution. Eek.

Complexity & Depth of Coverage

  • Simplified news: "News snacks" are becoming the norm as customer needs are oversaturated. Simplification means a newspaper can only afford to be good enough.
  • Analytic journalism: Newspapers will offer deeper analysis, opinions and explanations of the news in a larger context to help people navigate in an increasingly complex world.

I can’t see news organizations being as efficient as blogs on the news snacks angle. And the in depth reporters are not going to be able to beat out subject matter experts unless they focus on a niche. If they focus on a niche and get a following then they don’t need the news organization behind them. Google or Federated Media or some other ad network can do the selling for them.