Why are newspapers going out of business? Because they always seem to be years behind everyone else.
If I ran one of the major newspaper companies like New York Times, Hearst, McClatchey, MediaNews Group, Lee, etc. I wouldn’t operate out of fear or be reactive–I’d be proactive. At this point what do newspapers have to lose? They are already losing.
There are no instant fixes for newspapers but here are a few thoughts:
1. Newspapers won’t print on paper forever. Why aren’t these newspaper companies coming together and investing in companies like Amazon, which owns the Kindle, or investing in epaper? It would save them billions of dollars a year by not printing on paper and the cost of investing in this future technology wouldn’t cost anywhere near that. Even better, give the new epaper product to current and future subscribers. You’d still be saving money as a collection of papers and probably find the one thing newspapers can’t find now: new subscribers. Just sign them up for a 3 year subscription in return they get the epaper reader.
2. Why do newspapers concede ownership of news aggregation to the likes of Yahoo, Google, MSN, AOL, Digg, etc? I’d create a newspaper coalition and buy or build a portal property and become the owner of my own destiny rather than hoping that your story gets picked up and you get Dugg. Within that newspaper portal I’d create the best news search engine.
3. Build better classifieds. Video, audio, and more. Craigslist is the minimalist’s answer to classifieds so make them better. Not just better, make them great. Then, print the classifieds. Craig can’t do that.
4. Create a newspaper site that allows the users to build their own section. If I like crafts then let me build a crafts section. Even more niche would be a sewing section under crafts. Let the user build the section and we’ll filter the stories from around the world of interest to people who sew. It’s not impossible to build niche sections–Ebay does it. Newspapers need to stop deciding what people want and let them show us.