Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Time for Newspapers to Disrupt Themselves: It's Not Too Late for Publishers to Create the Tools of Tomorrow

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Time for Newspapers to Disrupt Themselves: It's Not Too Late for Publishers to Create the Tools of Tomorrow

Article excerpt

The man who decimated the business model of the newspaper industry worked for 17 years as a programmer for IBM in New Jersey. Craig Newmark had no newspaper experience when he launched Craigslist, which, for all intents and purposes, destroyed newspaper classified advertising.

In 100 years, when the history--let's hope " it is not an obituary--of the American newspaper industry is written, the historians will say that our advantages slid away because we failed to see how the World Wide Web created a disruptive tool that anyone smart enough could use to swipe our business. Craig Newmark is Example Number One. His photo will be at the start of the chapter.

For the record, I have heard Newmark speak and he truly had no intention of killing our classified business. It was our industry's failure to adapt that allowed so much business to vaporize. It is not the only example. I worked for E.W. Scripps when a mid-level corporate executive named Ken Lowe (who worked in radio) developed a concept for a cable television network "about grass growing and paint drying." It was called HGTV and it should have been owned by Meredith Corp., which owned the magazine Better Homes and Gardens. HGTV has become a mega-hit across the globe, but understand the lesson--a radio guy invented a cable channel to own a category that had been dominated by a magazine.

Is it too late for us to use the disruptive tools to dominate and own key categories that will still bring us readers and revenue?

I hope not. But what if we:

Developed the master narrative of our community. Create a vertical site and app so rich and deep in its coverage and detail of whatever story defines your community that it becomes to your hometown what Politico is to people who love politics; what Pinterest is to those who love fashion, gardening and home decorating. (Didn't we used to have sections like that in our newspapers?)

The San Jose Mercury News developed this with "Good Morning, Silicon Valley" and Boston Globe Media recently launched a compelling site called STAT, which it describes as reporting from the frontiers of health and medicine. It is distinct from the Boston Globe print newsroom. The site is young, but I imagine it becoming must read for medical professionals as well as people interested in health and science news (especially when they launch a mobile app).

Each community has its own story--be it in culture, sports, entertainment, tourism, business. …

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