Can there be a cure for Newspapers? While a majority of media industries have been broken by the Internet, most have started to adapt except for printed media. The Film, Music and Television industries are learning (albeit slowly) to not rebuke the transition from physical media to a digital kind, but the Newspaper industry seems lost.
On Thursday, executives from many of America’s top newspaper companies met in Chicago to discuss ways to increase their revenues from their online operations. The meeting titled “Models to Lawfully Monetize Content” was overseen by an antitrust lawyer and the Newspaper Assn. of America. Right now, the newspaper companies have to find a way to charge visitors for content they normally give away for free online.
As I notice, charging for content that can be seen elsewhere won’t make their websites a hotspot and probably alienate the last of their newspaper subscribers. Here are five ways for Newspaper companies to modernize their business modules and join us in the 21st century.
1. Keep the news free: Unless it is an otherwise “involving” story, column and/or report, most people can get their news from around the Internet for free. The newspaper companies must get it through their thick skulls that they are no longer competing with local rival newspapers but a global movement of bloggers, writers, news reporters and Pale Joe that lives in his mother’s basement. I wouldn’t mind subscribing to a membership that gives me more facts, a closer look into the topics I’m interested in that goes beyond regular reporting.
2. Member Incentives: Most online readers have learned to get their news from many sources in the interweb. In order to keep the readers destined for your website for all their news needs, the website requires other things besides just news to keep them interested. Simple promotions, free “themed” swag, site features and other things can keep readers coming back for more.
3. Online Personas: I like hearing from people I’ve grown to trust and admire. Having “nobodies” post news doesn’t help with visitor retention. Whether the writers are liked or disliked, doesn’t matter, because more often than not, you’ll have people come back just to argue with writers. That’s another thing, writers NEED to participate in the comment area of an article, give readers more ways to interact with the storytellers.
4. Community: Most newspaper websites I’ve entered don’t have many community aspects or the community aspects are pretty subpar. I’m not talking about merely a forum space but a community that contributes to the website. Take some pointers from social network sites like Myspace.com and Facebook.com, users want to be able to interactive and contribute their opinions.
5. News Delivery: Newspaper websites should be the shining example of how to give readers more ways to experience up-to-date news. While some newspaper companies have .mobi website or even apps for most smart phones, a bigger investment needs to be made if they want to charge visitors. The newspaper companies may even need to use websites like Twitter, Facebook and Myspace to allow readers to receive updates or breaking news in more ways.
Most of my suggestions won’t apply to all newspaper companies but the leaders should take my advice. The transformation from printed media to digital media is going to be a long and tough road, but I believe these companies can survive if they make the right moves. I’m waiting for one of the major players to become online exclusive, thus giving the others a reason to do so. We are at the end of printed materials and instead of fighting it, adapt and run with it.
(Editor’s Note: One major roadblock is the government. Most newspaper companies do want to invest in their online offerings but all English-speaking papers must do it at once.)