Don’t blame the readers for the death of newspapers

by Carl Natale on May 30, 2012

Mathew Ingram does a really good job rocking the conventional wisdom about why newspapers are having problems:

Why Clay Shirky is right and Warren Buffett is wrong

“Is Warren Buffett’s recent acquisition of the Media General chain a brilliant gamble, or an indication of his faith in the long-term prospects of newspapers? Clay Shirky argues it is neither …” (via GigaOm)

There are two key takeaways from this post:

  1. The problem with newspapers is their relationships with advertisers not readers.
  2. Newspaper readers never supported the cost of journalism.

I agree that the disruptive innovation that’s rocking newspapers is in advertising. But advertisers are newspaper readers. Their perceptions of a newspaper’s relevance influences the value of advertising. Not as much as the perceived ROI but it’s still a factor.

It’s hard for publishers to think of any new way to collect money beyond selling ads to their current customer base. But access to x number of readers isn’t worth what it used to be. Basically because businesses are looking for other ways to deliver their marketing messages.

The problem with innovating newspaper business models is that the new models bring in less revenue than legacy advertising models. And newspapers have expenses that were affordable in that system. But new models are going to require spending less money on:

  • Print (which present it’s own set of problems)
  • Salaries

Yeah, that means journalists are looking at smaller paychecks to do more than write stories. No wonder they’re such delusional fans of paywalls.

My Takeaway

It’s essential for journalists to use new forms of storytelling to stay relevant to readers. And many have embraced tools such as television, podcasting, social media and blogging. It’s time for publishers to find new ways to make money.

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