Newspapers in the US aren’t doing well. It’s a beleaguered business awash in red ink and low morale. That’s a broad statement and I am sure there are exceptions to this. But if you look at what is going on – shrinking budgets, loss of readers, layoffs, closures and sales – one realizes that the era of newspapers as the only source of news has come to an end.
Television sucked off a great number of people, who with little time on their hands depend on the 11 p.m. newscast to give them the “news” in small morsels and sound bites. The Internet has further supplanted the readership from newspapers because what can be delivered online is, in my opinion, even better than television. It’s not just about speed. You certainly have a myriad of options on your computer that your television simply does not offer. Need I say it, newspapers simply cannot compete in this arena anymore.
So, the new king of info is really the Internet. Yet, it too needs to be massaged into something that the audience will return to use and appreciate. And, eventually something that advertisers can depend on for their revenue streams to start flowing again. Take a look at CNN.com or MSNBC.com; you will find succinct articles that are often myopic in nature. The articles on those sites may satisfy a certain class of online readers but it leaves those of us wanting more (yeah, there is always the New Yorker or the NY Times Sunday magazine, right?) with really nothing substantial to munch on. I think this is gross misuse of technology. No, I don’t want to be bombarded with long, droning pieces either. The rush to scoop the other channel has quite often had these cable giants correcting their mistakes after the fact. It can be sloppy journalism; maybe fair, but inaccurate as well. Make these errors often enough and your online readership is going to start looking elsewhere for their news.
To their credit, MSNBC.com has showcased some of the best use of multimedia (in its true sense) than any other website. They have the capacity to do so, but also the directive of the management that sees this kind of work as informative and inspirational. The two newspapers that have successfully harnessed the Internet are The New York Times and The Washington Post. Again, there may be more out there, but that’s where I head for my news and multimedia presentations on the web.
But more needs to be done. Enter Craig Newmark, of Craigslist.org fame. He may be the man to turn things on its head. As investigative journalists are let go at newspapers, Mr. Newmark intends to hire them for his yet to be named online news project. This should be interesting to watch. Will this turn into yet another “citizen-journalism” project? How will Mr. Newmark account for credibility and accuracy? There are lots of questions, but it is great to see that alternatives are starting to crop up.
Another “newsie” project is by Mike Davidson called Newsvine. I received an invitation to test it out and I will report back here about my experiences. Newsvine, writes Davidson, “is a large-scale news media site which gives you almost all the same stories you read on sites like MSNBC and CNN but presents them in a much more attractive package. Attractive not just in looks but in function as well. At Newsvine, we feel strongly that an article’s life only begins the second it is published. It is only when readers interact with it that it achieves its full impact.”
What are Craig and Mike up to? I think they are giving us, the consumers of news, a bit of a break. A break from getting news pushed to us. By allowing us to go fetch our own news, we are in some sense, in control of what we receive. There may be stories that we may wholly miss. But we do that with regular newspapers anyway as we gloss over headlines. Advertisers should be happy too, as they can target their market a whole lot more accurately now. The old-school, shot-gun approach to attracting the reader’s attention (interruptive marketing in Seth Godin’s language) will begin to fade as RSS updates from these news sites will be accompanied by text or graphic advertisements that the reader will more likely click on.
I am excited for Craig Newmark and Mike Davidson. I think they have both (Newmark’s project is still speculative right now I agree) hit upon a phenomena that will reap them great rewards. And we are the better for it.
Technorati Tags: alternatives, budgets, CNN.com, industry, Internet, journalism, media, MediaShift, MSNBC.com, New York Times Sunday Magazine, New Yorker, Newsvine, television, The New York Times, The Washington Post