Newspapers failing web 2.0 challenge

Newspapers need to find innovative ways to embrace web 2.0 – or face a perilous future

(Originally published 12/05/09 – silicon.com)

For too long now people have talked about the decline in newspapers as if this was something slow and cyclical – worse still, something that they can actually manage.  I’m sure the people who ran chemical based photography at Kodak thought the same. The music industry clearly also had this perspective on life. Look, this might well just be a “decline” that has been accelerated by a recession but equally we may be approaching a structural, social and generational cliff face. Either way, you surely don’t want to be just another lemming?

Newspapers are facing the most fundamental period of change in their history. Some would say that until recently nothing much had actually changed since the town crier used to wander into the market square, ring his bell and shout “hear ye, hear ye – plague, death, taxation, fat-cat bankers and the worst recession in living memory …. local vicar involved”.

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Was no-one listening…

Its always sad to hear of newspaper and magazine publications disappearing but so many are in trouble that their demise is being predicted with alarming regularity.

Alongside today’s FT article “End of an era for Hearsts Seattle paper” which covers the move of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper to an all digital product after 146 years of print publication, Yahoo gave their prediction of the next 10 major newspapers that will either fold of go digital. There are some major names in this list.

Those who know me well will recall that I have long argued that newspapers will not die. Rather, that we live in a multi channel world and that publishers must recognise this and adapt. Reading is a specific “state” that cannot be replaced by a website (ebooks and ePaper solutions recognise this and focus on augmenting and enhancing that “state” rather than challenging it).

I still believe this to be true but the current predicament of the publishing industry does make one ask the question ..  “was no-one listening at the end of 2004”. Back then, many of us used a website called EPIC2014 to describe a possible future. Lots of editors laughed, some dismissed it out of hand ….. but some didn’t.

In these troubled and uncertain times, it’s worth another look – it lasts about 8mins, the tone is a little dramatic and the post 2005 product names may have turned out to be a bit different but is the outcome any less certain.

What d’ya think

About digital and print convergence …

Here’s a piece I did for CIO Magazine in May 2008 about some of the print and online convergence activities I’ve been involved with. On re-reading the interview, its pretty upbeat given that it took place the day after the Champions League final in Moscow and I must have been pretty depressed – ho hum.

Setting the multi channel standard

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