Clayton Christensen on the Future of Newspapers
Streaming Video vs. TV Broadcasts

The Indianapolis Star on Congressional Races

Here’s an example of local opinion and commentary done right. This article in today’s Indianapolis Star summarizes the candidates and makes recommendations for the upcoming House races. The paper’s Editorial Board interviewed the candidates for this piece, noted strengths and weaknesses and even talked about one incumbent who “frequently rambled and was disjointed in her responses to questions.”

This is exactly the sort of local coverage that newspapers are uniquely qualified for. Further, although the article is freely available on the Star’s website, the print version fits nicely on one page and features a map of the state with each district clearly identified; I’m not sure why the map is left off the online version. While it’s possible to post reader comments about the story on the Star’s site, I don’t think the paper goes far enough to encourage this level of community involvement.

Why not use the paper itself to stimulate more community input and debate on these candidates?  They should have put a sidebar or some other element in the paper saying something like “Give us your feedback and help other voters learn more about the issues and the candidates at” Instead, the article in print provides no information about the ability to provide feedback and comments online. I generally don’t believe URLs in print cause many people to go online, but an invitation like this is more meaningful than most. Another nice touch would have been to videotape the Editorial Board interviews and post them alongside each district summary online; again, this could have been played up in print, driving more people to the Star’s website.


Tom Britt

The Star (or any newspaper) will have problems getting readers to interact with them online because they are newspapers. People read newspapers. They have been reading newspapers for centuries. It will take years for people to start interacting with their newspapers. Of course, there will always be the 5% that take to things quickly and just because it is new. But getting the other 95% to get past their centuries-old paradigms will take a lot longer and a lot of effort.

Joe Wikert

Hi Tom. You're certainly right about trying to get people to change their behavior. But, I read a report over the weekend (sorry, can't recall the specifics) that said some decent double-digit percentage of Internet surfers do so while watching the TV or reading the paper. Again, sorry that I don't recall the specifics, but it was a surprisingly high number. If that's true, one would think people are doing both simultaneously more than I would have thought. Additionally, I still thought there were things the Star could have done to (a) nudge paper readers online and (b) provide a richer online experience (with those videos, for example).

Tom Britt

I'm not arguing the fact that newspapers need to encourage their readers to go online, nor am I arguing that people don't watch TV, read the newspaper, and surf the web. I've just noticed from first-hand experience that you can have 100,000 visitors to your website with the most compelling, two-sided story, and nobody will post a comment or message. Even if you get one comment from a far left- or right-positioned person, no one else will even speak up. I think the demographics of newspaper readers is working against them: boomers and older are not chatting, posting myspace pages, blogging, or posting messages on newspaper sites. And young people do not read newspapers, they have been trained over the last 10+ years to get news via the web. This is where I see newspapers hitting a wall.

Joe Wikert

Good points, Tom. I don't see the older crowd changing their ways, but I do think it's not too late to get the younger crowd to consider a print paper. As I've mentioned before, one approach is to give the darned thing away and just live off the advertising income. That may be the only way to get non-readers to even consider it as a resource.

shel israel

Hmmm. Maybe they should just move the whole thing to a blog. I could recommend a good book to get them started.

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