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You Call This a Manifesto?

Tom Mohr, formerly of Knight Ridder, offers up these 7 key points on the current state and future of the newspaper industry. Why does it feel like this is a newspaper guy who still thinks too much like a newspaper guy?

First of all, he makes the point that “breakthrough online innovation won’t come from newspapers.” Yes, that’s pretty obvious. The newspaper industry could be the poster child for The Innovator’s Dilemma.

Next up is his statement that “’local’ is indefensible online.” While it’s certainly true that the big guys are getting better at feeling more local every day, they don’t have the feet on the street that the local paper does...or at least they don’t yet. I strongly believe that the “local” factor will be a key ingredient for survival in this shakeout. Mohr talks about building an industry-wide network of newspapers and how that’s the only way to compete. I think he’s going about this all wrong. Building a federation of newspaper sites is fine as long as the primary focus remains at the community level. I still don’t see enough papers truly embracing the community; this too is likely to be a key factor in determining who survives and who falls by the wayside.


David Meerman Scott

Thanks for pointing to this manifesto, Joe. I worked for the late great Knight-Ridder for six years in the 1990s as Asia Marketing Director. Even fifteen years ago, newspaper businesses had a difficult time dealing with electonic versions of their content.

As I see it, newspaper companies must offer their content in the ways that people demand. Newspapers don't define the "common platform" -- customers do! Yes, the platform might be print for some and Web for others. But it is also in the form of databases used in corporations and financial institutions. Offering news on Reuters and Dow Jones screens and Lexis-Nexis, Factiva, and NewsEdge services has been a sort of common platform for decades. Some newspaper companies (such as Knight-Ridder) have always offered content via these services, others have not.

It's all about where the customers want to view the information.

Joe Wikert

Hi David. You're absolutely right. It's kind of sad to watch so many of these once solid brands getting crushed by upstarts like this. It's also ironic to me that newspapers, who arguably established themselves by being quick to react to the news are so slow to react to competitive threats. Even today you can find one newspaper website after another with an approach that feels like 1996 rather than 2006.

Dennis D. McDonald

Is it significant that if you try to leave a comment on Mohr's article (which I have reviewed quite favorably here: http://www.ddmcd.com/newspaper_crisis.html) that you can't -- there is no comment feature? And E&P has no RSS feed?

Joe Wikert

Hi Dennis. Yes, I'd say that's significant. Regardless of whether we're talking about a blog, a newspaper site or any other one where someone is posting thoughts or an editorial, it's hard to believe that it's not open for reader comment. RSS, on the other hand, still seems to be a great enabling technology that far too few people are aware of. I've mentioned in earlier posts some of the research I've seen elsewhere talking about how rarely RSS is utilized and how many people don't even know what it is.

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