Kevin Maney's column in today's USAToday should be required reading for anyone in the newspaper business. He polls several tech experts for their recommendations on how to fix the newspaper industry. My favorite excerpts and thoughts:
No one, for instance, proposed that newspaper websites, which generally look more crowded than a Mumbai flea market, pare down to a single, clean Google-esque local search box.
I tend to agree that most newspaper sites are way too busy, but I think going to the Google extreme would be taking things too far in the other direction. That said, I do think newspaper sites need to get into the customization game, which leads me to...
Make it personal -- you can see that now with The New York Times...the Times and some other newspaper sites have a feature that lets people rearrange the website to their liking.
Amen! I can customize Yahoo to become MyYahoo. Why can't I do the same and create "MyIndyStar", which I might add, doesn't exist?! We're talking about customization options that have been available for many years now. What's it going to take to get all the newspapers to buy into it as a basic feature? OK, I know some people won't want to go to the trouble of setting up a custom view. Fine. Let them live in the overcrowded site as it currently exists. Then again, why not offer up some pre-made custom views for them to consider? Or, why not let readers share their views with others in the community?
Local newspapers would want to assimilate and link to local bloggers and get readers to network with each other through topic areas.
I don't see much of this happening today. It seems like the newspapers still view the blogging community as the enemy and refuse to embrace it. What a shame.
Local papers should buy up local online entities (e.g., local blogs).
Hey, let's not get too carried away here, OK? There are far too many here-today-and-gone-tomorrow blogs. Plus, like the old expression goes, why buy the cow when the milk is free? Just incorporate and offer links to local blogs. That's free and would be a huge step in the right direction.
Although I don't think buying a bunch of local blogs is a good solution, I do think newspapers ought to consider offering free blogging services to the community. Think of TypePad or Blogger, but hosted by your local paper. No charge to users...totally free. It wouldn't cost the papers much to run/support this and they'd get not only more local, community-driven content but also add to the inventory of content pages they could offer advertisers. Would I switch from TypePad to a free service, with all the same features, but hosted by the Indianapolis Star? You bet! Then again, I'm always looking for a good reason to abandon TypePad, so maybe I'm not the best test case.