“How many newspapers do you read?” a reporter recently asked me. I told him I read dozens of newspapers, more than I’ve ever read in my life. That should be good news to the newspaper industry, but it’s actually a problem and here’s why.
I dropped my Boston Globe subscription four years ago after more than 25 years as a subscriber. Google Reader is now my daily newspaper. Into it stream dozens of feeds from trusted sources. Each morning I sort through a couple of hundred headlines and pick and choose the ones I want to read, bookmark or share with others.Â These feeds include an assortment of blog posts, newspaper articles and even search results.Â Google Reader makes no distinction by source.Â The content is what dictates my reading habits.
This is the new reality of the wired consumer.Â Although my reading habits are no doubt atypical, they’re an example of where news consumption is going. People increasingly use aggregators to deliver the news that interests them, regardless of its source.Â Newspaper editors have a big problem with this.Â They argue that filters shield readers from the most important stories of the day, the stories that the editors think they should read.
Alan Mutter digs into this issue. He looks at recently published numbers on traffic to newspaper websites and sees a troubling trend: visitors are increasingly drive-by viewers. They stop to read one story and then move on. Mutter wonders whether advertisers will pay to reach these visitors, who have little brand loyalty. Quoting: “The decline in the average duration of sessions at newspaper web pages suggests that visitors are not utilizing the industryâ€™s sites as primary destinations, but, rather, as places to episodically view individual articles highlighted by Google News, Drudge, Digg, blogs or any of the thousands of other places they might be.”
Jeff Jarvis elucidates this new model in a series of simple charts that demonstrate how news coverage is being driven by the needs of the reader rather than the publisher. He calls it the “Me-sphere.” It’s a place where the reader defines what he or she is interested in and then chooses what to consume from an assortment of information sources of his or her own choosing. in traditional media, the publication of a news story is an endpoint.Â In the new media model, it is just the beginning.Â See Wikipedia for an example of how news evolves over time.
Advertising Age, which ironically hides its stories behind a paid wall after a few days of public viewing, has an insightful piece by Matthew Creamer about this same trend. Creamer sees the future of news as aggregation and the business of news as selling ads against other people’s content. No one can own the content any more, so the new publishers will combine some form of dedicated reporting with clever integration of other stuff. Today’s newspapers could potentially lead this trend, but there a lot of cultural and political factors argue against it.Â I agree with sources quoted in this story that the successful aggregators will emerge as new entrepreneurial entities because they don’t have the baggage of history. Nevertheless, there is still a chance for some newspapers to jump on this trend and reinvent themselves. Whether they do so is another matter.
This entry was posted on Thursday, April 17th, 2008 at 7:48 am and is filed under BusinessModel, Citizen Journalism, NewMedia, Newspapers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.