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Newspapers, help yourselves...

By smithdm3 - Posted on 15 April 2009

The newspaper/journalism industry is in an upheaval with the ongoing steady erosion of advertising revenues (some of which are moving to the Internet) and the destruction of classified revenues which have all moved online (eBay, Craiglist, Kijiji, you name your own online classifieds provider).

The one thing that the newspapers (and related parties like the Associated Press) have going for them is their content. While there has been an uptick in the amount of content that bloggers put out, they're still relatively (except largely in tech) niche content content producers. Newspapers have already for the most part realized that they've got to abandon their newsprint models and move online, but the problem that they seem to come up against is that people are just too used to going to the almighty Google to look for things and when they do they often get news content from newspapers and guess who gets the contextual ad revenue from the search - Google. This is not a paltry sum. Google would seem to make over $7 billion a year in contextual search advertising revenue (the search ad market in the US alone 2008 was $10B with Google believed to have 76% marketshare).

In a NYT article today Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, admits that people come for good content: After all, Schmidt acknowledges that a lot of what’s on the Internet is “a sewer.” He told me people don’t come to Google for “crap,” but for what’s “useful.”

So, newspapers still have good content, but can't get the revenue they need because people like Google act as middlemen skimming the ad revenue with their search engine. So... why not just create their own search engine that could be used globally and industry wide. Maybe just start with newspaper content - trusted content and slowly add in blogs or other reputable sources. Make it a one stop shop for good content and reward the publishers/authors of that content, essentially become Google News yourself. Partner with someone like Yahoo or Quigo and cut Google out of the picture - stop their bots from crawling your content. Heck, maybe even innovate and come up with a way of making it easy for people to excerpt your content with a link or two (think something link shortening, but javscript-y and that content comes with a contextual ad). I dunno... just a few thoughts.

Actually, I'm not convinced that 'newspapers' are all that good at creating their content. Very little of an actual newspaper is content reported by that paper. They are increasingly reliant on newswires (which they also pay lots of money for) like AP and CP (which you refer to as 'related parties'). Analysis has steadily dropped as well. Info that is not from the newswires is also often syndicated content. So where does that REALLY leave newspapers? Well, that's the $1M question, isn't it?

local news is probably the number one area where they do... and then outside of that, there are still some good columnists out there. I guess I read a lot of sports and business stuff and I'd say they're still my primary references for those two subjects. General news... well, I get that from lots of sources - most of which are more 'real time'...

If you're talking about very small papers (and I'd lump the Ottawa dailies in that category for instance) I'd say you're right, they might be completely FUBARed, or at least have to dramatically scale back.

The reason newspapers are in a state of decay has nothing to do with the fairness doctrine.---It has to do with bad service.
Newspapers no longer cover the news like they use to do especially state and local news and even national news using original sources.
Delivery is also hap-hazard. Adults throw papers from the car and it ends up in the middle of the yard.

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