There is a study out this morning from the Newspaper Association of America that speaks to the growth of newspaper web sites. The study, conducted by Nielsen, shows that just over 40% of Internet users (based on the numbers I’d say they mean US only) visited a newspaper web site in the third quarter, up almost 16% from the prior year. To which I say – well DUH!Newspapers may be trapped within a dying business model (there are lots of articles about that) but no one I know of thinks the content the newspaper provides is useless. While as someone who reads 2 physical newspapers a day I am an exception, I know my daughters prefer to read the NY Times online even though the physical paper is in the same room with them. What they and other readers want is the content through whatever channel. Given all of the turmoil of late in the financial markets as well as the Presidential election, gas prices, ongoing wars, etc., the intense interest in news and information has only grown. Why wouldn’t consumption of content on those topics grow as well?
So why are newspaper companies struggling? Once again, we see that failure to adapt to and adopt a changing business model can be fatal. Having lived through a similar situation when the network TV model was changed by cable TV and the different economics the growth of cable brought, I know change is not easy. Even the NY Times Company, which does pretty well in the digital space, posted a third-quarter loss from continuing operations on October 23. It also said its ad revenue fell and that it would write down the value of its New England properties, including The Boston Globe, by up to $150 million. Imagine how much worse it might have been had they NOT invested and innovated in non-traditional media!
I hate to sound like a broken record (I know people under 30 have no clue what that means but indulge me) but the content is the business, not the means through which that content is delivered. The gravest threat to old media isn’t newer media – it’s a failure to adapt to a changing business model brought about by a change in how consumers access content.