The interwebs are filled from time to time with headlines blaring about the death of newspapers. As it turns out, not so much. As Media Post reported:
September was the busiest month ever for newspapers in terms of digital traffic, with 141 million U.S. adults visiting a newspaper Web site or using a newspaper mobile app.That figure is up 11% over June and represents 71% of the country’s total online adult population, defined as the total number of adults accessing any type of digital content.
I’m a believer in the “content is king” theory. Great newspapers are content generation machines. Besides developing their own reports on events of the day they commission other content – reviews, feature stories, etc. – that can be what’s lovingly called linkbait here in cyberspace. That content is often circulated beyond and by the initial audience, furthering the reach. What crappy newspapers do is cut and paste wire copy after gutting their content-generating capabilities. I don’t know that those sort of newspapers are dying; it sees more like suicide.
What’s also suicidal is an insistence by any business on preserving a business model that is ceasing to work. We saw it in the record industry and in many cases we’re seeing it with newspapers. Smart newspapers jumped into digital with both feet. Admittedly, many of those are still struggling with the appropriate business model: subscription vs. metered pay wall vs. ad-supported vs. some hybrid. The formation and implementation of whatever the right model is get slowed down by the constant shift of technology and platforms. As content consumption shifts to mobile – and the total mobile audience for U.S. newspapers was 77 million U.S. adults in September, or 55% of the total audience – the model needs to be thought out again.
What this research demonstrates again is that we need to emphasize business over tools. Newspapers do an excellent job of using all the latest tools. The best ones continue to produce great content, the core of their business. What still needs work is the business model, which was stable for almost 200 years and has changed forever. They’re not alone: it could happen to your business in a relative instant. Are you ready?