Saturday, October 27, 2007

Business Week on the death of old-media

Business Week has an interesting read on the demise of old-media with a focus on the San Jose Mercury News. It's a good read in that it goes back historically and talks about all of the warnings along the way that were ignored:

The collapse of Silicon Valley's daily newspaper is in many ways the story of American newspapers in the 21st century. The industry has reached a near-crisis point. Many dailies are losing circulation at an alarming rate, and local newspaper ad spending fell 3.1% last year, to $24.4 billion, while Internet advertising rose 17.3%, to $9.8 billion, according to Advertising Age.

But the shivers rippling through the Mercury News also serve as a dramatic example of what happens when industry leaders get complacent in the face of fundamental shifts. Andy Grove, who helped sow the Internet revolution when CEO of Intel (INTC ), says that cross-industry disruptions follow a predictable course: Executives ignore the challenges. Then they try to resist. Only when it's too late do they make radical changes.

The article focuses on Carole Leigh Hutton the Executive Editor of the Mercury News, and her efforts to destroy the newspaper and reinvent it as something more relevant to a new-media audience. Here's one of the "big ideas" that have been forwarded to save them:

Some hopeful signs have emerged. At a brainstorming session in September, employees suggested themed versions of the Mercury News online that provide readers with a world view through a lens of their own choosing. There might be a "green" portal for people interested in environmental causes, for instance. The best of the suggestions will be rapidly prototyped and tried out on consumers.

Sigh! They just don't get how their world has changed; the frontpage, the album, the portal, the homepage... They have been disintermediated by search, widgets, and syndication. Every piece of content is its own homepage, and any attempt to aggregate content for "presentation" through a format determined by others is destined for irrelevance. We already have our own personalized views of the Internet. We don't need another created for us by the newspapers or anyone else.


Peg Boyles said...

Dead on, for newspapers at least.

But I can envision a new role for re-intermediating (or, more accurately, aggregating and integrating)information resources, particularly local resources organized around a strong public need (e.g., family-based eldercare, energy efficiency).

Such sites could help frantic seekers wend their way through thickets of fragmented information that's currently available online, but often almost impossible to find, even with good search skills.

Such sites could incorporate many forms of discussion, communities-of-interest-or-need organizing, and online support groups. Motivated users would continuously help build the site.

Family elder-caregivers, for instance, may need medical, pharmaceutical, financial, nutritional and legal advice--sometimes all of it at once, and suddenly. They might need information about, or access to, government programs, adaptive tools and appliances, respite services. They might profit from help/advice from peers, decision trees, or online tutorials.

Such sites might run like quasi-public utilities, perhaps with the state or county CE acting as lead organizer in the John MCKnight model of community development ("leading by stepping back," using needs assessments and assets inventories developed from within the participating community itself).

I can think of ways to fund such integrated sites, as well as imagine a development model of distributed leadership that wouldn't rely on (or need) a body of credentialed subject-matter experts to vet the resources.

I can also envision ephemeral, ad hoc local online aggregating efforts organized quickly around some emerging local crisis and disappearing along with the need for it.

Peg Boyles said...

Perhaps even newspapers can get a clue or two from Mike Wesch's digital ethnology work at KSU.

For a taste of it, have a gander at The Machine is Using Us or A Vision of Students Today.

Kevin Gamble said...

I liked the new Mike Wesch video for sure.

I'm still thinking the only reason for aggregation is to help a "big" site improve its google juice and thereby their discoverability.

I still think the best strategy for a content producer is to flow their content to where the communities are already gathering. I'd rather see resources put toward the production of content rather than distribution. Then syndicate it so it can go as many places as possible -- viral.

Greg said...

I disagree on this one. There's plenty of room for both electronic and printed "news." There is a value-add associated with the printed page which is undeniable for me. I subscribe to a local paper via RSS, but never read it. I find it much more efficient *AND* enjoyable to wander up the driveway reviewing the news. When confronted with the piles of information we now have access to, I like that frontpage headline which says "hey, I think you should see this one."

Kevin Gamble said...

--I like that frontpage headline which says "hey, I think you should see this one."--

I rarely if ever read an analog newspaper. I probably read 10 or more online everyday.

My personal, "I think you should see this..." comes through my social network. People I know and trust.