Bob Baker pointed me toward this blog post by Leo Babauta: “8 Valuable Lessons Newspapers Must Learn From Bloggers to Survive”.
I’m actually finding myself disagreeing with some of Leo’s points. For example:
There has never been a “news monopoly.” (But his use of the term makes me feel a little better about some of the language snafus I’ve made in the past.) Even before the Internet there were thousands of newspapers, numerous news sources available almost everywhere, and even AP and Reuters to compete with each other.
Small is better? Tell that to b5media, eh? Small has always been an option, especially for a new company in a new niche. But small isn’t fundamentally better or worse than big, not even on the Internet. We only see a lot of small companies on the Internet, because (1) the Internet is still relatively new, in the grand scale, and (2) there have always been a lot of small companies (media companies, too!), and the Internet gives us access to them.
There are plenty of companies who charge for online content. They provide premium content, highly valued in a well-defined niche. Or they provide some added value, such as vetting and organizing content for its customers. Or they’ve otherwise adjusted their business strategy to make charging money work in an Internet market.
When faced with economic difficulty, the answer is not always to cut costs. Sometimes, the answer is to expand operations. The answer actually may be to charge more, if you can deliver additional value. And just because your first attempt at expanding operations fails, that doesn’t mean that you should give up. You can expect to fail, and you should use what you discovered from that failure to help you chart your course.
What’s been happening to news media is analogous to what happened to auto manufacturing around 1960 (as Peter Drucker describes it). Auto manufacturing had suddenly become global, and national automakers suddenly had new foreign competitors. Car manufacturers needed to change, and change they did.
- Toyota decided to export, failed, redesigned their strategy, and eventually succeeded.
- Ford decided to compete in Europe and was a major contender there by the 1970’s.
- Fiat also decided to become a European car, while retaining its primacy in Italy.
- GM decided to increase its profits in North America, then moved into Europe, and then into the whole world.
- Mercedes pursued and dominated several niche markets worldwide: luxury cars, taxicabs, and buses.
Though all different, all of these strategies worked, because they all took into account the new global nature of the auto market. The only automakers that failed (or needed to be bailed out) were those who stubbornly refused to admit that anything had changed.
The problem with pre-Internet media is simply that the market has changed. So you’lll only sink if you delude yourself that you can continue doing business the same way that you did before. But beyond that, there are numerous possible ways to make media work in the 21st century, and the small, free, personal blog full of short, concise articles and lots of bulleted lists, that’s just one possible strategy. I have noticed successful exceptions to every one (and all) of those characteristics.