Wednesday, October 29

Shifting Concepts: Newspapers Need To Look At TV

And so it begins. The Christian Science Monitor has become the first national newspaper to abandon print and move its daily content online. While the publication will print a weekend magazine, the move represents a shift that many other national dailies will eventually follow.

“Everybody’s talking about new models,” John Yemma, editor of The Monitor said. “This is a new model.”

According to The New York Times, smaller papers have already made the transition, including The Capital Times in Madison, Wis. and The Daily Telegram in Superior, Wis., which will only publish a print edition two days a week.

The downside, as most newspapers know, is that such moves cannot replace the revenue gap between print and online ads. It will not, at least not as long as newspapers continue to look at the new space like print. Instead, they might consider entirely new constructs.

One of the better examples some newspapers might follow is Hulu, which offers free, ad-supported videos of TV shows and movies from NBC, FOX, and other networks. The joint project has been successful enough to beat YouTube hands down.

Within a few months, Hulu has grown to 142 million streams with 6.3 million unique viewers, according to Nielsen Online. It is now the sixth-most-popular online video brand in the United States, surpassing ESPN, CNN, MTV, and Disney.

Part of the success is related to its advertising approach. Fewer advertisements means fewer program interruptions for viewers and less competition for advertisers. It's a win-win, with some additional twists that include viewer rated commercials, ad selection, and interactive games.

“The notion that less is more is absolutely playing out on Hulu,” Jason Kilar, the chief executive of Hulu, told The New York Times. “This is benefiting advertisers as much as it is benefiting users.”

It only makes sense that broadcast would weather convergence a little easier than print, which is why it might be time for print to give up traditional modeling all together. It needs to think more like broadcast and I don't just mean arming journalists with video cameras.

What I mean is: newspapers that are migrating more content online need to quickly develop better advertising vehicles than banner ads to stay viable. The only alternative is to continually cut staff to match shrinking circulations, which no one can really afford to do anymore. Why?

Journalists are already overtaxed on time. The result is that many newspapers have given up on digging deeper and vetting facts in favor of "he said, she said" reporting. "He said, she said" reporting only resembles objective reporting in that it leaves readers to sort out which "he" or "she" might be right or telling the truth. Unless newspapers hold a higher standard and provide trusted content, it seems to me they will risk losing even more readers in a space where content is still king.



Anonymous said...

I believe the Washington Times has already abandoned a print version of its Saturday edition, though I don't see that happening to the Washington Post anytime soon. Never know, though.

I had heard of this issue for papers in other locations earlier this year in a segment on "On the Media."

By the way, I love Hulu. I wish ABC would put shows on it. I can't view ABC shows with their own viewer reliably, but the Hulu viewer is lightweight and works with an average connection. The commercials are also not too awful for regular shows, though for skits I get turned off, because they put a strip on the bottom of the screen that blocks the show. That's a no go for me.

Anonymous said...

While I was not a reader of the CSM, I must admit that I read most newspapers online myself. Sign of the times… Yet, I find it sad that the glory days of the printed newspaper are clearly history - some of the biggest dailies are struggling seriously. Soon we will carry our ‘Kindle’ to the coffeehouse. Not quite the same…

Rich on 10/31/08, 11:00 AM said...

@Mark, I like Hulu with the exception that the programming is not portable. I so wish I could download the programs into my iPod or iPhone.

@Hypnosis, I read most newspapers online too, but while I might be contributing to the problem they face, I truly hope they can get their act together. We need more objective print journalists not less, even if the print they pen will be published online.

All my best,

Rich on 10/31/08, 1:09 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

"For most papers, though, it doesn't make sense now, and won't for a long time. Much longer, in fact, than critics think." — Chris O'Brien

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anna on 12/30/08, 6:44 AM said...

Mark led me to this blog post.

I'm impressed to see the CSM try to make a new model work, but I suppose this means I should hold back my tears not for the printed word, but for words themselves.

If online newspapers switch to broadcast, meaning present more and more of our stories in video or audio format, where does the actual art of wordcrafting come in? Will it still exist? I'm all for using multimedia to tell a story, but a little more stubborn to the idea of trading in words for a Flip. (Of course, I know using video means more than a Flip, but I'm just saying...)

And yes, Hulu FTW.

Rich on 12/30/08, 7:59 AM said...


Personally, I share that concern too. Print won't go away, but eventually, most of it won't be print. It will be distributed electronically, perhaps supported by video.

When I speak about newspapers looking to broadcast for answers, it's mostly about considering what broadcast is doing from a monetization standpoint. To me, but perhaps not most people sadly, great content is still great content regardless of how it is delivered.

I can only hope newspapers keep this in mind because we need them.

All my best,


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