WILL DINOSAURS LEARN TO SWIM ?
By Dr. Terry Lacey
Sept. 16 , 2009
They say dinosaurs came out of the sea, adapted and got bigger. Now a new generation of would-be dinosaurs - newspaper managers, are developing web feet, to avoid extinction. Will newspapers still help make history, or become history?
Journalism Online, which offers to help news organizations to make money on the web, was launched in April by three US media executives who announced recently that publishers representing 176 dailies, 330 non-dailies and global news sites, mostly from the US and Europe, had agreed to affiliate to it. (The Northern Star 14.08.2009).
It offers free networking but charges for packages that claim to be able to meet annual revenue targets per subscriber, plus access to paid content via affiliated web sites. This new network leader is up-beat that web-users will pay for web-news.
But we do not hear much yet about Asian or Middle Eastern companies offering to make newspaper web site revenues more commercially viable. Where do blogs, web-leads, streaming, video, audio, graphics and directories and new value-added newspaper copy fit into this ? At what cost and who can pay ?
On March 18th The China Post ran a story on how US newspapers needed to reinvent themselves, fast, just when The Seattle Post-Intelligencer print version closed (March 16th) while The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times had gone bankrupt.
Optimists argue emerging markets will not necessarily behave in the same way in Asia or Southern countries. And that the present apparently greater propensity of Asian and Southern consumers to stay loyal to print may provide a breathing space so that print newspapers will have time to plan, resource and implement new multi-media strategies.
But this will not be done without vision, and resources to transform vision into reality, bringing new techniques, contacts and networks into play to bring added value with twin-track concrete results - more unique hits on newspaper web sites alongside more subscribers to newspapers. An impossible dream or possible reality ?
Carol Krol, Senior Analyst at the eMarketer research agency, wrote a report earlier this year Newspapers in Crisis: Migrating Online on the web.
She was interviewed by Grant Crowell specializing in search-optimized, user-friendly, web-design and multi-media content including video and podcasting solutions for commercial enterprises, video solutions providers, non-profits, and academic and government organizations. Do these new Enocrats have batteries, or are they plugged in at night?
Comforting Carol is an E-optimist, and she says after an initial period of being behind the curve, US print management are now catching-up and adapting.
“.. we are going to see an increase in inter-active products (including video) that appeal to the readership, especially the younger consumers..”
Then she explains “Publishers need to take their strength, which is their brand equity that they´ve built up over time, and translate that to the online realm.”
What new realm ? Where is it ? How do we get to the Promised Land ?
Carol then continues, “(newspaper managements) should create this trustworthy place where consumers can meet, discuss news, information: and that spells social media. They need to create blogs and social communities around their brand equity.”
Who is going to pay for all this ? In the US newspaper print advertising revenues fell from $10.5 billion in Q1 2006 to $5.9 billion in Q1 2009. (Harris Survey 24.07.09). But some newspapers are now fighting back and gaining revenue on their web sites.
Now Carol comes to the crunch. “When they (newspaper managers) can provide a place for people to congregate, right behind that comes the advertisers, and maybe also the advertising partners and content partners.”
So if newspaper managers and journalists need to evolve webbed feet and learn to swim in a different sea, as well as to fly, and still stay on land, then that’s better than being a dead dinosaur.
If an alligator can be amphibious, then why not a newspaper ? That means navigate, triangulate and calculate drift in muddy waters and develop a bigger bite. Whoever learns to do these things is going to survive ! So its not all gloom and doom. Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers!
Dr. Terry Lacey
Dr. Terry Lacey is a development economist who writes from Jakarta, Indonesia, on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking.
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