The Death of the Newspaper

February 10, 2009 at 3:22 am Leave a comment

That dull thud you hear in the distance is a stake being pounded through the barely beating heart of the New York Times. Silicon Alley Insider is reporting a startling fact–namely that it would be cheaper by half to send every New York Times subscriber a free Kindle than to print the newspaper for a year. Check their math here. Remarkable stuff. 

It’s no secret the New York Times is in dire condition. The company has already had to borrow against its headquarters building, and more recently, Pinch Sulzberger sold a stake in the newspaper to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. With all due respect to the management team, the newspaper doesn’t need an injection of cash. It needs a radically new business model that addresses the way people consume news in the 21st century. 

My friend Tom Hansen, who runs TM Advertising in Dallas, summed the problem up perfectly while talking about another newspaper, USA Today. Because of the printing and delivery processes that are inherent in producing a daily newspaper, USA Today, in Tom’s words, “is actually USA Yesterday.” And in an age where information is available instantaneously, yesterday is as relevant as the Eisenhower administration.

News has become, for the most part, a commodity. This means the New York Times and indeed all newspapers must answer some difficult questions. What can they offer consumers who can get their news anywhere and get it for free? Will what they offer–whether it’s the opinions of a handful of highly regarded writers, a few in-depth stories that are not available anywhere else–command substantially less value than the company’s shareholders are used to? And perhaps most importantly, will the people who produce that content realize that they no longer need a newspaper to act as a middleman between them and the consumer? 

Ordinarily, I am not in the business of offering financial advice, but if someone offers you controlling interest of the New York Times for free, you may want to consider saying no.

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The New Demand-Side Economics of Media Don’t Try to Save Your Newspaper. Try to Save News.

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February 2009

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