The digital age in daily newspapers is dawning and they don't appear to get it yet. It reminds me of the music industry prior to iTunes and in the middle of the Napster era. I'm astonished at their ignorance or self-inflicted blindness maybe. About three years ago I spoke in Prague about how the newspaper industry should look to developing niche-audiences to package digital content and deliver it to them efficiently. The audience were editors from around the world. Sadly the message was received politely but from my perspective with not much enthusiasm. From my research at the time there was a paper in the Chicago area who were using bloggers to generate custom content for each of the city's districts. They got it.
I attended a local business event recently where Paul Godfrey, the CEO of Postmedia spoke on the newspaper industry. The evening was upbeat and positive. Mr. Godfrey on the other hand took to the podium and unleashed his distain for the audience. He actually stood there and lectured the audience for their lack of advertising support of the Windsor Star. How he favoured the $1. earned from newsprint to the 10¢ earned from digital. From my table and others around me, we took his comments as bitter and resentful. Frankly we thought he missed the boat. The cost of the $1 (newsprint, ink, printing plant, distribution etc.) seemed less impressive to the cost of digital. What ever the financial model the message was clear, their brands were suffering and they intended on blaming the user and charge them more for their precious content, in the form of paywalls. (Charging for the amount of content read).
What the newspaper don't seem to understand is that to get the news today we don't need them. We have independent bloggers and world wide access to news. Personally, I just recently cancelled my newsprint subscription in favour of the digital version. I cut my cost in half. The sadness is that the experience is exactly the newsprint version. No extras. National geographic gets digital in their experience - the stories, extended stories, video, interactive, audio and more. The cost is vastly less than the print version as well. They get it.
In my opinion, newspapers have to up their game. Lose the arrogance and start being relevant. i.e.: Our local paper (The Windsor Star) is opening a social cafe in their lobby. The news release said the reporters would be mingling with the general public lounging at the cafe for a latté. A reporter (who shall go un-named) remarked, "I don't want to meet the f**king public!" That my friends is how they see us, and from the remarks of their CEO at the BEA, the attitude starts at the top.
As brands, none of us can have contempt for those who pay our wages. The problem is always within. Mr. Godfrey would be wise to read "Long Tail" by Wired magazine's Chris Anderson. It would be a good start.