A few days ago I posted this on Twitter: “Problem with the newspaper biz is they have word PAPER in name. Change that & perception changes to the NEWS biz.” In a 21st Century example of putting the cart before the horse, that abbreviated Twitter post got so much response (ReTweets in Twitter parlance) that I thought I should expand on the idea on my blog.
I don’t know whether the point is profoundly simple or simply profound but as I watch all the hand-wringing over the fate of the newspaper industry, it occurs to me that the problem is not that people don’t want to buy what newspapers offer — news — but that the distribution model — paper — is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
I like reading my paper newspaper as much as the next guy but am I really reading it for the tactile experience or for the information? More important, am I willing to pay extra for the privilege of finding the paper on my doorstep when I wake up in the morning?
Think about it — as citizen journalism becomes more and more ubiquitous, where will consumers go for news they can trust? If you add up the names of trusted sources in this country (major newspapers, news magazines, TV news, NPR) you’ll be hard-pressed to count more than 40 or 50 virtually unimpeachable sources of information. Are these companies trusted because of their distribution models (newsprint, radio waves, etc.) or because of the quality of the information they provide?
It makes sense then that the future for the newspaper industry is in providing news and information regardless of the way it’s consumed. By delivering newspapers only to those willing to pay extra for the privilege, and building revenue models to post data on blogs, websites, iPhones, Kindles and whatever comes along tomorrow for the rest of the world, news organizations will be able to deliver what their customers most want — real information they can count on.
News – yes. Paper – not so much.