Saturday, March 7, 2009

More on newspapers' self-inflicted wounds

The comments from blogger, newspaper editor Gina Chen on my post about the demise of newspaper are worth repeating. Her insights come from being in the trenches, in the newsroom:

"My take: I’m not so sure newspaper execs saw the Web coming, though they should have. And I’m utterly convinced they didn’t try everything they could. Why? Because they are still not trying everything they could.

I think newspapers were a bit like teenagers. They saw themselves as invincible. That big bad Web can’t hurt me. So with blinders on they kept doing the same ol’, same ol’ even as circulation continued to drop.

Sure, they tried small tweaks.

I remember when putting a graphic with your story was going to save journalism, and all the reporters complained just like they do now about social media or blogging. And then it was writing stories with bullets like a big list. Or using a narrative voice. Or skipping the story completely, and just running a graphic.

But there was no dramatic shift in thinking.

When the Web seemed a force to be reckoned with, newspapers threw up Web sites that looked just like the newspapers — but online. At first some charged for content, but most abandoned that.

But they didn’t study the Web or understand its power of interaction. They didn’t invent ways to reach readers online or figure out how readers were using the Web. They didn’t charge their smartest employees with coming up with ways to make money on the Internet. They shrugged it off because though circulation declines had been going on for years, they were still making money the old-fashioned way, in print."

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