Monday, March 31, 2008

Internet Newspapers

As Green is the new buzzword and digital is replacing print, it is not unusual to hear news that newspaper print advertising continues to decline. From Bloomberg, "U.S. newspapers suffered their worst drop in print advertising sales since industry record- keeping began 57 years ago, hammered by the housing-market slump and competition from the Internet." But the death of print, seems to be not the end of newspapers, but simply the end of one delivery method for another.

The web continues to bring us the news at a much faster rate. And aggregate sites, like the Huffington Post, provides us a blend of fact and opinion from recognizable names. Web versions of print, like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are still considered to offer expert news sources, unmatched by others. But like email vs snail mail, we want our news delivered lightning fast and not simply once a day.

The newspaper industry has gone through this type of change before. Years ago, the afternoon edition was considered the ultimate way to stay informed of the activities from earlier in the day. Readership changed as the morning edition provided similar information through faster printing mechanisms, so that late news was included in early editions. The afternoon paper has gone away.

And so, the combination of factors: technology, green environmental issues, lifestyle changes, and others may lead to the death of the print edition. And while smaller batches may be printed, more and more people will purchase digital subscriptions or agree to see ads in exchange for downloading the news. Which sites become more popular to view or subscribe will ultimately depend on marketing activity: demonstrating brand value, building author/writer expertise, and viral buzz.

And what will the device be to view these sites from. Well... mobility and size rank up there; download speed is key and security/privacy of the subscription matters. Will Kindle or iPhone or Blackberry or laptop or someother technological innovation be it? The landscape keeps changing. But if I were print newspaper, I'd be looking ahead toward this transition and start to offer a digital stream. And if I am a bookseller, I'd get on this quickly too. Borders is up for sale, Barnes & Noble is looking over their shoulder, and Amazon is already there.