Advice to Newspapers – a synopsis

Like a lot of digital-focused media, PaidContent.org loves to pick on newspapers. I think pointing out their problems makes them feel even cooler and more superior than they already do. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have some good ideas.

In today’s edition of PaidContent.org they offered a synopsis –

Full story here

From Cuban To Schmidt: Advice The Digital Elite Has Offered Newspapers

Over the last couple of years, as the newspaper business has
become ever more desperate, a slew of high-profile media figures have
volunteered suggestions on a new way forward, recommending that
newspapers do everything from turn themselves into “baby” Amazon.coms to
speak more “truth to power.”

The latest example came this week from Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings, in an interview (via Ken Doctor).
We decided to sift through advice from six of them—Hastings, Eric
Schmidt, Craig Newmark, Mark Cuban, Vint Cerf and Ted Turner (Turner
isn’t known for his digital work, but he’s clearly got business-reinvention cred). Read on.

Reed Hastings

Advice: Hastings suggests that entities like
newspapers deploy most of their resources toward their future business
model rather than their current one. “We knew that the DVD business was
temporary when we founded the company. That’s why we named it Netflix
and not DVD by mail. We wanted to become Netflix,” he said this week.
Hastings also said that shifts like these might take longer than
expected—but will happen.

Our translation: Hastings would likely approve of USA Today, which is in the process of restructuring its newsroom to focus on producing mobile-friendly content. But as long as USA Today is still printing a paper, perhaps it should be calling it USA Today Mobile?

Eric Schmidt

Advice: Google (NSDQ: GOOG) CEO Schmidt has delivered two addresses to the American Society of News Editors. During his most recent talk,
he went on at length about how, while news still matters, the industry
faces a “business model problem.” His solution: Newspapers will still
make money from advertising and subscriptions, but in the future the
revenue will come from mobile. “When I say internet first, I mean mobile
first,” he said. “That’s where the action is. That’s where the growth
is. It’s a completely unwashed landscape.”

Our translation: Sign up for Google products!
Schmidt talked about the potential for more targeted mobile display ads,
as well as new subscription models, both of which Google is, completely
coincidentally, working on.

Craig Newmark

Advice: Newmark, who founded Craigslist, has said
that the failure of newspapers to concentrate on their websites is
“just part” of the problem: “The part that concerns me most is the
occasional failure to speak truth to power. Sometimes papers are good at
that, sometimes not,” he said in an interview three years ago.

More recently, Newmark said
that there will be a role for print newspapers “indefinitely,” although
he also said that print would become a “luxury medium” and “paper is
going to be increasingly used less and less.”

Our translation: Look forward to a newsstand of Daily Worker-style papers in 10 years—but they will cost you $50 each.

Mark Cuban

Advice: Cuban, a co-founder of Broadcast.com, has
said that newspapers need to collect users’ credit-card information to
become the “baby Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) of (their) local area.” From a blog post of his:
“Whatever it takes to convert your daily home delivery subscribers to
credit or debit card. DO IT … People are used to looking at the paper
for advertising. They are used to scouring the paper for deals. The only
thing they aren’t used to is actually buying things through the paper.”

Our translation: No need for one. Cuban has plenty
of ideas for how newspapers can turn themselves into multi-medium
delivery companies: “Upload a family picture and 500 words, and we will
put it front and center on the front page of the Morning News
along with the headline you pick and deliver it to your door for $25.
Want a copy for grandma, $10 per extra copy. We have negotiated for a
special price on the Disney (NYSE: DIS)
DVD release of The Jonas Brothers DVD. Have it on your doorstep at 5
a.m. the morning it’s released, for the low, low price of $17.95.”

Vint Cerf

Advice: Cerf, who is frequently credited with developing the internet and is now an evangelist at Google, has said
that news organizations might want to copy iTunes in charging for
individual pieces of content. He’s also said that “branding” is
essential at a time when there are so many sources of news.

“People’s trust in journalism has always been about branding, it’s still fundamental to compete,” he said at a conference in April 2009.

Our translation: News organizations need to set up micropayment systems (maybe they can use the rumored Google Newspass?) And, those newspaper flags need to get bigger.

Ted Turner

Advice: Turner has been gloomy on the future of print newspapers for decades.
“You’re chopping all these trees down and making paper out of them and
trying to deal with all the waste paper. It’s the biggest solid-waste
problem that we have,” he said in 2009. Flash back to 2006: “When I die, newspapers are going to die.” And in 1981? He said papers would not last another 10 years.

Our translation: Well, he’s not going to win the
Nostradamus Award. But it’s safe to say that Turner would like
newspapers to shut down their printing presses.

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