Newspapers and journalism should look back at browsers and music sharing

This is a follow up to Friday’s post and addresses the use of the Internet by newspapers and provides some opinions as to why that usage has not been financially successful.

Currently newspapers are using a “see what sticks” approach to social media and the Internet in general. Friday’s post on Twitter was just one example.

A recent article quoted Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google:

Schmidt commended newspapers for staking claim on the Internet in the 1990s but said there wasn’t a second act. He says news Web sites take too long to read, even slower than flipping through a newspaper or magazine, a shortcoming that can be addressed by improving technology.

Consider now the constantly changing format and out of date stories on the websites of Tampa Bay’s dailies and you can see how some basic problems make the above statement true.

St Petersburg Times

A screen shot of the Time’s Opinion section on Monday highlight a column by Tim Nickens, Editor of Editorials titled “Clinton supporters still hanging back” which upon review is from August 27, 2008.

Tampa Tribune

A screen shot of the Trib’s homepage on the same day shows a column by Steve Otto titled “All The News Fit To Twist” which upon review was published March 15, 2009. Otto has since then written 12 columns according to his profile page.

These two columns are over six months and one month out of date respectively and yet appear alongside current editorial and news, and in the case of the Tribune, on the website home page.

Another article covering Schmidt’s address to the Newspaper Association of America’s (NAA) annual conference in San Diego further gives more insight for the industry’s need to reevaluate how they operate online.

“I would encourage everybody to think in terms of what your reader wants,” Mr Schmidt told newspaper bosses.

“These are ultimately consumer businesses and if you [annoy] enough of them, you will not have any more,” he warned the Newspaper Association of America’s (NAA) annual conference in San Diego.

Currently the industry is focused on trying to save the newspaper instead of focusing on bringing a renaissance in journalism. Two examples in the evolution of the Internet come to mind when evaluating the newspaper industries approach to the dilemma.

Browser Wars

In the late nineties Microsoft was under fire from the Department of Justice for antitrust violations stemming from the integration of Internet Explorer into Windows 95. One of the largest catalysts of this was the declining use of Netscape Navigator which was losing market share and blaming the IE integration.

I commented online at the time (I can no longer find the posting however) that it was not the IE integration but lack of improvement on the part of Netscape that was the true culprit in the browser’s demise. Netscape had become comfortable and complacent.

Microsoft rightfully prevailed… became complacent (in my opinion) and while Netscape died, new browsers like Firefox and Google’s Chrome have become viable threats to IE’s domination.

Music Sharing

The next big shift was in online music that erupted with software like Napster allowing music to be shared freely across the Internet. The industry focused on intellectual property rights instead of innovation allowing Apple to release iTunes which now dominates the online music purchasing market.

The music industry is still chasing pirated music users to recoup lost revenue instead of reaping the rewards of innovation that Apple secured.

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