About Me

  • I'm CEO of Newspeg.com, a social news-sharing platform. I've spent 20 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies. You can read more about me here.

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« Boston Massacre? | Main | Newspapers Check Out at Marriott »

April 13, 2009


Tim Windsor


I think the key word in your post above is "prehistoric." The reason why newspapers are having such a rough time of transitioning to the internet is that, for many, many years newspapers *were* our internet and now that the real thing has arrived they're barely living fossils.

But not so long ago, newspapers were daily, printed databases of news, entertainment and commerce, cheap and ubiquitous. And, for the time, they were updated at neck-snapping speed: daily!

Now, the device that used to occupy the same space as the internet is trying to live as a channel or destination *on* the internet and finding the fit more than a little awkward. As you note, newspaper web sites are disappointing -- I'd argue not because of the quality of their content but because their scope is anachronistic; they're an old-school mass-medium trying to thrive inside an enormous and vast new mass medium, and they're getting lost.

Dan Woog

Excellent points, clearly and cogently stated. The one advantage newspapers still retain is that ability to leaf through and find an interesting article -- totally unrelated to what you're reading -- that you glance at, then read all the way through.

With the iPhone -- which I love -- you'll see related stories, but not random ones.

Can the iPhone ever replace the ability to find random stories, as you can while paging through an actual paper? Never say never.

Mark Potts

Dan: Thanks for the comment. The oft-suggested notion that only print provides random stories, as you describe, actually mystifies me. I get the same sort of serendipity online all the time--through RSS feeds, Twitter, following links, etc. There are iPhone apps that easily replicate all of that. Indeed, I think I see a much more varied diet of stories online than I ever saw in print, where the choices were proscribed by editors' tastes and limited space.

Billy Simkins

Creating something cool and making money are two seperate things.

AP's iphone application is done really well and might be part of a subsciber package, but by itself the big question still arises... how do you make money at it? If you think getting ads on the web is tough, try selling one for an iphone. At this point trying to get anything other than a one time application fee on mobile device is tough.

Here's another example. If you haven't seen the website indigomedia.com you really should check it out. It's a new Mexico publication that bridges the gap between print and media and very well could be the future on how publications are presented online if it ever hits the states. It probably has more online banner ads through the site than any website I've seen. With all these banners I still wonder how much this publication really makes at the end of the day unless it has a staff of 4 or 5 which it very well could be.

So I guess that's really the catch. For businesses it can't be something that's simply neat, it has to be something that makes $$. At this point the iphone makes $$ for Apple and the applications people are making are neat.


Mark Potts

Billy: Thanks for the comment. I write frequently about monetizing online news products. It's certainly a significant issue, though it wasn't the point of this post. I just wanted to call attention to the competition newspapers are getting from iPhones.

Obviously, iPhone apps can be ad-supported, too. And I'm not aware of a newspaper (or AP's fairly lame Mobile News app) that's tried a paid-download model for apps. I suspect that's doable, too. We need to see that sort of experimentation before throwing up our hands and declaring that money can't be made online.

Indigomedia.com looks very interesting as an effort to get beyond basic banner ads into a richer, more immersive advertising experience. Few, if any, American media companies or advertisers have tried this, which is unfortunate. This is exactly the kind of innovation that's needed to move beyond simple (and largely ineffective and low-paying) banner ads.


We ran a very cheesy ad campaign for our banner display ad customers on MyFootballWriter, but it still holds ever more true...

'It's not in my nine-year-old son's genes with a 'g' to read a [local] newspaper... what's in his jeans with a 'j' is a mobile phone...'

Perhaps, that should read: 'jeans with a 'j' is an iPhone...' but the point remains; that maybe the future of local news is as an iPhone app; after all that's exactly what Mr Nine-Inch Nails is thinking...


All the best, etc

Jim Saunders

The words "newspaper sites are essentially prehistoric as well" was an interesting point which got me thinking: Despite the resources being invested by newspapers in their sites, are they going to arrive only to find out that the boat already sailed on to something else.

I'm trying to liken it to the whole DVD format war between Sony's Blu-ray and Toshiba's HD. Blu-ray may have won that battle, but has now found itself fighting something that could make its actual physical media extinct: mainly the increasing popularity of online streaming from places like Netflix. Will consumers simply step over Blu-ray technology in favour of this?

Will this be the same for newspaper websites against hand held devices and their application stores? Will the consumer step over the newspaper website in favour of their own self assembled service completely customized and tailored to their individual needs, which can then, "exceed by a mile with timeliness, search, interactivity, and more."

Bob Cobb

One thing that can really help out the Newspaper Industry is custom iPhone apps. With the upcoming iPhone 3.0 upgrade, newspapers and magazines will be able to sell subscriptions, charge for premium content, and sell extra advertising all within the iPhone application. The Toy Lounge based in St. Paul Minnesota - http://TheToyLounge.com - creates custom iPhone apps for newspapers and other publications. If the newspaper or magazine already has RSS feeds it makes the app much easier to develop. Unlike with eBooks, no special reader is needed for a custom newspaper iPhone application.

Account Deleted

Well I guess that most news providers should appreciate the need to modernize their medium. Mobile news is now the most efficient source of on-the-go news. I guess that the traditional news providers should really embrace the new technology.

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