About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 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 and startups. You can read more about me here.

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July 18, 2007



While I admire your vision, I find a number of these suggestions counter-intuitive and even dangerous--I think the simple fact is that the paper is a dying medium, period, and that nothing is going to save most regionals as their consumers discover that they can get more relevant and interesting local and national news elsewhere.

In other words, no institution as hidebound as a newspaper can possibly have the agility of the nascent startups that are going to replace them. Believe me, I speak from experience--the barriers to changing the internal cultures of print organizations are so high that it's often better to start from zero than to try to re-structure already-existing organizations that are wrapped around such fundamentally anti-web business models.

The best thing most papers can do right now is to take whatever spare capital they have and start buying up whatever web-based media are already covering what is ostensibly their beat... regional blogs and message boards that might not look like much now are a real bargain compared to how important they will be some day.

Anyway keep it up, love the blog!


My report on the 2007 NAA Mid-Year Media Review shows how grim the outlook is for this gigantic industry. I heard no ingenious ideas, and it was all pretty much cut costs, make a better website blah blah blah. Bottom line is, no one has time to read a broadsheet. People would rather just come across news articles while shopping online, reading email, social networking, blogging, or searching the nebulous ether of the internet.

The few companies which are growing circulation are the NY Post, Daily News, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal. These are niche papers which fill a very specific need. Papers with no niche, no need fulfillment will be lost to the internet.


Mark: You're right on the money with your observations and your prescriptions. I just fear it's too late. Perhaps five years ago the moves you're suggesting would have saved some dailies, but now the wheels are coming off and it's too late to do anything but sell out or prepare for the worst.

For newspapers to compete with the emerging online business models, they must cut their costs by a minimum of 80%. Almost none can or will do that. We've seen this scenario play out in technology time and again. Businesses that are victims of structural shifts in their markets first deny the problem, then try half-heartedly to adapt to the new reality, then trim fat at the edges for a while and ultimately collapse with stunning speed. There's nothing newspapers can do to prevent the inevitable.

Excellent commentary. Thanks.


Great post, though I feel there is more to it than the suggestions you make. We must not allow creativity to be stifled by the fear of failure.

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