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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« He Said What? | Main | Alt.AP »

November 30, 2008


Marc Matteo


I've said over and over that newspapers "aren't even trying" online and clearly they aren't.

I wonder what will happen when faced with a far bleaker revenue picture than ever before newspapers, under the "print is 80% of our revenue" excuse, decide to cut the meager online resources they have now (in fact I've already seen this happen).

How long will newspapers survive when, in addition to their other problems, they lay themselves open to attack from other non-print-burdened news operations that won't have such an anemic approach to the web?

Sam Shepherd

It's funny you should say this today - it feels supremely relevant to why my working day has been so rubbish.
I was hired to be what has been unfortunately termed 'web champion. I spend a large part of my day do all these things - rewriting already uploadied headlines and first pars for better SEO and more interesting RSS (a bit 'after the horse had bolted' but still.) I'm sending news out via Twitter, I try and be part of as many local online communities as possible so when I have links to post them it doesn't seem like spam. I've started a related-but-not ents blog because our blog software doesn't allow trackbacks and so we can pull together all local ents content in one place, from which all providers will benefit. I'm also the only person from the newsroom involved in our burgeoning FLickr community, the only person who regularly reads and responds to story and forum comments... all this sounds like a 'poor me' rant but my point is that while it's just me doing all these things, we've got no chance.
We still have a system set up for a four-edition daily when really we're a single edition, much smaller, paper. The web is ghettoised by almost everyone as being something I and my two colleagues handle and changing this perception is proving extremely tricky...
Add that to the restrictions placed on us by our group - no embedding (so all my google maps or slideshows or timelines are technically illegal) a riduculously small display screen and a homogenous front page and some days it feels like a losing battle.
It's very frustrating, like swimming against a tide of treacle - and especially when I know there's so much that COULD be done.

Sam Shepherd

Sorry, that's a very poorly written comment! Hope you take my point though...

Dean Miller

Well, kids, there is the small matter of a thing called revenue...As bad as things are in the printing-on-dead-trees business, that's still where newspapers get the vast majority of their dollars.
The whole point of online publishing is cheapness, not quality. The reason you still have newspaper box-painting departments is because people we call customers place something we call money in those boxes. Online readers will not pay for content and are in fact offended by the notion. Advertisers like online advertising because it's cheaper.
So, when someone creates a revenue stream that supports something more than a handful of paid-by-the-piece offshore reporters trying to figure out why Pasadena residents care about an agriculatural event called the Rose Bowl Parade (see Maureen Dowd's column), then the folks who lead newsrooms will get religion.
We see the potential in online tools, but the business models are destructive of the good things newspapers have done.

Mark Potts

Thanks for the condescension, Dean. How are things working out for you in your ivory tower of print? Perhaps you should learn a bit more about what it takes to run an online operation. Then you'd understand that several of the roles I describe are designed expressly to increase audience and revenue, which are vital to the inevitable transition from print to online. Until newspapers start getting serious about those things, online revenue growth is going to lag–while print revenue continues to decline precipitously.

Tom Altman

Couldn't agree more with:
"Until newspapers put a laser focus on growing and improving their Web business"

I think this really starts in the sales department. I believe the newsroom wants to change - but are afraid...but the sales department is petrified, they are scared to tell the client that they may need to look at the web.

Paul Balcerak

Newspapers need to take the ol' Yoda route — do, or do not — because going at the Web halfway is going to show in the product (or should I say "does show") more than they think.

Great post.

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