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Dead Trees

Is there anything less efficient than a newspaper?

It still amazes me that the powers that be in the newspaper industry still haven’t gotten with the program. I understand the music labels had to be dragged into the digital download revolution kicking and screaming, but don’t you think the newspaper people would have learned by now?

I guess what amazes me the most is that they still perceive the newspaper as their product.

We all understand that content is their product. The newspaper is simply the vehicle they use to get their product to us.

Follow the logic…

I wrote a news article and I want to get to you.

I can either…

(A.) Take dead trees, process them into paper, ship that paper to my expansive printing plants, run that paper through my monolithic printing presses, pack those papers into gas guzzling trucks and have those trucks deliver to you what has now become yesterday’s news.

(B.) Cut and paste my article into my content publishing system, hit upload.

Yes, I know, there is still something very charming about the image of the town paperboy riding through your neighborhood and flinging the morning news onto your doorstep. For those folks, we might still print a few copies. Other than those romantics, is there any compelling evidence that newspapers shouldn’t shift to a primarily online based subscriber base? The Wall Street Journal (one of the few papers that is actually doing well) made the decision many years ago to maintain a broad and impressive online version of their newspaper. In a bold move, they were also one of the first institutions to charge a premium for their online content.

There are lots of theories on how to monetize the papers once they’re online. I’ve heard suggestions of micropayments per article, subscription-based or free with advertising support. All good ideas that would need to be fleshed out and experimented with.

The bottom line is that newspapers across the country are suffering and many are on the brink of shutting down the presses. Maybe that will be just the impetus they need to follow the example of WSJ.com and get in gear.