Newspapers get a lot of advice these days. Much of it is repetitive or derivative and contradictory. Much of it doesn’t answer a key question: How will we make money? Regardless, at some point, papers are going to need to step out and take some real chances. I didn’t take enough when I had the opportunity. I wish I had done more.
Stijn Debrouwere raises some great questions and provide answers in a post last week called Fungible that every editor and publisher should read. “Because the entire point is that journalism is not being disrupted by better journalism but by things that are hardly recognizable as journalism at all. Stepping up your game is always a good idea, but it won’t save you.”
And Debrouwere lists oportunities for newspapers to up their game.
Meanwhile, people who have been paying attention know that The Atlantic has successfully remade itself into a digital magazine. “Our history is in traditional print media,” said Smith. “What we set out to do was to disrupt ourselves in a sense. We decided that we wanted to be a digital media company participating in the high-growth markets and digital media. We went about the process of thinking through the questions, how do we disrupt our own company if we were challenging digital brands attacking us?”
I am a fan of the Atlantic Wire and read it on my reader every morning. I keep wishing a newspapers would give something like that a shot.
Mostly, though, the journalist in me likes Dave Winer’s River of News idea. “Once you have a river, do something bold and daring. Add the feeds of your favorite bloggers and share the resulting flow with your readers. Let your community compete for readership. And let them feel a stronger bond to you. Then when you learn about that, do some more. (And btw, you’re now competing, effectively with your competitors, Facebook and Twitter. Don’t kid yourselves, these guys are moving in your direction. You have to move in theirs and be independent of them. Or be crushed.)”
Fact is, ask people where they get their news and many will respond Facebook and Twitter.
But here is the opportunity for newspapers: Get Winer to work with you. “I wish I could work with the teams of the best publications. If that could happen, we’d kick ass. But I’m here on the sidelines giving advice that you guys take on very very slowly. It’s frustrating, because it’s been clear that rivers are the way to go, to me, for a very long time. A lot of ground has been lost in the publishing business while we wait. There’s a lot of running room in front of this idea. We can move quickly, if publishers have the will.”
It would be gutsy to take Dave up on his offer. Gutsy and smart.
Update: Dave’s response, via Twitter. “I am so under-utilized, it’s really a shame! :-(“