This article was published 15 years ago

Newspapers will never understand the Internet

I’ve been thinking about this column for a month and every time I try to sit myself down to write it, I get distracted and don’t write.

Hearing yesterday’s news that the Rocky Mountain News will stop publishing was the reason I finally decided to write this column.

“Today the Rocky Mountain News, long the leading voice in Denver, becomes a victim of
changing times in our industry and huge economic challenges,” said Rich Boehne, chief
executive officer of Scripps, in a statement.

As more newspapers close, the general statement will put the blame on the Internet as the main reason and less on how utterly clueless newspapers are in moving to the Internet.

The Internet is the main reason were out of business.

It had nothing to do with newspapers publishing the same stories from Associated Press that you can also read on Google News.

It had nothing to do with publishing general news and not going after niche content; like technology news or video game reviews.


It had nothing to do that newspapers were clueless about how the Internet works and how to make money off from online content.

How clueless are they?  Take an article, post it to Digg, Huffington Post or any other online aggregation site and wait for their reaction.

In December 2008, Gatehouse media sued the New York Times Company for copyright violations after a hyper- local website linked to a gatehouse newspaper article with the headline and a brief summary about the article.  GateHouse claims that because link had the headline and a brief description, viewers would not continue to read the full text of the article.

The lawsuit would be settled a month later.  One of the settlement agreements is that could no longer link to any Gatehouse media newspapers.

If content creators care more about protecting their content, then add a robot.txt file on their website that forbids Google, Yahoo and all the other search engines to index their sites.

Their change their policy once they find out how much traffic and revenue they lose from forbidding third parties to link to their site.

One argument I’ve heard for the death of newspapers is that they don’t charge for reading content online.  The New York Times did and it was a fail experiment.  The Wall Street Journal is the only newspaper that charges for access to their website, mainly because they offer business news where as the New York Times offered general interest news and opinion pieces that you can find everywhere else on the Internet.

One experiment everyone in the news business will be watching is Cablevision-owned newspaper Newsday from New York, NY; which will go from free to paid only access.  Given that the New York market has several outlets that offer their content for free, I have a bet that this experiment will not last very long.

Can newspapers make money online?  Yes, they can!

Russ Stanton, editor of the Los Angeles Times, told media critic Jeff Jarvis that the online edition of the Los Angeles Times is making money that it can sufficiently paid their newsroom from online advertising.

“Given where we were five years ago, I don’t think anyone thought that would ever happen,” (Stanton) said in email.

Keep in mind that the Los Angeles Times parent company is in chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and the newsroom is significantly less than it was several years ago.

It should be a huge accomplishment that a newspaper is able to make money in these trouble economic times.

Newspapers have made dumb mistakes.  Everyone does.  Blaming a new technology and not adopting to the changing times is one mistakes they have yet to admit.