The Valley’s view of newspapers

Nicholas Carson at ValleyWag posted an interesting historical view of the decline of newspapers in the digital age (5 ways the newspapers botched the web). It’s worth reading for two reasons: one, it offers a compelling view of mistakes the industry has made over the last couple of decades:

Here’s our theory: Daily deadlines did in the newspaper industry. The pressure of getting to press, the long-practiced art of doom-and-gloom headline writing, the flinchiness of easily spooked editors all made it impossible for ink-stained wretches to look (no) farther into the future than the next edition.

And, two, the comments are filled with interesting perspectives:

Thanks to the merging of major dailies throughout the 70s and 80s, most cities ended up with newspapers that were monopolies. Without any kind of competition, these old-school newspaper veterans just applied their monopolisitic approaches to their web sites and just expected everyone to use them and all the advertisers to pay for them… no questions asked.

Several of the commenters here nailed what I think is the most overlooked reason newspapers have had difficulty with the Web, and that is that their web efforts have been run by newspaper people, not web people. That may seem silly, but it’s really not.

I’m an old TV guy, but it is not my understanding of TV (or the wants and needs of mass marketing) that drives my view of the Web. It’s the years I spent running a web company upon retiring from TV news, which is why my views seem “different” or “out of step” with traditional media thinking. Those who influence my thinking do not come from a media background, but are pioneers in “web think” and the running of web businesses. This puts me in almost constant conflict with the world I’m actually trying to serve and help and fuels the rolling of eyes I often witness in conference rooms or sense over the phone.

There are a great many really competent newspaper web people who are not driven by the needs and traditions of the industry, but they are often subject to people higher on the food chain who are so driven. This is the greatest challenge the industry faces, and I’m reminded of that great quote from Lisa Williams that “journalism will survive the death of its institutions.”

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