The Web is here to stay. Newspapers need to stop feeling sorry for themselves and change their business models.
As they say in Las Vegas, if you don't like the game, don't play. Don't start complaining about the rules of a game that you started playing long ago.
I phrase it that way because dozens of whines I've read this summer from people who work at newspapers, magazines, or broadcast stations or networks stem from the editor of the "Las Vegas Review-Journal." He quotes U.S. 7th Circuit Court Judge Richard Posner's speculation that as people shift their reading habits from print to online, perhaps linking to newspaper Web sites should be banned to protect the newspaper industry's viability:
The "Review-Journal" editor whined, "Someone does need to find a way to start lynching the rustlers of intellectual property, or we will see it slowly erode and disappear."
He quoted "Cleveland Plain Dealer" columnist Connie Schultz's recent whine that "parasitic aggregators reprint or rewrite newspaper stories, making the originator redundant and drawing ad revenue away from newspapers at rates the publishers can't match. The inevitable consequence: diminished revenue and staff cuts."
I can't help but laugh and shake my head at such whining. I've spent more than 30 years in the newspaper industry, the past 15 years helping it adapt to more efficient media technologies and business models. A dozen years ago this summer, I visited the "Review-Journal," the "Plain Dealer," and dozens of other daily newspapers, as a consultant to the U.S. newspaper industry's New Century Network (NCN) online endeavor. In the days before Google News and craigslist, NCN was a consortium of almost all U.S. daily newspaper companies, either as full or associate members, and its aim was to utilize the Web fully and profitably.
So why do I laugh when many of those company's executives now whine about search engines and linking "rustling" their readership or revenues or otherwise causing their print editions to fail?
Here, then, is my professional advice to whining executives at newspapers, news magazines, and broadcast stations and networks:
You'll be stupid to do any of those three things, but at least you won't be a whiner.
If you don't want to be stupid or a whiner, stop clinging to outdated business models. Stop clamoring for protection, subsidies, or tax sheltering. Instead, study and follow how publishers and broadcasters in Europe and Asia, and even in North America, have utilized the Web quite profitably. Better yet, study how the companies you've been whining about have readily adopted the new and more efficient business models, have captured consumer markets, and are reaping handsome profits. Some of your companies still might have time to adapt.
Stop whining and act.
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As managing partner of Digital Deliverance LLC and publisher of the "Digital Deliverance" newsletter, Vin Crosbie advises news media worldwide about new media strategies and tactics. As adjunct professor of visual and interactive communications and senior consultant for executive education in new media at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, he teaches that wisdom to graduate students and media company executives. "Folio" magazine called him "the Practical Futurist." "Editor & Publisher" magazine devoted the overview chapter of its executive research report "Digital Delivery of News: A How-to Guide for Publishers" to his work. And his speech about new media to the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference was one of 24 orations (including some by President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton, and Barack Obama) selected by a team of speech professors for publication in the reference book, ">Representative American Speeches 2004-2005."
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