How About a Web 2.0 Newspaper

October 14, 2006

Every once in a while I see an article like this, moaning about how stodgy the old media newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times are. Many print reporters are supposedly considering leaving the papers they write for and blogging. Meanwhile, readership is falling and advertising is leaking away to the internet via Craigslist. Dave Winer of Scripting News cynically wonders what is worth saving at the “old media” companies.

Meanwhile, there are tons of social bookmarking sites out there that basically link to content, a lot of it located on these old media websites. Yet it’s painfully obvious what the New York Times has that these sites don’t: reporters and writers. Bloggers can’t completely fill this gap for the social bookmarking sites as most don’t have the resources to do in-depth investigative reporting (I’ll be the first to admit that). A second detail to note is that a lot of these websites are supported primarily by advertising. Remember that the same is true with many newspapers.

So one possible answer is right in front of all these old papers, which is basically what Dave Winer suggests. Let’s see a traditional newspaper just bite the bullet and turn their website into a full-fledged social one.

Give every reporter a blog, pay them the same salary, and open each article up to comments. Have users rate each article. If you really want to still have a print edition, only print the articles that are highest ranked. Let users help determine what stories to cover. Lastly, slap advertising all over everything.

It seems like the revolution in newspapers is obviously pointing in this direction. Is there something I’m missing here?

Comments

  1. Digidave says:

    Actually, I think you are spot on. The moaning article that I wrote was about pricesly that. Newspapers aren’t innovative and they should be. They have unmatched content: no matter how good a blogger is, they can’t compete with a profesional reporter that dedicates their life, day in-and-out, to writing a complete story.

    The only reason newspapers are down and out is because they lack innovation.

    I wonder who will have the guys to “bite the bullet” first.

  2. webomatica says:

    Thanks. I will give many newspapers credit in that I see more blogs and feeds and comments on their websites, however I have yet to see one that goes that extra mile to make things really open on the web.

  3. slashpix says:

    Yup, I agree with all web 2.0 popularity and the need of establishment of new media and newspapers. Which would be submitted and rated by users, therefore only popular news would be on a the main page. There is a News 2 website (www.news2.ca), which has almost all concepts that were mentioned previously.

  4. webomatica says:

    Slashpix, I’ll have to check that site out. Thanks for commenting.

  5. One newspaper – Chile’s Las Ultimas Noticias – has tried this for a number of years now. It runs stories on its website and the ones that prove most popular online are prioritised in the next day’s print edition.

    What, possibly, is missing from this model is that in embracing a web2.0 approach the tone of the newspaper has deteriorated massively, from a relatively serious news publication to a celebrity tabloid. Now, one might argue that if that’s what people want that’s what they should get. Fair enough, but it’s not necessarily what the advertisers want. One of the distinctive benefits of a newspaper is that it can offer advertisers serious content against which to promote their brands, quite distinctively from e.g. MySpace etc. This is one of the reasons, I would argue, newspapers continue to enjoy a share of the ad market disproportionate to their reach and it would not be a trivial decision to give that USP up so as to encourage a more user-edited approach.

  6. Webomatica says:

    Seamus, that actually is a good point and not something I had thought about… how opeining things up to be more user-driven could very well sink the content to the lowest common denominator.

    I should check out Las Ultimas Noticias and write a future post about it.

  7. Thanks. I’ve got a summary of what happens when you turn the choice of content over to readers at http://qurl.com/wsk51 and there’s another at the American Journalism Review here http://qurl.com/hdlp8. Nick Carr occasionally touches on this issue too with particular reference to Wikipedia, see e.g. http://qurl.com/nppmw. Generally, the conclusion I tend to is that the lowest common denominator is awfully low…

  8. Sean Kinn says:

    All the newspaper industry has to do to save itself is to re-train staff. If individual freelance bloggers are pulling in $15K a month in AdSense advertisements, what would that do for a re-configured newspaper industry? Newspapers already have text gurus in place; it’s just a matter of instructing the writers and reporters on correct Web 2.0 Article Submission techniques, Web 2.0 Comments, SEO — in general, on how to treat their paper like a Web 2.0 Blog — to leverage the position they already have within their local communities. Heck, one person could start a Web 2.0 Newspaper in a town like Chicago and put the remaining mainstream online and paper newspapers out of business. SK