How newspapers can survive the Web

May 26th, 2007

It’s all about the pipes. WSJ’s Andy Kessler has a good op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the newspaper problem — as in how they can survive the Web. His piece, A future for newspapers is behind the WSJ firewall but is also available on his blog.

“New technology is mucking up the media, and newspapers seem to be taking the brunt of it. Craigslist and eBay took away classified ad sales, direct advertisers are allocating budgets to search engines and circulation is receding faster than Bruce Willis’s hairline. Investors seem to prefer the safety of television broadcasters and cable companies, with their nice, government-mandated franchises and pipes that reach directly into homes. Media, after all, is about owning a pipe — some conduit between the creation of news or entertainment and the eyeballs that consume it.”

Kessler believes that print media, newspapers, magazines, books, will persist because people will still want to have ink on paper.

“Unlike music which can be copied once and stolen a million times, newspapers live in the material world. Thankfully, as an author, it’s the same for books. Even a 30-inch screen can’t match the readability of what cheaply spits out of a printing press. I really believe that the copy protection mechanism for newspapers is their consumer interface, in the form of ink spurted on newsprint.”

and that technology will increasingly subvert the pipes for controlling video and television.

“BitTorrent and eDonkey are the top P2P networks and half the usage is for TV shows. P2P hogs something like 35% or more of all Internet traffic. Thirty-five percent!”

He also sketches an approach he recommends for newspapers.

“In the meantime, rather than just charge for content, I’d be licensing every type of newfangled software and Web service until I could come up with a tight community of interest around my newspaper, local or national. Don’t just start the discussion, keep it. This means comments, reviews, personalized newsfeeds, social networks of like-minded readers, whatever.”