Regional Newspapers: Time To Burn The Boats

Posted on March 20, 2009 by Tony Uphoff

Content is king but distribution is the power behind the throne. Newspapers don't have a content problem. They have a massive and insurmountable distribution problem. Time to acknowledge this and accelerate the evolution from analog to digital. Magazines have a far longer print shelf life and will likely be the ones that really benefit from the new generation of digital readers; Kindle, iPhone, Sony, etc. It's difficult to watch once proud and powerful daily newspaper brands like The New York Times and The LA Times struggle as they cut costs in an attempt to right size their print businesses. At the same time this continued pruning is taking precious focus away from the inevitable future of regional news, which is online.

The shift from analog to digital in regional news isn't simply a platform shift. It is the moment of "Singularity" for regional news. It is now impossible to discern the difference between the content and presentation from the underlying applications and technology in online media. The fusion is the experience today, as opposed to simply being additive. As radio gave way to the power of the video narrative of television, newspapers are now giving way to the visual and interactive power of the internet.

This is not to suggest that all newspapers are dead or that print itself has no future. Radio survived and adapted as did newspapers themselves during previous technical revolutions like television. The large, scalable positions for regional news however will be digital not print. The power of web based content platforms for reaching, informing, connecting, interacting with and engaging regional communities is extraordinary. It's time for regional newspapers to go all in. Burn the boats on the shore. You are now in the online media business.

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