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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Media News Group's I-News

As revenues slide, staffs dwindle, and traditional business models erode, the Media News Group is announcing a service that is calls “individuated news.” The news service, dubbed “I-News,” involves choosing the type of content you want to read and installing a bulky piece of hardware in your living room to print the news. I-News is a desperate solution to the news publishing industry’s wretched state. You have to give the Media News Group some credit for trying, but not much. The advent of RSS feeds and products like Netvibes and Google Reader make I-News completely irrelevant. In fact, if you’re determined to have your customized news actually look like a paper, that product already exists--it’s called Tabbloid and is from HP Labs.I am loath to offer such criticism without proposing a solution. The Media News Group is reacting to the current state of their business as if it were a cyclical downturn. While problems facing the print media industry have intensified during the current economic contraction, issues facing the Media News Group and the entire industry are part of a new reality and different set of assumptions under which they must operate. Rather than providing a service like I-News, the Media News Group would better position itself by moving entirely online and providing a hyper-local view of the news. By focusing on a specific industry, issue, or theme and having content written by participants with unique or expert perspectives, local papers could get an edge over national publishers and bloggers alike. This shift is something the San Jose Mercury News, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, was uniquely positioned to do, yet the paper ignored the opportunity and continued to print general business news syndicated from major papers.

2 comments:

GMoney said...

I don't believe a shift in coverage would relieve the industry's woes. The challenge facing the news industry is not content or readership; it is revenue.

In the days of old, newspapers received a substantial portion of their revenue from classified ads. With the rise of sites like Craigslist and eBay, classified ads (rightfully) went the way of the Dodo. People no longer pay for classified ads in print or online.
Moving the news online does not increase ad revenue or reduce costs in proportion to lost ad revenue from classifieds.

Furthermore, to argue that newspapers need to focus on local content in order to save themselves miss the point entirely. Content and readership is not the issue--more people consume news (online and in print) than ever before. The challenge is to figure out a business model that capitalizes on the ever-increasing pool of news consumers in our digital age without the support of classified ads.

Respectfully,
Mr. Gawley

Will Hambly said...

@Mr. Gawley: Thanks for your comment. I haven't suggested that moving online is a panacea. It is a necessary but certainly not sufficient step toward viability.

Local content isn't the answer for newspapers in general, but for Media News Group, which runs over 50 local dailies, local news is their competency and primary market. Blogs that focus on a niche (like TechCrunch) are profitable operations and growing. Large national papers will be around for the foreseeable future but local papers' viability is less certain--and I'm offering a suggestion for them to improve.