The Power of Information

February 28, 2012

I recently got to visit the Wichita Eagle and talk to editors Sherry Chisenhall and John Boogert. This year the Eagle turns 140 years old. Seeing the Editors meet and talk about what is going to into the next day paper got me thinking about the state of the newspaper industry.

Editor Meeting at the Wichita Eagle

 I believe that the newspaper industry is in the middle of an identity crisis combined with a midlife crisis all at once. The part of the problem side readership is the allocation of advertising dollars and the other part [bigger part] being the digital revolution.

The Money

Advertising dollars has been the bulk of any newspapers revenue. Ezra Kline wrote in an article for the Washington Post titled: Ezra Klein: Human knowledge, brought to you by . . .. In the article Kline says: most information is simply a vehicle for advertising. Without the advertising, the information wouldn’t exist.”

 Money does make a business and with money coming in a business would be around. In the past, it was easy for newspaper to generate money as we [customers] would simple to the news stand pay $0.50 and get the paper. For advertisers, they would pay per column inch of space to showcase their product or service. With newspapers going digital, it’s not quite the same.

The Digital Revolution

Alan Mutter wrote in his blog Daily paper going the way of the milkman that:

“The good news, given the increasing shift of consumers to digital media consumption, is that de-emphasizing print necessarily forces publishers to focus on their web, mobile and social efforts.”

 The Eagle, like other newspaper nationwide, is in the process of transforming and redefining their format for the digital age. Wichita Eagle Editor Chisenhall explained that everything digital can be immediately measured. 95% of her focus is in digital presentation and trying in increase viewership to Kansas.com. Kansas.com does track stories that do well, how people are visiting their site, what time the visit. Through this data collection from their website traffic, the Eagle now generates 25% of their revenue from the website.

The Competition & the Future

Deputy Editor/ Interactive Boogert explained that for the Eagle their competition for news is not just the newspaper down the street, it now includes the world.

Technology is changing and has created an environment where information is demanded right now. So much information now flows through social network. More often, that is the first notification for most people.

 Mutter also said While publishers know this is risky business, the smart ones know there is no Plan B.”  I believe there is plan B for newspapers.  Newspapers will be able to charge more for the paper they print. They will have a more exclusive audience and I know I will be one of their consumers as I age. My daughter, on the other hand, may not appreciate paper unless I show her the value.

 That is the gamble with a younger generation and as they are the future.

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