No time to relax after you switched to tabloid
You have successfully transformed your newspaper into tabloid format. Readers are happy, circulation is steady if not actually rising and advertisers are no more grumpy than usual. Printing stinks, but then it always did. What now? Can you pour yourself a drink and relax? Hardly. Now the really interesting things start appearing on the horizon. And they are heading your way.
> Classified ‘turbulence’: How much of your revenue comes from classified advertising? For Dagens Nyheter in Stockholm it was a rude awakening 2004 when Metro unexpectedly launched a free-of-charge weekly with real estate ads, distributed to all homes in Stockholm. The first year Metro took in new revenue of about 25 million euros, and is experimenting with other parts of the classified market in similar ways. In Malmö Metro even started a sports weekly. Sounds like in the short term menace is not only coming from the Internet.
In the long run all Classified will be on the Internet, in one form or another. Maybe newspapers will be able to keep some of the revenue, maybe not. But the most important aspect is that the price model is already dead. The Metro coup in Stockholm 2004 was spectacular, but in the long run just a blip on the radar.
> TV in your iPod: Podcasts means radio and TV when and where you want it. The web allows you to download anything and take it with you in portable audio- and video players, iPods and others. Portability used to be one of the most important arguments for the newspaper in the battle against electronic media. It still is, but the rules are changing.
> Ohmynews & consorts: Editors hate it, readers love it. It’s called participatory journalism, it has already helped elect a president (in South Korea) and the principle is very simple: every reader can also be a journalist. Most journalists don’t agree, but with camera-phones and mobile e-mail the power of a reader/writer combo is easy to understand. This is not blogging, there is still an editorial process. But traditional newspapers need to take an interest, otherwise the trend will grow into a threat.
> Bloggers unite: In some cities the most popular bloggers end up contributing to new city-portals on the web, and get paid according to how many readers they attract. There is nothing stopping newspapers from stealing this idea. Indeed, a fast learning curve is the best remedy if you suddenly get the “new-tech-blues.”
> Local WiFi nets: In a matter of years, most big cities, and a lot of smaller ones as well, will have free-of-charge wireless Internet connectivity in public places, inside and outside. This is already changing the way people consume news and use their laptops. But when Sony Ericsson finally gets it right (and they eventually will) the wifi/radio/GSM combination of audio/video/TV/Internet connectivity device (formerly known as the mobile phone) will allow everyone to be connected to the net, all the time, without lugging a laptop. In Seoul, where I live now, it is already happening: TV being broadcast directly to mobile phones. Move over, Dick Tracy!
> The blind spot: Then of course we have the women… or, more correctly, we do not. Most editors are men, as are publishers, board members and management. This has to change, otherwise the papers will stay the same: male oriented and not very interesting for female readers. Consider two facts: women, especially mothers aged 25 to 45, tend to be less interested in new technology than men and boys under 25. And advertisers are desperate to reach these women. Women should be the newspaper industry’s best friends. We just have to make newspapers that appeal to them, in content, design and attitude, OK? If you’re still not a feminist, you’re not being commercial enough!
Page first published: 03.11.2005