Monday, June 16, 2008

Over at Heather Brandon's Urban Compass blog, she has posted a story that discusses the Hartford Courant's latest move to right its ship by increasing the advertising to news ratio and throwing some reporters overboard.

The paper's parent company is in deep trouble and naturally the best way to increase your bottom line is to decrease the very reasons people buy your newspaper: content.

As always some media theorists predict the Web will be the savior. Local news Web sites will spring up taking up the slack.

I don't think so because I think the leap to an Internet driven exclusive media landscape is about as close as the creation of a cheap portable device we won't mind losing on the bus that can take the place of newspapers, magazines and books.

It also means as many homes in America that have a TV set need a similarly cheap way to access the Internet. And it means marketing to several generations at once to build the Web news market.

Is that going to happen soon with the economy we have?

I think the best bet for any newspaper is convergence – taking the best elements from print and the Web and merging them in a way to capture loyal readers on different platforms.

But that my friends costs money. Takes time. Won't necessarily make a bad investment go away for the next quarter. May not be as sexy as a Web site with a lot of animation and shiny things that would keep a flock of crows transfixed.

The hacks with MBAs and nice suits that head the corporations that own newspaper companies don't have a clue. They know the bottom line, but they don't know the industry that they are in. And they don't care about it.

Radio, television and the newspaper industry took time to build. A convergence approach would take time to build an audience.

Now some people would say we have convergence now with MassLive and other newspaper Web sites. Nope, not in my narrow definition.

Convergence means synergy between the traditional and the new. Convergence means determining what platform best showcases which story. It means a video/Web reporter working with a print reporter on a big story. It means beating TV stations to the punch with video. It would be a lot of work, but very rewarding.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

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