Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dear Eric Schmidt, I'd Rather Take a Shit with my Laptop

It should be obvious to most people that the newspaper industry is dying. Deservedly so. Maybe they will be stimulated for being "too big fail." It seems to work for everything else.

Dinosaurs become extinct. Life changes. Businesses evolve or die. At one point I'm sure there were many buggy whip makers. Horse shoes sold like hot cakes, probably before hot cakes even sold at all. There used to be thousands and thousands of telephone operators- when long distance phone calls cost dollars, not pennies, per minute.

What's my point? Well I was reading this article ( Google CEO Sees newsppaer future in Advertising)on Yahoo Finance. Google CEO Eric Schmidt was speaking at the Newspaper Association of America. He was supposedly giving "ideas" to newspapers and magazines. They obviously don't have any of their own. One "idea" mentioned was a sort of Wikipedia for medicine that would let users edit it. Too bad that's been done many times before ( and those wikis have been around for years) and does not actually quailify as an idea.

Some of his other comments regarding newspapers just seemed like he was ass kissing the newspaper publishers. Maybe he was sincere. I don't know. To me it comes off a little patronizing.

He is right about many things, such as the need for quality advertising. However I really don't get this one:

"From my perspective, the online experience can be thought of as terrible compared to what I view as this wonderful experience with magazines and newspapers," Schmidt said."


It is entirely possible he is only talking about the internet experience on mobile phones here and advocating better mobile technology, but it's hard to tell from the article. Thanks AP!

Is the CEO of Google really calling the online experience "terrible" and print media "wonderful?"

And what exactly is this "experience?" In my experience people do most of their reading on the toilet. I would much rather take a shit with my laptop than any news paper or magazine. It may not be the most convenient thing to carry in the bathroom and setup, but it beats the paper any day. I don't need a small ass mobile phone.

Let me Tell you Something About Newspapers:

I don't hate newspapers at all. I love(d) them. I used to read multiple newspapers every day, and I had many magazine subscriptions. I read the paper more than anyone I knew. When we got free papers at work I was often the only person reading them. I would read anything at any time. I took advantage of all discount magazine subscriptions and professional rates from Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and so on. I read dailies, weeklies, locals, regionals, sports and business specialties, you get the picture.

But I have barely read a newspaper in years. I read a couple niche industry magazines and that's about it.


Internet > Print Media

It's not even close. I read for information, stimulation, curiosity. I want to develop knowledge, be provoked to investigate things further.

Print Media is highly filtered and biased. I don't mean a "liberal" bias or a "conservative" bias. But they obviously have an agenda. Serving corporate masters is a big part of it. Access to the political class and bureacrats is a high priority. Publishers know where their bread is buttered.

News papers don't break stories that really matter to people. No, that happens on the internet. Investigative Journalism? Bloggers do a better job and actually follow up. Bloggers Save Lives. Print Journalists Serve Masters.

Print Media is Slow. We live in a 24 Hour World.

Ted Turner understood this when he launched CNN. We used to have a daily newspaper and nightly news. Now there are several 24 Hour news channels and the broadcast networks all have several newscasts per day, "up to the minute" updates, morning news, noon news, 4am news,etc.

The Internet is 24 hours. I can check Google News at any time. If I want to know who won the game I can find out right away. I can even follow along online.

There will always be people who don't trust what they read "on the internet" and prefer the paper. That's OK. They will die off, just like the newspapers.

Why trust the paper? In my eyes print media has lost a lot of credbility in recent years. There is a lot of garbage and low quality content on the internet for sure, but there is also far more quality content and information. Newspapers have "editorial" constraints. They kill stories that don't please their backers. In many cases their editorial policy is completely controlled by local bureacrats and corrupt politicians or other community "leaders." They work for the political class at the expense of "regular" people. The information presented is strongly filtered.

For the most part, Print Media is about the consolidation of power and the status quo. Print journalists enjoy their status and the protectionism afforded by their "credentials." They are good at presenting false dilemmas and the illusion of A or B "choices." Print Media ignores or erases important facts and participants from stories. They blame it on lack of resources and limited column inches. That doesn't happen on the internet. You get the full story. You may get multiple versions and some false stories, but you will find the full story.

If 4 political candidates participate in a debate, your local paper will probably have a story titled something like " Candidate A Debates Candidate B." Candidates C and D aren't mentioned. They are probably even cropped out of or simply erased from pictures. If they are mentioned at all, it's " Mr. B and Mr. C were also present", preceeded by 2 pages of fawning over Mr. A and Mr. B. Most likely Candidates A and B essentially agree on 90% of all issues. B and C present the only alternative positions or any nuance whatsoever, but the paper ingores their existence. Why? "Bloggers" don't do this. And that's why corrupt politicians hate bloggers. I guess they aren't bought off like "reputable" journalists.

Many news papers deliver a shitty product. If the market rejects that product, I consider that justice.

Do newspapers deserve to die? I'm sure some do. That's life. Many can survive if they really want to. It may not be in their present form and they will have cuts and layoffs. Perhaps they have strong brands that can translate to other forms of media or entirely new business models. Maybe the printed paper becomes a marketing tool to drive traffic to their websites, where the real content exists and the real money is made ( if they know what they are doing). They could explore different subscription models and levels. Offer free web content with premium access for subscribers, PDF-only paper delivery options, hybrid paper/premium online subscriptions. Encourage community participation. Have blogs ( real ones have comments), forums, wikis,etc. Don't shut out valuable contributions due to arbitrary "credentials." Investigate stories- don't be the de facto PR firm for the local government. Good journalists can make it online. They can make it anywhere. Get clients to transfer their advertising to your websites. Be creative. Give them value. If car dealers, realtors, plumbers, and roofers are buying ads in your paper, sell them targeted internet ads. Show them value and make money. If you don't know, ask somebody. That's what we do "on the internet."

But don't blame the internet for killing your business. You did a good enough job of that yourselves.

In the meantime if I want to read something, I'm using the net. Everything is there, ( mostly) unfiltered. If I want to know who won the game, my town council election results in real-time, driving directions to my son's friend's birthday party, recipes for dinner tonight, how to fix my garbage disposal, it's all there. The most I can expect out of a newspaper is occasionally learning about something to research online later.

By the way, I just found a local contractor for a home repair. Did I find him in the local paper? No. Yellow Pages? No. Geo-targeted Google Ads. If the local paper had any clue what they were doing, those ad dollars could have been theirs. The revenue is there, especially when you figure out you don't need all the overhead.

1 comment:

  1. Ya know if you posted like this once or twice a day instead of once every couple months then this site just might be successful.