Mitch Joel has some insight from this NAA report about the print publishing business. The report focuses on the positive numbers that newspaper websites are racking up. While at the same time, newspapers are covered in sackcloth and ashes about their print products. Mitch makes an excellent point here:
Print publications need to embrace the new reality that they have become Multimedia Publications. The big wins are not going to happen by putting their print materials online. The big wins are going to happen when stories are extended leveraging the true power of the online channel – that would be by adding more images, video, audio and interaction into the fray. And, if they’re smart, extending the ability to create content as well.
This seems obvious. But even at this very moment, the offices of newspapers, magazines, radio/TV stations, and other traditional media are full of people who:
1) don’t understand this
2) don’t want to understand this
3) are afraid of this
4) feel that they are already on the cutting edge just by replicating their content online
5) are so caught up in a traditional stylebook of the “way things ought to be” that they are actively fighting online ventures
But, with all things, moderation. While I wholeheartedly agree that a media outlet needs to develop and nurture an online presence that goes beyond the abilities of their traditional counterparts, there also needs to be a master plan for both. Both the online and print editions of a newspaper or magazine need to work on a SINGLE brand strategy and need to push readers from the print to online and vice versa.
And then, there’s a vast silent majority of media outlets when it comes to online. Too many times the analysis of media focuses on a few major national media examples (who SHOULD be on the cutting edge online). The true tipping point for online media will be the vast number of regional and local outlets — many that have little or no web presence.
While national media (major magazines & newspapers, broadcast networks, etc) are just now starting to really fully embrace the online product, there are thousands of local media outlets who are drastically behind the times. I was interviewed on Friday for a publishing company’s newsletter. The interviewer actually asked me if I thought it was important for a newspaper to have a website. My response was: if a newspaper didn’t have a website in 2008, they had already missed the boat.
And let’s also remember one of the major points of the relationship between a traditional print audience and an online product. Column inches bring in more money than pixels. If the traditional print product is providing content and subsidizing the operation of the online edition, there has to be a point where the financial model changes to meet the readership and content distribution model. And for many media properties, that will be a painful transition.