Sunday, March 27, 2005

Looking Back 

If you haven't had a chance to read this story yet, take time to do it. It looks at predictions from 10 years ago for how newspapers would change online and compares the predictions to what is happening. The predictions were optimistic -- and largely wrong.

The most disappointing conclusion was the first one:

Online news is still a downstream product. For the most part, the news text comes to the screen after it has been edited for the print – and that means that the “extra” reporting has been edited out already, although there are sometimes exceptions in newspapers’ news sites.

Reporters on magazines like BusinessWeek write strictly for the online edition, but journalists at newspapers rarely do the same.

Part of the delayed future may come from the fact that American newspapers are fighting falling circulation without success, and they have no viable economic model for transferring newsprint to online. They're stuck in the middle -- the worst place to be. There is little doubt that more papers will fold, and newsholes will shrink unless publishers can find a formula to attract readers and advertisers to an online product. But when readers can get all the news they want from Google and Yahoo, why should they read a local newspaper site? And when advertisers can go to high-volume traffic sites for a greater return, why should they bother?

Thinking back, I'm glad that when I did my journalism masters long ago I chose television rather than newspaper reporting. But then, TV isn't looking good now either.


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