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A Rant (for reasons best left unmentioned)

     
1:37 am on May 12, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I have absolutely no sympathy for all those print newspapers and magazines that are haemorrhaging actual honest to god unique content providers aka journalists/reporters/copywriters/editors in a vain attempt to recover from plummeting revenue and increasing debt load.

Twice, first in the 80's and second in the 90's, newspapers set up research projects that mostly correctly forecast what, first, internet news, secondly, web news delivery might look like. Both times they shuttered the projects and let time and others pretty much create the future they foresaw. Xerox-Park all over again. And then again.

Newspapers lost their financial foundation aka classifieds to Craigslist et al because, ta da!, it was free! In the face of that competition slash hijack did they immediately fight back by leveraging their cashflow and credit to also offer free classifieds and drive competitors down and out out out? Of course not! I just checked several national newspapers and what did I, to my total lack of surprise, find? Charges of $10 to $20 per line! Yup, 10-1/2 years after the advent of Craigslist et al newspapers continue on as if nothing has changed in all that time; except of course their number of subscribers and their bottom line.

And then there are their websites. Where, pretty much across the board, they have given up their century plus expertise in advertising and outsourced to cut rate third party third rate ad networks. Where they seem unable to synchronise digital and print editions - I mean, at some point the front 'pages' should bear some semblance of similarity. Nope, digital and print are, generally, two separate organisations within the company that, apparently, are not communicating.

Some day, for a truly brutal experience of total disconnect, sit down with Vogue magazine (print edition) and open the Vogue website. Yup, two very different experiences, two very different ad formats/methodologies; if it weren't for the mastheads one could be excused for thinking they were two different companies with two different offerings.

What enterprise newspaper/magazines do seem to be able to do right, every single time, is to pick the solution most likely to drive users away. They often hire great web developers, expert SEO's but with default news agency, i.e. Associated Press, Reuters, supplied duplicate content, overabundance of irritating mediocre third party supplied ads, overpriced classifieds... it's amazing they still exist!

I do sympathise with the thousands of laid off journalists, reporters, copywriters, and editors. It's not their fault their publishers are and have been for so long willfully ignorant and manifestly incompetent when it comes to the internet/web. Who spent the past two decades piling up debt by buying competitors instead of investing thoughtfully in the new medium. Who saw the future and turned their backs on it. Etc. Et al. Ad nauseum.

The only major 'thing' missing from the future described so very well now so very long ago is micro-payments. Of course they do exist in parts of Africa (even brutally continually ravaged Somalia!), south and east Asia, but not in the 'developed' western world. Inertia and entrenched behaviours and filter bubble mindsets are truly powerful forces. The debt overhanging so many media organisations foregoes both research and change. Even Jeff Bezos's intervention in the Washington Post is not doing much more than maintaining the status quo. And that is, sooner rather than later, a death knell in digital.

Sad really.

Here, at WebmasterWorld, we discuss the problems of those of us smaller businesses scurrying about the web earning a living and there is certainly fear, doubt, blame, and angst aplenty. However, there are, as mentioned above, behemoths that are suffering and failing as well. Ignorance, incompetence, miscalculation, and failure to adapt: the four horsemen of business can and will take down any size enterprise. Some die quick and some linger but eventually they bleed out. Unless...

Sometimes I just want to sell out and walk away and put my feet up. Where those of us who have built a continuing success upon the web tend to remain silent I refuse to, as the Welsh bard so aptly put it, go quietly into that good night. I shall instead continue to rage, rage against the dying of the light. After all, what else should I do in my old age that is as intriguing, as challenging, as contrary, as satisfying, as being a webdev?
3:26 am on May 12, 2018 (gmt 0)

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So are you saying that the news organizations as we have known them are going the way of the milk man and that in order to survive they will have to radically change into a different business model?

Gannet, the owner of USA Today and a network of local newspapers (and I think Hearst) is a local search marketing companies now, is that one way? They're leveraging their online presence to offer marketing to local companies beyond the classifieds.
6:58 am on May 12, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Currently the "salvation" of legacy news businesses is getting FB or G to pay for the content they produce (or a piece of the advertising pie, whichever they can wheedle out of the masters of the universe).

Standing up for copyright/intellectual property after the horse is out of the barn is not a position of strength. We others working the web are like the little mammals scurrying around beneath the legs of dinosaurs who don't know they are extinct.

The web will eventually shatter into "us and them" levels where the small fry can still play, just can't do more than eke out an existence while (we hope) government stays out of the mix. If gov gets involved everything changes, and not for the better.

Meanwhile, grab another bag of popcorn and sit back to watch the "legacy fail" program airing daily on the World Wide Web.

g has already won the game by tying up the advertising market, and a whole generation of webmasters has come to believe that cut and paste ad links is how you make money on the web. Some of us know that is not true, but try to suggest otherwise and see what happens.
8:57 am on May 12, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I agree to the idiocy of them maintaining TWO separate teams doing the same thing in two similar but different realms. I would think in a CEO quest for cost cutting the duplicate staff would be the first to go?

But what do I know as I'm just some silly old fart who's watched hundreds of other corporation go thru this and cut staff in the last 50 years. All that repeating history means nothing to the newsprint industry? I always thought that to the conservative thinking executive staff that doing 'inside the box' tasks meant copying other's methods and thereby getting similar results?

Oh my, I'm being logical in an alt-facts world, how old school of me! Back under my rock I go....
3:42 pm on May 14, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Hindsight! I love it.
Equally so, I totally agree about most publishers: They were slow to realise the advent of disruptive technology.

Now most have realised, they are playing catch-up.

The difficulty is that the Internet is not the author of news, it's just a method of delivery. The disruptive part is accompanied by the ability to gather news instantly, as it happens.

Ads: I'm not sure exactly where that will end up, but, ad-supported is becoming tougher for smaller businesses.
6:31 pm on May 14, 2018 (gmt 0)

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The crux of the matter is that the internet still functions on content. Those lowly content writers are still critical. As @engine says, the internet is just the delivery mechanism. I still want to read high quality, well written content. Content writers will still be in demand no matter where the internet goes. Companies just have to figure out how to pay people for their content writing talents, or they will stop writing.
.
Cable TV comes to mind. Sure we were able to get more channels, but what is the use when the History Channel has shows about LA pawn brokers? There's scant history there. People eventually realize the channel lacks, well, historical content.
10:21 am on May 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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All of my local newspaper and TV sites are probably some of the worst ones I visit. I won't even go there unless there is something specific I'm looking for,. Plastered with ads, loading some ridiculous amount of scripts and on and on. There was article in one that mentioned one of my websites and they were running one of those image carousel scripts, they had one portrait image so the text is bouncing up and down making it unreadable.

Our one local newspaper has an archive of articles and photos that goes back at least 100 years. Why would you not leverage that? Ads on the articles and offer up some low resolution images available as prints for $$$. <sigh>
1:36 pm on May 15, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Many news organizations have changed.

In case you haven't noticed, news organizations have transformed from selling ads to selling marketing. They've gone beyond generating content about home improvement, dieting and entertainment and are now eating the SEO Consulting lunch.

They're building content around lucrative topics like real estate and lifestyle products and selling ads and leads from them. You think they're just publishing news? Look again.

Gannet, the owner of USA Today and a network of local newspapers is a local search marketing company. They're leveraging their online presence to offer marketing to local companies that goes far beyond the traditional classifieds. Gannet just purchased WordStream for $130 million dollars. That's a news organization that did that.

That's a natural evolution from selling advertising to selling marketing.

The Hearst Organization, publishers of Houston Chronicle, SeattlePI, San Francisco Chronicle and so on across the country also has transitioned away from selling ads to selling marketing.

Hearst Media Services makes life easier for business owners by managing the time and complexity of digital marketing. We develop and execute your campaign so you can get back to what you do best, running your business.


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