Posts about print

Newspapers as mainframes

I believe that newspapers are and should be businesses, that market pressure is not only good but necessary, for newspapers are all about serving the public and if the public doesn’t want them, well, does that tell you something? The problem is that newspapers became monopolies, which made them fat, sassy, snotty, and lazy. See this very good post by a technologist turned VC who worked at the embattled Knight Ridder about newspapers as mainframes:

The short-form story in the modern history of computing is the deconstruction of the mainframe. Nothing in computing exists today that did not exist in some precursor form back in the original mainframes. The evolution of computing is the continuous unbundling of each of the components, cost reduction and miniaturization, and subsequent empowerment of the user at the point of delivery. Newspapers are Mainframes. The transformational power of the Internet lies in its incessant pressure to unbundle….

The business model of the newspaper is based on two principles – network effects and bundling.

The network effect is the classifieds business. The reason there is only one major newspaper per city, nearly everywhere, is that the classifieds business is a winner-take-all business. This made newspapers ‘natural monopolies.’ The net effect of the natural monopoly was that the competitive pressure for innovation disappeared. How many industries can you name where the product form, features, and delivery has not changed in 75 years? The marketing gene was largely bred out of the industry by becoming local monopolies. Monopolies fail catastrophically because of their inability to respond when the competitive landscape changes dramatically. This is the incumbent’s disadvantage. The very immunity to competition that made newspapers such great businesses also created resistance to market forces.

The bundling is the aggregation of all the varied content to attract and retain the audience. The core premise is you’ll read some content regularly, not necessarily all content….

But the Internet is that ruthless and incessant force for unbundling. Everything is a click away. Search costs are crushed.

Newspapers are Internet victims, but they are far from being the only industry under siege. Newspapers are especially impacted because two of the three main components of their cost structure are obsoleted. Advertising sales moves from traditional ‘push’ to advertiser self-service. All the physical assets of printing and delivery are obsoleted by the shared infrastructure of the Internet. If most of the cost structure goes to zero value, what’s left are news gathering and editing organizations and IT.

I like that: A newspaper is an IBM 360. A blog is an Apple 2. Go read the rest. Then see the post above about people trying to see newspapers as something other than businesses.

The last presses: Now Donald Graham joins in

Well, just as I write that American publishers aren’t facing the reality of life after presses, Donald Graham of the Washington Post starts to sing a new tune:

Washington Post chairman Don Graham said publicly for the first time this week that the future of news is on the Internet, not in print newspapers like the Washington Post.

“The Web site simply has to come through, ours and that of other newspapers, for us to be successful,” Graham told investment analysts Wednesday in New York.

Graham delivered the keynote address for UBS Bank’s annual Global Media Conference. His speech focused on how the Internet is dramatically changing the way he runs his company.

“Our Web competitors, Google in particular, are coming up with clever new products which are designed to make our life harder,” Graham said. “Young readers are less inclined to read us than I would have guessed.”

After detailing the strengths that print journalism still holds–chief among them the effectiveness of print advertising–Graham acknowledged that the Internet can do some things better.

“The business is changing faster than I expected,” Graham said. As an example, he offered the Post’s coverage of Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

[Hat tip: Jay]

My Media Guardian column Monday will be a version of the Last Presses post; I’ll link to that when it’s up.

More presses in mothballs

Business Week is abandoning print for its international editions to emphasize online instead:

BusinessWeek announced today that it will reposition its approach to global markets. A greater emphasis will be placed on providing online news, analysis and information and on developing local language publications while maintaining a single flagship print product.

“We have decided to create robust, customized Asian and European versions of our popular BusinessWeek Online Web site, while delivering a single global edition of BusinessWeek magazine instead of providing separate regional versions,” said Stephen J. Adler, Editor-in-Chief of BusinessWeek. “We are taking this action to harness the growing power of the Web globally and to serve readers and advertisers in a more timely, efficient, and targeted way.”

I have no idea how the international print editions were doing and whether this is more of a retreat from international or a push into online; obviously, it’s positioned as the latter.

Fast Company dialogue: Is print dead?

You’ll see a frightening image on the back page of Fast Company this month: Me arguing. I was half of a dialogue. The other half: John Griffin, president of the National Geographic Society’s magazine group. The question, Is print dead? The first volley, mine:

Print is not dead. Print is where words go to die.

Too many of the ideas trapped on pages end up, at best, in unused archives or, at worst, in recyclers’ pulp, when they should be online: searchable, discoverable, linkable, part of the conversation.

In this new world, the medium is meaningless. Media define themselves by the pipes that feed them but the public does not; we want what we want when, where, and how we want it. The wise media company will be there with us; the stubborn ones will die.

Look at the hoo-ha it took to create this page: lots of photographic, editorial, and production tsuris, and for what? Is our conversation better for being on this slick paper? No, it’s not, because only two of us are in it when we know that the collective wisdom of the people holding this page is greater than our own. We should be having this conversation together.

But that’s the problem with print: It is far too one-way for this two-way world.

I’ll confess that I recycle my lines like a bum homeless person street entrepreneur recycles cans. The rest of what I have to say would be familiar even to a casual Buzzmachinist.

The funny thing is that the end of the page has a link saying this dialogue will be online here. Only it’s not, two weeks after the magazine hit the newsstands. Ding-dong, the words are dead.

Now whither magazines?

I’m stage-managing a panel about magazines in the era of search at the Magazine Publishers of America confab in New York on Thursday. It’s the shortest panel on record: a half-hour. Those of you who know me will know to fear how fast I’ll be talking to cram any questions into that slim slot.

For some context, see German magmogul Hubert Burda in my post, The last presses, saying that he is now investing in relationship software, not content or distribution. See my post above responding to the question in a print magazine, “Is print dead?” And see Paid Content wrapping up the Digital Magazine forum:

A big question – as Bob Carrigan, and a panel leader, consultant and newsletter publisher Bob Sacks, pointed out – is whether any of these magazine-to-Web models is really a way to go, whether they ultimately ignore the power of the technology, and its applications that allow creation of community, complete customization, push and pull syndication, additive linking, hyperlocal service, database mapping, database manipulation, on-demand media, meta-search beyond text, and on and on.

Here are a few of the questions on my list. Please add more.

* In an age of search-engine optimization — when people are finding content via search, when Google has become the home page for all content sites — are magazines left out in the cold because they don’t put articles online or put them behind walls or move them to archives or don’t have rights to keep them up? Are you planning to or do you now put your content up online at permanent addresses so it can be part of the conversation (in blogs, tags, and such) and receive search-engine optimization for your brands? Or not?

* Is search proving to be means of selling subscriptions or of branding?

* Google is a brand killer. People find information via Google and don’t necessarily credit the sites that end up giving it to them. This affects newspaper and reference sites. Are magazines in a stronger position with their stronger brands and voices? Or not?

* What is your worst fear about Google?

* Google is planning to do to print what it has done to online by buying magazine pages and reselling them to advertisers. Are any of you taking part in or planning to take part in this? Do you fear this commoditizes you? Or do you think it brings you new advertisers?

* Do any of you think the day will come when print will be the value-added to a larger online product, audience, and brand?

* Search is just one aspect of online. Do you have parallel strategies to share regarding citizens’ media, distributed ad networks, blogs, podcasts, video, tagging, wikis, communities, and so on?

What else do you want to ask mag execs, including Bob Carrigan, president of IDG Communications; Lauren Wiener, vice-president of Meredith Interactive; and Michael Smith, general manager of