“Saving newspapers” is beginning to look like saving caterpillars. Or worse, like caterpillars saving themselves. That’s was the message I got from Rick Edmonds’ API Report to Exec Summit: Paid Content Is the Future for News Web Sites, in Poynter, back in early June. In The Nichepaper Manifesto Umair Haque points toward a possible future butterfly stage for newspapers. Sez Umair, “Nichepapers aren’t a new product, service, or business model. They are a new institution.”
He gives examples: Talking Points Memo. Huffington Post. Perez Hilton. Business Insider. He’s careful to say that these may not be the first or the best but are “avenues that radical innovators are already exploring to reconceive news for the 21st century.”
These, however, are limited as news sites, and not the best models of future nichepapers. Yes, they’re interesting and in some cases valuable sources of information; but they all also have axes to grind. In this sense they’re more like the old model (papers always had axes too) than the new one(s).
To help think about where news is going, let’s talk about one cause of serious news: wildfires. In Southern California we have lots of wildfires. They flare up quickly, then threaten to wipe out dozens, hundreds or thousands of homes, and too often do exactly that. Look up San Diego Fire, Day Fire, Gap Fire, Tea Fire, Jesusita Fire. The results paint a mosaic, or perhaps even a pointillist, picture of news sourced, reported, and re-reported by many different people, organizations and means. These are each portraits of an emerging ecosystem within which newspapers must adapt of die.
Umair says, “In the 21st century, it’s time, again for newspapers to learn how to profit with stakeholders — instead of extracting profits from them. The 21st century’s great challenge isn’t selling the same old “product” better: it’s learning to make radically better stuff in the first place.”
Exactly. And that “making” will be as radically different as crawling and flying.
Tags: larvae, larval stage, newspapers, Umair Haque
Lots to think about here. I’ve commented here:
Interesting. It seems the complexity of the world is increasing very quickly and one can’t blame people for seeking out a source that simplifies things a bit.
Both in limiting content and perspective.
Thanks for the piece.
Newspapers have been incredibly profitable businesses, and they haven’t had to throw that much of their revenues over the “wall” that’s supposed to separate the business side from the newsroom.
So if the wall is there anyway, why not make the newsroom its own NGO? Texas Watchdog seems to be working so far.
I still don’t get the pure amateur news model. There are a lot of PR people making a good living, writing for no-pay or low-pay media outlets and billing their clients.
Pingback from Doc Searls Weblog · An opportunity for the AP on July 29, 2009 at 7:40 pm
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