Newspapers have been struggling lately (see my Writing the Obit for Print Newspapers), and the industry has been flailing about looking for revenue.
One of the (many idiotic) ideas the industry has latched onto is to make Google pay to link to them.
Hit them with a cluestick – sure, Google will drop you, and your page views go down, as do ad revenues…yeah, that’s the plan.
But on April 7, 2009, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt addressed the attendees at the annual meeting of newspaper publishers, and he had some very basic, hard-to-ignore advice for the crowd:
I would encourage everybody, think in terms of what your reader wants. These are ultimately consumer businesses and if you piss off enough of them, you will not have any more.
— via paidcontent.org
Yet the newspaper industry still doesn’t see this – it’s more of a, “well, we do real journalism, so pay us for stuff.” It doesn’t look at the customer – it looks at the bottom line. It assumes that what they produce is the shit from the Golden Goose: We’ll all gravitate toward this golden fertilizer…
(Full disclosure: I’ve worked at many trade publications and for a large newspaper group; reader surveys – if done – were an exercise in how to get more blood out of the turnip. Overall [a gross generalization that I stand behind], content was about the $$, not a good customer [reader] experience.)
Craigslist does provides a great customer experience – ugly, but fast and free (for all but a small subset of paid content postings). And Craig Newmark keeps turning down bazillion-dollar offers for this ugly little site(s).
Why can’t newspapers get that customers have changed; that online is different from print? I guess that’s partly because newspapers can’t get away from “papers” – can’t divorce themselves of print and the insanely high profits newspapers enjoyed until about a decade ago.
This is a very basic first step that publications will have to embrace before they can do anything in the new journalism – online – world. The audience and expectations have changed – whatever: Keep them happy.
Webster’s Third New World Dictionary in print: bad. Dictionary.com: good.
Life magazine in print: bad (gone). Flickr: good.
The first rule is to keep the customer satisfied. Newspapers, today, don’t seem to really give a rat’s ass about that.
The debate of the merits of Life vs. Flickr etc can come later. Or newspapers can build the better Dictionary.com. Why not?
Newspapers: Fix this, and then we’ll discuss ways to make money. Because you could have the coolest 3D, community-driven, paradigm-breaking, AJAX-outfitted [fill in more buzz phrases] web site, but if you piss off your customers (in whatever way), well, they’re gone. As is your potential revenue.
Really. Think about it.