Robin Miller, editor in chief at OSTG.com| Open Source Technology Group, has written a long and interesting article on Slashdot about changes he recommends that newspapers make in order to stop the bleeding of readership losses in the face of the web’s growth in importance. Both the article and the 232 comments at posting time are worth a look, but here’s a summary via some of my favorite parts:
- Include web-readers in readership numbers and lighten up already about declining print subscribers!
- Embrace the two-way web by giving reader comments a prominent place and reduced barriers to entry (e.g. multiple logins required before posting).
- Utilize one of the many established moderation protocols to keep those reader comments as pertinent as possible. The author points out that Slashdot has a battle tested and freely usable, if complex, moderation system available.
- High-quality events calenders, print-it-yourself coupons and local classified ads are all features that a newspaper’s web site is in the best position to offer of any media.
- A strong local focus can be a paper’s competitive edge whether in print or online. Few newspapers offer anything uniquely compelling in terms of international news. The internet at large is just too effective in this area.
“Eventually, I expect print newspapers to become “snapshots” of their Web editions taken at 1 a.m. or another arbitrary time, poured into page templates and massaged a little by layout people, then sent to the printing presses, a pattern that has potential for significant production cost reductions if handled adroitly. From that point on, their paper editions will be distributed the same way newspapers are now.
“Senior citizens and others who can’t afford (or don’t want) computers are and will continue to be a viable market. So will commuters who use public transportation. Then there are those — a substantial part of the population — who simply prefer reading words and looking at pictures on paper to seeing them on a screen. They will still want physical newspapers, even if they are not as up-to-date or as complete as what they’d get on the Web.”
These are just a few of my favorite parts of the article itself. As is typical of Slashdot postings, the comments make up another large and valuable part of the info. This is just the kind of discussion that needs to happen. I think that if MSM were to be disappearing (unlikely) we’d really lose out on some things they can do well. But it is very important that old-school organizations make use of the Web 2.0 world to augment what they are already doing. In as much as Web2.0 is about extending participation, honest and open communication and fostering creativity then it’s not just good for business, it’s good for humanity.