3 Non-blog Reasons Why Newspapers Are Dying

There’s another flurry of ‘Newspapers Are Dead‘ posts this weekend. Dave Winer seemed to have triggered this by his post on the troubles at the San Francisco Chronicle. Robert Scoble has taken up the theme as he did some months ago. Even the Google Guys and Dave Barry have voiced the same views in the past.

News papers must change to survive.

Mark Evans takes the opposite tack in proclaiming that Scoble is wrong. However he suggests that circulation figures show that newspapers are growing. He then seems to spike his own argument by mentioning that this is largely explained by the growth of free newspapers. Doc Searl takes a more helpful line in suggesting a number of different ways the newspapers can avoid their untimely fate.

So often this ongoing conflict is represented as the battle of the journalists versus the bloggers. However I believe there are more fundamental reasons why the newspapers are finding it difficult to move with the times. It’s because newspaper publishers have a long tradition spanning centuries of producing printed newspapers. They’re good at it but they, like many others, assume the Internet is merely an alternative communication channel to transport their wares. Developing an effective website on the Internet is fundamentally different. Here are three principal reasons why newspapers are having problems.

  1. Graphic Design is fundamentally different from Web Design. A viewer looking at a printed page is going through a very different experience from a reader looking at a web page. Not the least, he or she is probably willing to look at only 25% of the content that might be acceptable on a printed page.
  2. Given that most people find things with Google, Yahoo! or one of the other search engines, an effective website must be search engine visible. Online newspapers are often not set up with this intent.
  3. Moving around any website must give a pleasing user experience or the visitor will click away to more welcoming websites. This is what is called Usability and it requires special attention. Trying to mimic the printed version on the Internet will be disastrous.
An effective online version is the solution.

Any newspaper that can accept this different mindset can develop an effective online presence. In turn this can be supportive of the printed version and may even encourage readership. Only a few newspapers are showing they understand this Digital Divide that must be crossed.

Can Graphic Designers Do Website Design?
Newspapers Are Dead Scrolls
Newspaper Design Awards And Usability

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News Feeds, News And A New Newspaper


News feeds from the major news providers have been available for many years. These alert those who check such news feeds that new items are available. For example the BBC has a good explanation of news feeds and of the news feeds they provide for all their news channels. With a news feed aggregator such as Google Reader or Bloglines anyone can stay in touch with breaking news from a whole variety of sources.

Most blogging software arranges automatically that as new posts are made to a blog a news feed is updated to show the latest entry. So it is also possible to be aware of new items of interest on the blogosphere. Even though blogs are now taking new formats such as plogs and slogs the news feed is always available to alert the world to news.

Traditional newspapers as they see the impact that the Internet is having on readership are also joining the news feed movement. They set up online editions and anyone can subscribe to the associated news feed to stay in touch. That would seem to be the dominant trend now.

Except that this week, a new online newspaper came on the scene and as of this date it has no news feed. It’s called the National Gazette and would seem to be an interesting new vehicle.

National Gazette

Here is how they explain what it is all about:

The National Gazette is an American newspaper written by and for the millennial generation, those born roughly in the last two decades of the 20th century. It was created by “millennials” who felt that even in the massive modern media landscape, the values of our generation were not being represented in the media. It is published solely over the Internet by a decentralized network of writers, editors, and photographers. The network is open to any millennial with something meaningful to share.

I only became aware of this new newspaper through a news feed (XML file) put out by one of those involved in its creation, Cameron Moll. That news feed is somewhat unusual since it is associated with a web page rather than a blog. Cameron Moll calls it his Premium Linkage web page and it has some really good links on it. It is a shining example of the principle that to stay in touch with news items the most effective way is to watch those news feeds. Perhaps the National Gazette will follow the trend.

Related: News Feeds Boost Website Traffic

Update: Yes, The National Gazette Does Have News Feeds – see comment below.