I am not yet convinced that newspapers are doomed. I am however convince that the inbred bluebloods running major American newspapers will kill their companies. Latest example: I’m reading an interesting article at the Washington Post about the future of newspapers no less. I decide to link to it from one of my sites with the title and the URL and the source, and suggest people go read it. So I try to go back to the first page of the article and I’m hit with a fucking registration page! Why the hell should I have to waste my time typing in yet another fake name and address, and letting them track what I read? What exactly do they expect to gain by this?
I can tell you what they lost: a few hundred extra page views and a few ad clicks that would have made them some money. Not a lot of money I’m sure, but more than enough to cover the miniscule marginal cost of the extra page views. Get enough page views and maybe they can actually cover their fixed costs and start showing a profit on the newspaper for the first time in lord only knows how long. (The Washington Post company did show a profit this quarter, but only because of non-newspaper businesses like Stanley Kaplan, which is apparently now more than half their revenue. Yes, you thought the Washington Post is a newspaper, but really it’s just a corporate shell for test preparation.)
The New York and L.A. Times are just as bad. Half the time I don’t even follow links to those sites because I can never tell when they’re going to show me the article and when they’re just going to block me with a pointless login page. They complain about bloggers stealing their content, but they actively chase potential readers away from their own sites. When your business model is ads (the only business model that has ever worked for newspapers) you don’t try to keep people from looking at your ads. Nor do you reject people who are attempting to boost your circulation. Bloggers know this. New media knows this. Hell, anyone under the age of 40 knows this! Who doesn’t know this? Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. and Katharine Weymouth to name two. In a world that wasn’t based on nepotistic dynasties, these dinosaurs would be lucky to have a job running the local Penny Saver.
The Internet is over 30 years old. The Web is almost 20. Isn’t it about time newspapers hired someone to run them who actually understands the world we live in? Unfortunately given the shareholder-hostile preferred stock plans at the major media empires, this seems unlikely. When new media writes the final obituaries for the Times and the Posts of the world, the cause of death won’t be listed as the Internet. It will be nothing less than sheer managerial incompetence.