Paul Steigler on the Newspaper Industry

December 30, 2007

This is a great article in today’s Wall Street Journal. Paul Steigler is leaving his position as Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal. The reality is that the papers suffered from wanting to have the best of both worlds. This paragraph from the piece, in large part, sums it up.

A bigger problem was that newspapers often sought to copy fairly closely on the Web what they did in print, rather than offer new products taking full advantage of digitization. The most creative new products came mainly from enterprises with little connection to newspapers. And soon, if you named almost any bit of data you used to rely on papers for — sports scores, weather, stocks, movie times — there were Web sites offering more information faster, and free.

The article doesn’t directly address classified ads. This incredibly profitable business has withered even more rapidly than other categories. Stabs at shoring up this business by developing internal products never worked out. CraigsList, eBay, Monster, and the like, ran circles around the papers. Betting the legacy business was too difficult.

As a news junkie and newspaper fan, I wish that I could have experienced the newspaper industry heyday. By the time I worked at the LA Times in the late nineties, the more talented and ambitious employees were looking to learn and move to the more lucrative start-up world.

Newspaper industry decline

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