Why Newspapers Can’t Make Money on the Internet

Before I slough my way into writing Part II of “Is News Dying Along with the Newspaper?” I suggest you read “What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else” by Doc Searls and David Weinberger. It was sent around on Facebook by a Times-Dispatch colleague who knows his stuff. Unfortunately, like everyone who is not a manager or higher in the echelons of Media General, they are paid scant attention. The culture there has for decades bred the concerted opinion in the upper offices that managers must only listen to managers. Articles, such as the one I point you to, or, for that matter, pieces about the reality of the newspaper business in trade journals such as Editor and Publisher, are read with fervor on the fourth floor of the RTD building initially, and then dismissed summarily.

Best practices. Convergence. Synergy. Web-first. We know what we’re doing.

Yeah. Maybe you should learn how to listen to your people.

Naaaaaaah.

Here’s a sample paragraph from “What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else”:

When it comes to the Net, a lot of us suffer from Repetitive Mistake Syndrome. This is especially true for magazine and newspaper publishing, broadcasting, cable television, the record industry, the movie industry, and the telephone industry, to name just six.

After you read this highly illuminating article, click on the link on that site that reads “Rise of the Stupid Network” or you can go here. It’s extremely technical, but you can see what the writer is saying: that keeping up with technology in order to keep your company in business goes hand in hand with valuing the employees:

Former Shell Group Planning Head, Arie deGeus, in his master work, “The Living Company” (Harvard, Boston, 1997), examined thousands of companies to try to discover what it takes to adapt to changing conditions. He found that the life expectancy of the average company was only 40 years – this means that telephone company culture is in advanced old age. De Geus also studied 27 companies that had been able to survive over 100 years. He concluded that managing for longevity – to maximize the chances that a company will adapt to changes in the business climate – is very different than managing for profit. For example, in the former, employees are part of a larger, cohesive whole, a work community. In the latter, employees are “resources” to be deployed or downsized as business dictates. As the Stupid Network arrives, as the business idea shifts from scarce physical infrastructure to something more knowledge based, company culture will need to adapt to the truth that, “Nobody knows as much as all of us.”

Whatever we discover to be the new Stupid Network value proposition, my working hypothesis is that it will be based on intelligent end user devices, intelligent customers, employees whose intelligence is valued as a corporate asset, and companies that can learn.

Thanks for coming by. I’ll post Part II of “Is News Dying Along with the Newspaper?” in short order.

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