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Even though I'm no longer a journalist, it's troubling to see how newspapers are crumbling before our eyes - victims of a business model that doesn't work anymore, high debt loads brought on by strategic dreams about convergence, and a struggling economy.
There are many questions about what's happening and who to blame but perhaps the biggest question is whether the struggles of newspapers really matter. Is the world going to be a worst place if newspapers (products made from dead trees) continue to disappear?
As much as I love newspapers, I don't think it will matter if they go the way of the dinosaur. To me, newspapers are a "platform" that is being antiquated as new technology becomes a more efficient, faster and less expensive distribution vehicle. Newspapers are expensive to produce and distribute. But the economic model that lets newspapers thrive (e.g. classified advertising) no longer works so newspapers no longer make sense economically.
So, if the current newspaper business model doesn't work, what replaces it? For all the buzz about citizen journalism, it's a different kind of journalism that involves "raw footage" as opposed to the research and perspective the journalists/reporters churn out - and that bloggers love to chew on.
If newspapers are going to survive and thrive, their operating models must radically change. This includes;
- Reporters need to be multi-functional. They need to write for the newspaper and the Web, they need to podcast, shoot video, blog, Twitter and use other social media tools. It will be an intense and challenging profession - a far cry from the days when journalists had the luxury of writing one or two stories a day.
- Journalism will no longer be a middle-class profession. In the new economic climate, it doesn't work if you've got a newsroom with reporters making $75,000 to $125,000/year....
Humbly submitted from my iPhone