Canwest's Future Buyer Has an Opportunity to Innovate, But Will They Take It?
This is one of those times when the clichéd Tale of Two Cities quotes comes to mind. I'll save you the pain and skip it. Yeah, we get it, newspapers as we know them are in trouble. Just like the advent of the telegraph changed how news was gathered, transmitted and reported, the Internet has done the same for papers.
Who wants to buy a newspaper to read news that is often stale before the ink is dry? Certainly not for the classifieds, Craigslist took care of that nicely. Weekly fliers? I get them in my email, thanks.
Great reporting, thoughtful commentary, in-depth journalism? Yeah just let me read the online version on the site, thanks. Pay for that access? Umm, yeah not so much.
Today one of Canada's largest media players put all but the National Post up for sale and filed for creditor protection at the same time.
Canwest Global Communications Corp. announced it is seeking buyers for its newspaper publishing unit at the same time as it requested creditor protection for the division. In a Toronto courtroom on Friday, the Canwest Limited Partnership, which holds all of Canwest's newspaper and online operations, filed for creditor protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. link: CBC News - Money - Canwest puts papers up for sale
This on the same day that Mathew Ingram joined GigaOM—Mathew Ingram Joins GigaOM – GigaOM and Some Thoughts on Joining the GigaOM Family – GigaOM—which I find as both exciting and as foreshadowing of what the future holds for online news publications. Since joining the Vancouver Observer family a few months ago with the launch of Techplanations, I spend a good bit of time thinking about journalism and online news reporting.
I think both GigaOM and ReadWriteWeb have something smart going on. Most of their content is free. It's written throughout the day, night, and weekend by amazing writers who really know their topic areas. Both of these sites are on my must-read list everyday, actually several times a day. News moves too fast for me not to check my nearly 1000 RSS feeds throughout the day. Skipping a morning checking means 1000s of articles that I need to skim through. That's from a morning.
Both GigaOM and RWW have sponsors and ads on their sites—if you'd like to sponsor or advertise on my Techplanations column or here do let me know—which probably brings in some good money, but both sites have launched subscription services or whitepapers as additional sources of income. Now, why can't the Vancouver Sun/Province (SunVince?) do the same? Why can't they have advertising as a large revenue source and then sell detailed analyses from their writers.
You can't tell me that someone who has been covering the tech beat, world news, politics, etc doesn't have 5-10 pages of insights worth selling. Would I pay for in-depth analysis on a topic I needed more insight into? Maybe, depends on the author.
Now, while we're turning the newspaper industry on its head, how about we do the unthinkable—kill the paper editions. Cut the cord. Oh sure there will be back lash. Maybe some slow curtailing of paper editions. Maybe combining the Sun and the Province into one paper publication.
Look if we really care about local news and great reporting, new models and ways of doing business have to be found. Putting general news content behind a paywall isn't going to help bring more readers online. Maybe giving all paid subscribers an ereader and a subscription to the paper. It was postulated that it would be less expensive for the New York Times to buy all their subscribers a Kindle and a subscription to their content than it was to continue to print a paper edition.
Whoever buys the Canwest newspaper assets has a chance to push the boundaries. They could, at least here in Vancouver, tap into a skilled, innovative, and savvy tech scene for help creating online solutions.
The question is, will they.