Consumers do not want to be limited to browsing content provided by legacy top-down, control oriented news organizations. As well, banners and buttons, the online version of double trucks, ROP’s and classifieds, do not translate into a value proposition that support feet on the ground reporters.
If one reflects on the origins of the Internet – its reason for being – it is not surprising that applying print practices to the web dooms one to extinction. The Internet’s beginnings trace back to 1969 when the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), a branch of the military that developed top-secret systems and weapons during the Cold War, set out to create the ARPAnet. While some say ARPAnet was created to address a military need, Charles Herzfeld, the former director of ARPA, contends “it came out of our frustration that there were only a limited number of large, powerful research computers in the country, and that many research investigators who should have access to them were geographically separated from them. One can make the analogy that the goal was to find a way for individuals to talk with each other without going through a well-defined, controlled channel of communication. Just as the Internet empowered scientists to seamlessly share ideas and seek answers from one another, so to is it empowering citizens. News organizations who refuse to relinquish control and who do not empower there reporters to join the sharing and seeking process will become extinct.
Legacy news organizations can no longer rely on high barriers to entry to save them from extinction. The ability to disrupt single-paper markets results from new efficiencies achieved through web browsers rather than web presses, access to an increasingly sophisticated array of open source tools and seamless access to like-minded entrepreneurs regardless of geography. New players distinguish themselves by serving instantaneous news without regard for print circulations and allowing professionals to interact in the same space as amateurs. The reality of millions of markets of dozens online rather than dozens of markets of millions in print severely limits the advantage of legacy large-advertiser relationships. And finally, technology rather than staff reductions reduces costs while raising quality.
Radical change must be undertaken or extinction will result.