RIP: General Circulation Print Media aka Newspapers

Maureen Dowd writes about the current state of the newspaper industry in her latest New York Times column titled: Slouching Towards Oblivion.

In her article she quotes two key figures from opposite sides of the same content coin; Eric Schmidt and Sam Zell.

Let’s start with the content game’s biggest loser’s comments first – Sam Zell.

Zell now realizes his purchase of the LA Times and Chicago Tribune was “a mistake”.

Zell adds, “It’s very obvious that the newspaper model in its current form does not work and the sooner we all acknowledge that, the better.” Zell also said he probably would not try for a merger because “that’s like asking someone in another business if they want to get vaccinated with a live virus.”

I don’t know about the virus metaphor, but I do know that any business expecting to profit by reaching an audience through sales of print ads is an obsolete business model.

Now to comments from the content games biggest winner – Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, Inc.

Via Dowd, Schmidt, “reassured me that newspapers would last 500 years, but only for a boutique market: commuters taking trains, cabs and subways on the East Coast and in cities like London and Paris.”

“For somebody who lives in the suburbs,” he said, “especially if they’re driving and they have kids screaming in the back seat, why would they prefer a physical newspaper over something that is more personal.”

I don’t know if newspapers will last five hundred years or not but agree those that do survive will do so serving a niche market – not a general market – like the markets every major daily newspaper serves.

In no other way can a print media distribution cost structure begin to even hope to compete with a digital media distribution cost structure.

The new Content Kings will be those who’s business cost structure and distribution model is build on bytes not paper and ink costs and distribution.


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