Ellen Wallace commented on my recent post about Mark Evans in Toronto. I had confused her about what I saw happening between newspapers and bloggers and I realized that while I talk about this often, I have not actually written about it in quite a while.
Newspapers are generally in a lot of trouble. Their business model appears irreparably broken. Ad revenue continues to be diverted to online competitors such as Craig's List and Google. Newsprint is costly. Unions want more yet there is less to give.
This is not a good thing. The world will not be a better place without newspapers. Free speech will not be served by the death of them. Government malfeasance is certain to rise without the watchdog media. They have professional information gathering organizations and budgets dedicated to reporting.
No one will pay a blogging citizen journalist to hop on a plane and go cover a war. We organize in an ad hoc sort of way. There's a lot of us and we just happen to be around where news breaks sometimes. There are many dramatic illustrations, but the important thing is that we exist in the real world, in communities, where Little Leaguers play and clubs, groups, civic organizations and elective boards meet.
This local news is where people still need their daily papers, or at least the organizations that produce them.
Let me back up for a second. The problem with your daily newspaper is not the organization, but love of the paper product. In the Information Age, the newspaper has become a cumbersome and inefficient distribution mechanism. If yo want fast delivery of news, paper is a stage coach competing with jet planes.
Newspaper executives seem to disdain us bloggers as unruly, inaccurate and unprofessional. Some of us are. Most are not. But we have feet on the street. Every street. All over the place and our numbers are getting bigger. We are not the problem. We are moms, a truck drivers, business representatives,teenagers and sports fans. We are eyewitness commuters to We live in physical communities that are geographically defined. We can be a significant part of the solution. A large part of it.
We bloggers are almost everywhere. We are not just the business bloggers that I usually write about. Newspapers, should use us as stringers to cover the local events, the meetings of clubs, groups and civic organizations; the local sports teams; the neighborhood disputes; the reviews of local restaurants; the community forums and so on. Blogging allows newspapers to get very local, where geography matters. This is what readers need from newspapers, because they are for the most part too slow on reporting on national and global events The afternoon newspaper is dying, for example, because no one needs it anymore, to find out how their stocks performed, or what horse won at the track.
My experience tells me that newspaper management is annoyed with bloggers. They see us as an unwashed, untrained rabble-- fools who just give it away. It seems to me, they will keep dismissing and disdaining bloggers until the Cluetrain smacks them dead on the track. Instead, newspapers should closely examine the technology and its huge efficiency over paper, because therein lies the profit.
By using bloggers to dig into their communities, newspaper publishers can also tap a whole new revenue source--the micro advertiser, the local dry cleaner, independent coffee shop or car wash. These small businesses have few economically viable options other than the Yellow Pages, which are in themselves becoming obsolete.
Ellen, I hope this helps.