A manifesto for the newspaper industry

By Ross Dawson on September 6, 2006 | Permalink

Tom Mohr, formerly president of Knight-Ridder Digital before its sale in June, has just published Winning Online – A Manifesto, proposing that the US newspaper industry should merge into a single industry-wide network, at least for its digital assets. He suggests that there is $4 billion of additional revenue to be gained by 2010, primarily by gaining targetted advertising. Part of Tom’s argument starts from the fact that in the US market, all but a few newspapers are local. It is important to note that there are very different dynamics in just about every other country in the world, where the newspaper markets are dominated by national players, so this is a particularly US view. Other key aspects of his case are the combined power of the newspapers’ advertising salesforces, and the negotiating power they have collectively, for example being able to withhold their content from the content aggregators such as Yahoo!. However Tom’s last point is that this collective work will take leadership. Indeed. In a network economy, leadership is required to show the potential of collaboration, and to bring participants together to create and share collective value. Having closely studied similar situations across many industries (for example FXall, RosettaNet, XBRL, CPFR), I simply do not believe that the industry structure or the participants in the US newspaper industry will allow this plan to make any headway. Reflecting on Tom’s piece, Don Dodge thinks that newspapers and magazines will die as soon as their current readers die. No way. E-paper will revitalize them in a new form. Don is in a minority of people who are happy to read news and entertainment sitting in front of a screen or on a portable device. Once the current print publications are digital, they will have a new lease of life.

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