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Washington Post's Kurtz Loses Hope for Newspapers

As he noted in his popular media column in today's Washington Post, Howard Kurtz has long been one of the newspaper industry's "most fervent optimists." But, witnessing the kinds of chaos gripping his industry these past few weeks, he says, has undermined his belief that newspapers can "find a path to survival."
Kurtz blames a collective "lack of vision" among the executives who control the industry, and it would be difficult to dispute him on that analysis.

That lack of vision goes well beyond the normal checklist of issues, some though not all of which Kurtz mentions:

  • Why didn't newspaper execs recognize Craigslist for the threat it was and do something -- anything -- to counter it with their own online classifieds play? This passivity has been hurting newspapers for way over a decade now, yet they have no viable answer to this day. (Ref: Don't Blame Craig for Killing Newspapers.)
  • Why do newspaper execs continue to wall off their web site products from their print products, often creating conflicts over resource allocation between the two sides of the house? There should be a much tighter integration, with resource-sharing, and thoughtful differentiation between both the content and the business strategies employed.
  • Why don't newspapers partner more often with technology companies that have already figured out how to help users do more useful things with their content like Tweet it or Digg it?
  • Then there is this salient question: As it becomes increasingly clear that U.S. newspapers have missed their online opportunity (most simply did not develop as strong a web product as, say The Guardian has in the U.K.), will they now push aggressively into the emerging mobile content space, or will they sit this one out, too? (Ref: The Sweet Spot: How Print and Mobile Will Converge.)
At the end of his column today, Howard Kurtz concludes with these observations:
Newspapers are probably dying as a mass medium, except perhaps for elite or specialized audiences. Cutting down forests, printing the product and trucking it across the region no longer make economic sense...

Nothing lasts forever. I grew up in the era of tinny AM radios and 45 rpm records...Maybe serious journalism will reinvent itself in new and unexpected forms. But if everything goes electronic, I'll always miss the feel of newsprint.

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