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Google’s health check for newspapers

14 May

Good read on GigaOm  about Google’s head of news products Richard Gingras recently comparing newspapers to old-fashioned internet portals like Yahoo, and suggesting that unless media companies can adapt to the Web rather than fighting it, they are likely doomed.

The talk at Harvard, hosted by Nieman Foundation, was live-blogged by Matt Stempeck of MIT’s Center for Civic Media (his original notes are posted here).

Some highlights via GigaOm are:

On how newspapers got to where they are:

We look back at the 40 golden years of newspaper profitability as if things had been structured that way forever. But these four decades were triggered by an earlier media disruption: television. The rise of television advertising caused a contraction in the newspaper business, where major metropolitan markets went from supporting 4-5 newspapers to 1-2 papers. The limited number of remaining companies allowed monopolitistic pricing. This wealth was created by disruption, and what disruption gives, it taketh away.

On the iPad as the savior of journalism:

[The iPad is] a fatal distraction for media companies. Too many publishers looked at the tablet as the road home to their magazine format, subscription model, and expensive full-page ads. The format of a single device does not change the fundamental ecosystem underneath it, and this shiny tablet has taken media companies’ eyes off of the ball.

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