Newspapers: Still Clueless

Imagine this: It’s the late 1990s and DVD is hitting the market. The sole competition is the VCR, a format that is badly broken – shitty picture quality, shitty sound, no random access, media that permanently degrades with each and every use, lots of mechanical bits to go awry – and the DVD fixes every one of these issues. The completely unsurprising result is, of course, that consumers flock to DVD in droves and the incumbent technology dies an overdue and generally unlamented death.

Now, with your imagination hat still firmly planted on your head, pretend that you are one of the movers and shakers in a business that generated content that was being sold on videotapes. The landscape is changing with incredible and unprecedented speed, the market is growing exponentially and is packed full of people who are clambering for more and more content, and you are faced with A Choice:

You can embrace the new format and not only move your content to the new and far superior platform, but to also enhance the content, deliver new and previously-unthought-of features, expand your markets with completely new products, and in the process offer consumers all sorts of new ways to happily give you shitloads of money.

Or you can keep cranking out tapes … but now you release a special kind of videotape, one where the movie is actually hidden somewhere along the length of the tape instead of being conveniently at the start, and you tell consumers they have to watch a DVD first that tells them how to find the movie before they can watch it. Then – and this is the best part – you actually stand up and announce this as “proving newspapers work”.

“Look, Dave, it’s the latest copy of our Dead Tree Edition.”

So: Abandon your broken format and build on your existing content to capture a huge new market, or keep your head firmly in your ass and watch your business crumble around you, your reach and revenue eaten away by amateurs, startups, and rank beginners. Anyone with a brain would pick the first option. The out-of-touch fenderheads running the newspaper biz have partnered with Nissan – who, quite frankly, should know better – to go with the second.

Funny? Maybe. Sad? Possibly. Pathetic? Oh my, yes.

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