On Tuesday, Hal Varian, Google's top economist, delivered
a keynote address on the economics of the newspaper industry. He's a
notable expert on the subject, in part because of his access to Google
News traffic statistics and online ad revenues. Overall, Varian found
that print publishing costs are untenable, and argued that newspapers don't do enough to engage readers. While some are dismiss the ideas as less-than-groundbreaking, others are taking his advice in earnest.
- He's Dead on About User Engagement, writes Matthew Ingram
at GigaOm: "One of the reasons why the news in general fails to hold
people’s attention for very long, and why newspapers have fairly
pathetic 'time spent' statistics compared to lots of other web sites,
is that it does little or nothing to engage the reader. The delivery of
most news stories is a bare-bones 'here are the facts' approach, with
little or no interactivity or room for external input. Why would anyone
- Newspapers Are Screwed, writes Tom Foremski
at Silicon Valley Watcher: "Mr Varian is in an excellent position to
know what works, and what doesn't work in online media. He has access
to more information than any single newspaper publisher and thus can
provide important insights into the newspaper business. What did Mr
Varian advise newspapers to do? "Experiment, experiment, experiment,"...If that's the best Mr Varian can come up with, that's very bad news for newspapers."
- Stop the Presses! says Netscape founder Marc Andreeson,
who recently spoke with TechCrunch. He agrees with Varian that
“Newspapers could save a lot of money if the primary access to news was
via the internet.” He says printing presses are too expensive and
media execs should go web-only.
- No, Keep Them Going, insists Paul Gillin
at Newspaper Death Watch: "Andreessen has a point that it makes senses
to abandon failing models in the long term, but setting fire to
profitable print operations is the wrong strategy at the moment. After
years of fretting over declining circulation and trying desperately to
rejuvenate a dying business, newspaper publishers are finally adopting
an intelligent strategy. They’re milking all they can from their
profitable business while trying to manage it down to a level that new
models can take over."
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