Fortune magazine has a great overview of the issues facing newspapers, using the Washington Post as a core example — the implicit argument being: If a great newspaper with a fantastic Web property like washingtonpost.com can’t make it work online, then who else has a chance? There are no easy answers, but the Fortune piece sparks plenty of questions.
Starting right off the top, every newspaper of any size that wants to see the future they are staring down should pay close attention to the example used in the lead, of the sports reporter who files breaking news to his blog, then does audio clips and podcasts and online Q&A sessions and so on. The piece also contained a piece of information about the Washington Post that I didn’t know: almost half of Post Co.’s revenue comes from its educational division, which has provided it with a considerable amount of support while it experiments with online, just as the Toronto Star’s newspaper unit has been supported by its Harlequin book division.
My friend Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 — and others such as Lost Remote — have already put their fingers on the crucial point that the newspaper industry is struggling with: namely, when your entire business model is predicated on scarcity (i.e., the scarcity of pages for advertising), how do you deal with the sudden abundance that the Internet has created? Supply and demand gets thrown out the window and other dynamics take hold.