Why the Newspapers Still Don’t Get Digital

Newspapers and basking sharks at TreenWith newspapers suffering due to the popularity of blogging, online news portals and electronic magazines, it wasn’t going to be long before they started to bite back. Ad revenues adversely effected by lower readership means it is now a fight for survival. Much like the music industry before them, they have thought themselves invisible to new technology and a new way of doing things. Kicking and screaming they are starting to make the first tentative steps to competing with electronic news.

The shame in this is the fact they haven’t learnt from the mistakes of other large monopolies that have been culled by “Digital Davids” versus the “Offline Goliaths”. Instead they have waded in with a digital offering of their offline one. This is not to say the digital product from The Times, Telegraph, other newspapers and magazines aren’t good. In fact the opposite is true, the digital version of the Times on the iPad for example is a delight and in my mind worth every penny.

No, where they have missed a trick is in the personalisation of the news for the reader. Digital offers far more advantages than portability and lower costs, it offers the ability to filter the news to your interests. Now I know us Geeks are always working, technology wise, slightly ahead of the norm, but filtering is the real key to the convenience of digital information and is used all of the time to control consumption the information we are interested in.

Search engines like Google knew filtering was important a long time ago and offer a myriad of options to filter or tailor search results and have even taken the steps to filter automatically based on how or where we search. A good example of filtering news or other information is the use of RSS feeds. Subscribe to a blog or other site via RSS, not email, and the results appear in your RSS Feed Reader as they update. Manage your subscriptions together and you have all the news from the leading sites on subjects of interest to you at your finger tips.

Taking these feeds and adding them to an application like Flipboard for the iPad turns them into a giant, endlessly updating magazine or newspaper full of just the information that interests you. Now presently to do this requires a bit of planning, understanding of feeds and how to use them effectively but why haven’t the newspapers offered this in their digital equivalents?

Newly released The Daily iPad App had this opportunity and missed it, instead it just mimics what it’s corporate owners are doing elsewhere. But how powerful would the advertising be in an electronic paper that contained only the news and therefore the advertising that was likely to interest you?

I for one would subscribe to a version of the Times that contained the latest World news headlines, with some local news, peppered with authoritative stories about Social Media and Blogging with a dash of Formula 1, Arsenal Football Club and a big dollop of Chess for good measure.

About Sean Clark

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