Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Newspapers Could Learn Something from World War II

Via TechDirt, an interesting look at how newspapers, when faced with extinction once before, responded in true blue American fashion and changed their approach in order to survive.

Around the time of World War II (or That Damned War, as my dad called it), newspapers of the era were faced with a real threat - radio news.

Much like the Internet is hammering print media today with the ability to push out information almost as quickly as it occurs, radio threatened to make the newspaper business irrelevant.
It took Bernard Kilgore of The Wall Street Journal to come up with an approach that allowed the daily to compete with radio, but not by covering late-breaking news, which is hardly possible for print media.

The Journal had to change. Technology increasingly meant readers would know the basic facts of news as it happened. He announced, "It doesn't have to have happened yesterday to be news," and said that people were more interested in what would happen tomorrow. He crafted the front page "What's News -- " column to summarize what had happened, but focused on explaining what the news meant.

There's a good lesson in Kilgore's approach. Let's hope newspapers decide to adapt rather than throwing stones at Google and castigating bloggers for linking to their content.

WWII Era Advice on Newspapers Still Relevant Today

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