The Web owes us nothing

Just because a company and an industry thrived off of legacy media, doesn’t mean the Web owes them anything.

The Web doesn’t owe us money. It doesn’t owe us market share. And we can’t force consumers to not enjoy the Web and want to get products and services over it.

That’s not how things work. We have to court the Web, not the other way around.

If you want to make money off the Web, make something cool and useful. Make something that people really want. You know, like what people did back in the day.

Andy Dickinson put it well:

It (the Web) doesn’t care that you have been doing this for years, you have to earn your eyeballs like everyone else. Telling us that you deserve special treatment sounds a bit like a multinational bank saying it needs a handout because of the credit crunch. Cause and effect.

Obviously, this applies to the journalism/newspaper industry, where many journalists openly yearn for the “Good old days.” Those might have been the good old days for some people (technologically challenged journalists and publishers), but they certainly weren’t for our readers and our audience. People love getting news on their computers and mobile devices.

I’m tired of hearing about crippled Web products that are designed to get people to buy the print version. We should be able to make money off of our Web products, without a print tie in.

But this isn’t some journalism-specific phenomenon. Just about every major media industry believes the Web owes it something.

The recording industry and the idiotic RIAA are trying to get Congress to subsidized their last-century business model with a tax on everyone’s Internet service. As if Americans should be forced to pay a tax to prop up an industry that refuses to adapt and adjust. That’s not our problem. That’s ridiculous.

The movie industry and the MPAA has been fighting joining the digital revolution even more fiercely than the RIAA. Yes, some movies are finally available to download or digitally rent, but the MPAA makes new releases wait a month after their DVD release before they can show up on the Web.

Why? Because the MPAA can’t give up on DVD sales. The MPAA is hoping people will want to see a new release so badly that they’ll buy the DVD in that month time frame. You know that month when a new release is ridiculously overpriced, sometimes well over $20 for a single movie.

The television industry also has had a tough time embracing the Web. In fact, CW has to be the poster child for not getting the Web. CW’s premier show, Gossip Girl, was a huge hit on the Web. Such a big hit, that CW is hoping that by no longer offering it on the Web it will boost TV ratings.

I couldn’t make that up if I wanted to. You have a large, loyal following (most of which are young and tech savvy), but they aren’t following the medium you prefer, so you are going to risk alienating them in order to force them onto a legacy medium? That has to be one of the stupidest things I have ever heard.

In fact, looking back on things, the journalism industry might be the least backwards. We’ve got some great Web products in the journalism industry. Heck, we’ve even got some newspapers going online only.

Maybe our new goal should be to do the opposite of whatever the RIAA and MPAA do. That means giving our customers exactly what they want. That should always be our goal.

  • The obvious problem is that jumping to a new medium requires both innovation and confidence from everyone involved.

    Even if newspapers were jumping on board 100% with the internet, advertisers (their real customers) would have to be willing to jump in with equally wild abandon, and that is unlikely to happen.

    And there are also plenty of consumers who still prefer to get their news in paper format. I think that will be true until we invent a digital medium that really, truly replaces the experience of reading on paper (kindle version 6 maybe?)

  • pat

    @Jason,

    I think there will be a market for print publications for a long time to come. I also believe there will be a market for physical DVDs for years to come, just as I still believe in physical CDs. What I am arguing, however, is that we shouldn’t keep our legacy distribution mediums from allowing us to move into new mediums. We should try to maximize all possible revenue sources, not just the ones we are familiar with.

    And, here is the take home point, we should not cripple new distribution mediums to product legacy ones. That is what all the industries I have describe in my post have done.

    Journalists and publishers have been complaining that there isn’t enough money online, but that’s just a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you spend your days convincing yourself and others that there isn’t enough money to be made online, you certainly won’t make a lot of money online. What I am arguing for is for journalism companies to make a strong push into the online marketplace, and to make products that can stand independent of print products.

    In order to make a strong push into the online marketplace, journalism companies will need to find new advertisers and new ways of advertising. It boggles my mind that people try to do the same exact advertising in a new medium. Of course it isn’t working that well! Do you advertise the same on TV as you do in print? Of course not. That would be incredibly stupid.

    I have detailed before how newspapers can make money online. The strategy I outline involves going after several tiers of advertisers. One big push I’d like to see is going after small, local advertisers who have never advertised in print products before because they are too expensive. Heck we can even get the local volleyball team advertising their car wash if we price ads right.

    I disagree that the issue is mimicking the experience of reading paper. Reading a paper sucks, especially a broadsheet. You get ink all over your hands (and then everything else you touch). The paper never folds back up properly. It’s too bulky to bring on public transportation. The Kindle needs two things: color E-Ink and a lower price.

    But the kind of people who will read news on a Kindle aren’t the kind of people who will read newspapers in print form for years to come. Many of the people who still subscribe to print newspapers (more than just the Sunday edition) aren’t very good with technology, and it is those subscribers who are perfectly happy reading the print edition five days a week. There are two problems with catering to this crowd, however: 1) These people tend to be older, which is outside the target demographic for advertisers and 2) There isn’t a lot of growth with that age set.

    We need to try to expand our audiences, not cater to an ever shrinking one.