Seth Godin Says “Time to Start a Newspaper”. He’s Right!

I’m usually not a big fan of Seth Godin’s visions and ideas but in a blog post published yesterday, he stumbles upon a BIG idea. “Time to start a newspaper” he writes in the title of his post. You can stop reading there, the rest of the post is less interesting (he talks about idle real estate agents (?!?) having time to start a paper and he suggests a way to execute the idea), but the title contains a brilliant insight.

Yes, it is the right time to start a newspaper.

Yes. Even if we read dramatic newspaper industry news every week (like Hearst Corp putting the Seattle Post-Intelligencer up for sale “saying that if it can’t find a buyer in the next 60 days, the paper will close or continue to exist only on the Internet.”)

Think about it. Why are newspapers struggling? Is it because the need for local information is going away? Au contraire, I would say the need for local information is higher today. Look at initiatives like Huffington Post (who recently launched a Chicago version of their site) or Outside.in (who aggregates local blog posts) or Silobreaker (an aggregator of online information I covered here) or even unsung individual placebloggers throughout the world! Many people have started to re-think the newspaper industry.

Now, if you work in the newspaper industry today, you might think the sky is falling but once-in-a-lifetime moments like the one we’re going through are usually the best times to change the system. As I wrote last August, “I’m not convinced that most traditional media organizations will just rollover and die. I still see tremendous (but underutilized) assets in most traditional media firms.” I still believe it but your call to action is:

Yes, it is the right time to re-invent the newspaper.

If you could re-invent the newspaper today, what would you do differently?

16 thoughts on “Seth Godin Says “Time to Start a Newspaper”. He’s Right!

  1. I don’t disagree that it’s time to re-invent the newspaper, but I do disagree with his post that real-estate workers should start their own. To me, a newspaper from a real-estate broker wouldn’t exactly be seen as a trusted publication. In addition, his recommendation assumes people can write.

    With all that said, I completely agree. It’s time to re-invent the newspaper. They ARE needed, they just need a new business model.

  2. I don’t disagree that it’s time to re-invent the newspaper, but I do disagree with his post that real-estate workers should start their own. To me, a newspaper from a real-estate broker wouldn’t exactly be seen as a trusted publication. In addition, his recommendation assumes people can write.

    With all that said, I completely agree. It’s time to re-invent the newspaper. They ARE needed, they just need a new business model.

  3. I have thought of that for a long time. A large industry could use it as their own advertising vehicle, which would offset the costs. Their advertising wouldn’t take over the newspaper, just be a part of it, but it would offset costs.

  4. I have thought of that for a long time. A large industry could use it as their own advertising vehicle, which would offset the costs. Their advertising wouldn’t take over the newspaper, just be a part of it, but it would offset costs.

  5. Great idea.
    It’s doable, with positive ROI within 3 years… if (and that’s a big IF) you understand how the Web works and have a solid business model. It’s not rocket science. It has been floating around for months, even years.

    But most people financially interested in the business of news are already in the business of news and think that they know everything about the business of news… even if they have been bleeding money on the Web for the past 10 years. You would think that losing so much money for so many years would make media CEOs, CFOs and VCs curious about alternative business models, but nope, they still cling to the advertising model as if their life depended on it. The advertising model still brings them so much money in their traditional product that they think it’s the only one that can work and that it will (one day) work on the Web. We know that it won’t, but they don’t want to hear about it.

    You are right, though, that there are “tremendous assets in most traditional media firms” and that they are still the best place to “start a news business on the Web”. May 2009 be the year when media managers become curious!

  6. Great idea.
    It’s doable, with positive ROI within 3 years… if (and that’s a big IF) you understand how the Web works and have a solid business model. It’s not rocket science. It has been floating around for months, even years.

    But most people financially interested in the business of news are already in the business of news and think that they know everything about the business of news… even if they have been bleeding money on the Web for the past 10 years. You would think that losing so much money for so many years would make media CEOs, CFOs and VCs curious about alternative business models, but nope, they still cling to the advertising model as if their life depended on it. The advertising model still brings them so much money in their traditional product that they think it’s the only one that can work and that it will (one day) work on the Web. We know that it won’t, but they don’t want to hear about it.

    You are right, though, that there are “tremendous assets in most traditional media firms” and that they are still the best place to “start a news business on the Web”. May 2009 be the year when media managers become curious!

  7. I middle agree with you :

    “Yes, it is the right time to re-invent the newspaper.”

    because seth godin is right : “Yes, it is the right time to start a newspaper.” ……… “Own your Zip code. The next frontier is local, and this is a great way to start.”

    Do you really think that today’s newspaper will be the newspaper of tomorrow ?

    You forget that their unique goal is to sell PAPER.
    How could they be present on internet with the same service quality without loosing their business ?

    This is an highway for pure players of information that don’t have to sell PAPER.

  8. I middle agree with you :

    “Yes, it is the right time to re-invent the newspaper.”

    because seth godin is right : “Yes, it is the right time to start a newspaper.” ……… “Own your Zip code. The next frontier is local, and this is a great way to start.”

    Do you really think that today’s newspaper will be the newspaper of tomorrow ?

    You forget that their unique goal is to sell PAPER.
    How could they be present on internet with the same service quality without loosing their business ?

    This is an highway for pure players of information that don’t have to sell PAPER.

  9. I’m with you Seb. Now is the time to reinvent the local newspaper. You’re right. People don’t want LESS news about their neighborhoods, they actually expect MORE. Whether it’s from blogs, msm, databases, reviews or tweets. Expectations are high and need is great.

  10. I’m with you Seb. Now is the time to reinvent the local newspaper. You’re right. People don’t want LESS news about their neighborhoods, they actually expect MORE. Whether it’s from blogs, msm, databases, reviews or tweets. Expectations are high and need is great.

  11. To Rommil’s comment, I would say this: Visit our hyperlocal blog, http://westrichlandrealestateblog.com, a blog written by me and my real estate agent-wife. Read the most recent two pages of posts, most of which cover the flooding in our city this weekend. I’d love to give you copies of our local newspaper to compare, because I think you’ll find we did as good a job, if not better.

    Do you trust the information less because you know my wife’s background?

  12. To Rommil’s comment, I would say this: Visit our hyperlocal blog, http://westrichlandrealestateblog.com, a blog written by me and my real estate agent-wife. Read the most recent two pages of posts, most of which cover the flooding in our city this weekend. I’d love to give you copies of our local newspaper to compare, because I think you’ll find we did as good a job, if not better.

    Do you trust the information less because you know my wife’s background?

  13. Well, looks like I was wrong if you believe what Jeff Jarvis calls today “History in the making”, the fact that the LA Times’ “online advertising revenue is now sufficient to cover the Times’s entire editorial payroll, print and online”. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jan/12/la-times-online-advertising

    But not really, if you read further. Jarvis even adds: “But perhaps it won’t be a legacy player who breaks this digital barrier. A newcomer unencumbered by the costs, expectations, processes, traditions, and culture of a print newsroom and business could build a profitable online news franchise at low cost.” Amen to that.

  14. Well, looks like I was wrong if you believe what Jeff Jarvis calls today “History in the making”, the fact that the LA Times’ “online advertising revenue is now sufficient to cover the Times’s entire editorial payroll, print and online”. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jan/12/la-times-online-advertising

    But not really, if you read further. Jarvis even adds: “But perhaps it won’t be a legacy player who breaks this digital barrier. A newcomer unencumbered by the costs, expectations, processes, traditions, and culture of a print newsroom and business could build a profitable online news franchise at low cost.” Amen to that.

  15. “If you could re-invent the newspaper today, what would you do differently?”

    I am assuming this question is all about preserving the concept of newspaper and not the jobs. If that is so, I would suggest two things:

    1. OUTSOURCE IT. Might sound preposterous, but the fact is that all the news gathering, editing can be done from a remote location. Reduce costs by outsourcing the work. Also, in countries like India, the newspaper sector has started to boom with increasing number of literates (one set of those is moving from local languages to English newspapers). So, probably they could also start local editions of the same to boost subscription numbers – ‘The Indian New York Times’ anyone?

    2. CROWDSOURCE IT. Much like twitter, a means could be devised to crowdsource the news gathering. Of course, this is not fool proof, but this is just a rough idea which could be worked upon!

  16. “If you could re-invent the newspaper today, what would you do differently?”

    I am assuming this question is all about preserving the concept of newspaper and not the jobs. If that is so, I would suggest two things:

    1. OUTSOURCE IT. Might sound preposterous, but the fact is that all the news gathering, editing can be done from a remote location. Reduce costs by outsourcing the work. Also, in countries like India, the newspaper sector has started to boom with increasing number of literates (one set of those is moving from local languages to English newspapers). So, probably they could also start local editions of the same to boost subscription numbers – ‘The Indian New York Times’ anyone?

    2. CROWDSOURCE IT. Much like twitter, a means could be devised to crowdsource the news gathering. Of course, this is not fool proof, but this is just a rough idea which could be worked upon!

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