Yelvington with some good ideas

I’ve decided I’m not going to be depressed over the Rocky — after all, True/False is in town and that should provide plenty to distract me.

Steve Yelvington has a really great blog post today that echoes a lot of what I’ve tried to tell people: The newspaper is not competing against other newspapers, or even against TV, radio and magazines. It’s competing against all the entertainment options available all the time everywhere in the world.

I don’t want to steal too much of Steve’s post, but the point is that we don’t often look at our news sites through the eyes of the consumer. The magazine industry, IMO, is better at doing this. That’s at least partly because magazines have known for a long time that they are competing against a very broad market, and that their value exists inside a very specific niche.

Newspapers, on the other hand, have been run generally by news editors — who are some of the best people in the world, but who think of content in terms of exclusivity and value compared to other similar content. The upshot of this is that they tend to have a view of content that says 1) exclusive is better; and 2) if it’s not ours it’s not worthwhile.

There’s certainly value in exclusivity (see: WSJ). But there’s also a lot of value in the “portal” strategy, where your homepage becomes a place to go for every possible bit of something you might want. The Missourian has started to get better about this — we’re understanding the value of linking to KOMU for school closings, for example. But we aren’t perfect at it yet.

Oh, and for the hardcore news junkies: I realize that you don’t mean “news” to be “entertainment” and I’m not suggesting that the Missourian become Maxim. But entertainment value is exactly why people spend time with newspapers. There’s an old truism that says we spend time on things for only two reasons: to solve a problem or to give us pleasure. Does your newspaper do either?

(Speaking of the Rocky, it went out in style by linking to some of its best pieces. Like this.)


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