Wednesday August 22, 2007

Developments in the newspaper business

USA Today vote and comment features Two interesting recent stories that seem to signal what lays ahead for newspapers.

#1: Disappointing early results for USA Today’s adoption of social networking. The USA Today tried what many newspapers are considering: bringing their users much closer to their content by allowing them to create profiles with which to comment, vote on stories to rise to the home page, etc. Take a look: USA Today, and it’s hard to miss.

The problem is that for whatever reason, this is hurting their page views, which have declined 29% over the last year, while the NY Times and Washington Post have held steady. Perhaps this will make other newspapers *cough*hearld*cough* reconsider adopting social networking. It’s of course likely that the the implementation just needs to be tweaked a bit, or even that the decline in USA Today’s readership has nothing to do with the SN features — maybe they’ve just been sucking compared to the competition.

#2: A plan is almost finalized for Tribune to be taken off the stock market, purchased by a private interest: it would be owned by the employees, in a deal organized and financed by a guy named Zell. This seems to fall into the trend I suggested a couple of years ago of not letting newspapers be publicly traded. Maybe. Hopefully it’s not one of the colorful bumps along the way down for the industry. In any case, it’s far from certain whether the deal will go through after all.

#3 (bonus): As many have heard, the NY Times is planning to drop the pay-wall for some of their content. Hooray, but when?

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