"So Change. Or Die"

As he leaves the struggling San Jose Mercury News, Ryan Sholin provides an excellent elucidation of why newspapers are failing in a digital age:

I don’t believe that local movie, TV, or music critics have a great amount of unique local value in the era of Rotten Tomatoes and Netflix. I don’t believe that a newspaper in San Jose needs a national issue on its front page every day, with few exceptions. I don’t believe in the Editorial We. I don’t believe that the best newspaper columnists can keep up with the best bloggers in the niches or styles I care about.

Ryan also goes on to offer some great suggestions for newspapers interested in turning things around (how many of those are out there is certainly debatable), summed up nicely with, “So Change. Or Die.” [Thanks to Peter Brantley for the link.]

Over on Publishing 2.0, there’s a related post on newspaper evolution:

This is not an indictment of the value of print newspapers conceptually — it’s an indictment of newspapers that are still publishing the same content on paper as they are publishing on the web. Newspapers used to see the web as a complement, a value add to the print edition. Now they have to flip the equation.

Scott gets at the critical error most newspapers made with the Web, which was to merely put the printed paper online. Newspapers failed to understand that readers on the Web expect (and demand) very different things. Specifically, newspapers did not (and still don’t) take advantage of what the Web can do. (Go ahead, count the number of hyperlinks within the top five local stories for this paper.)

There is a very real risk of this pattern repeating within book publishing, especially relating to e-Books. (For example, if you know when it’s being written and produced that a book will be in e-Book (or other digital format), it better have hyperlinks.)