On newspapers, brands and reading habits

Yesterday i had the opportunity to read two brilliant pieces of journalism that perfectly showcase the dilemma newspapers are in :

  • Online news is getting more and more fragmented via technical means. Hence People are able to pick their trusted sources on a much more fine grained scale as they had to do in the printed world.
  • In the online world everybody, not only big companies with huge marketing budgets can be brands. And becoming a brand is about becoming a trusted source.

The first piece is a column (by Jason Fry in the WallStreet Journal ) called: A reality check for newspapers It has the copiepress vs. google dispute as the background setting but provides generic insights. I just enclose my favourite part:

The only surprise would be if newspapers were any different (Gerd: to the music and the video industries).

In moving online, newspapers have become collections of individual articles, each of which often stands on its own. Once, readers encountered articles by reading the paper a page at a time. Now, such readers are being supplanted by voracious online consumers who get their news in any number of unpredictable ways.

Articles are emailed around, copied to blogs for commentary, grouped together with stories on the same subject from rival publications, and found by search engines and aggregator services. I have no idea how you’re reading this column. Maybe you found it on the Online Journal’s home page or the technology page. Maybe you saw it because it includes Google’s stock symbol, or it hit your newsreader via an RSS feed. Maybe you followed a link from a blog, Google News or Technorati. Maybe someone emailed it to you. Maybe you printed it out this morning and are reading it now. (However you found it, thank you!)

I can’t control any of that and wouldn’t want to — like any writer, the most-important thing to me is to be read. If the Online Journal started directing readers who followed third-party links to this column to the home page and left them to find their way from there, I’d be furious — because I’d be guaranteed to lose readers who got lost. And if WSJ.com said they were doing that because there were ads on the home page but not on this article, I’d not so gently suggest hiring a competent Web designer instead of suing search engines.

The second piece is a portrait of Walt Mossberg (by Ken Auletta in The NewYorker) called: Critical Mass . I just enclose the last paragraph:

What differentiates Mossberg from most bloggers, according to Marissa Mayer, a Google vice-president who focusses in particular on the experience of consumers, is that what he writes “is all based on his use of the product”—he’s not racing to be first. Her colleague Eric Schmidt suggests that, while the Internet may yield enormous amounts of information, it is easy to drown in it. So consumers, Schmidt says, “go to brands they trust.” He adds, “Walt is a brand.”

This perfectly fits my own reading experience. Most of my daily reading is now done via a news reader (currently Google Reader). I’m actively reading about 100 feeds from sources i trust (or find interesting). Only very few feeds are from traditional main stream media. I found out about the two pieces cited above via some of these feeds. Without these feeds i would never have known that these pieces existed.

I also use Google Reader to provide a selection of the articles i find most interesting. You can read it directly or subscribe to this selection as a feed. The headlines of the last ten “shared” articles are also included at the top of this blogs home page.