Blog of the Week - Leonard Pitts Reactions

Well this is not so much as the Blog of the Week as it is a comment that caused much debate around the blogosphere. With McClatchy, the Miami Herald's parent company, cutting jobs, Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote this week some suggestions on how the local newspaper could remain relevant. Unfortunately, Pitts didn't bring any new ideas to the table that haven't been suggested before:

We still tend to regard our websites as ancillary to our primary mission of producing newspapers. But I submit that our primary mission is to report and comment upon the news and that it is the newspaper itself that has become ancillary.

So maybe we should regard the Internet not as an extra thing we do, but as the core thing we do. Maybe we should maximize the fact that we know our cities as no one else does. Maybe we should make our websites not simply online recreations of our papers, but entities in their own right, destination portals for those who want news and views from and about a given city, but also for those who want to find a good doctor in that city, or apply for a job in that city or reach the leaders of that city or research the history of that city. Maybe the goal should be to make ourselves the one indispensable guide to that city.

Pitts, that's what most publications, including the Herald are already doing. But his biggest faux pas is the suggestion that newspapers require a subscription to access information online:

Maybe -- heretical idea ahead -- it's as simple as requiring online readers to pay for the product, just as our other readers do.

Er, has Pitts ever heard of TimesSelect? Well plenty of our local bloggers do:

For better or worse, people are not willing to pay for access to online news. It doesn't work. Every news organization that has tried it has backed away later, beaten and bloodied. You can bemoan the culture of "if it's online, it should be free" all you want, but it's been encoded onto our surfing DNA--we don't pay for news online. If you try to "require" us to do so, we will simply go elsewhere--and other places will spring up, leaving you without page views, and by extension, the ad revenue that really pays the bills.

[Brian via Incertus]

Had Leonard burned a little more midnight oil he would have learned that one of the most successful and widely read newspaper websites, nytimes.com, scrapped the pay model last year after they decided shutting out millions of readers and putting content behind a pay wall wasn't worth the 225,000 readers and $10 million in revenue. They opted for millions more eyeballs. The LA Times also tried charging readers for its Calendar section online and scrapped it as well.

[Bill via Random Pixels]

Eventually Pitts and the rest of the ink-and-paper journalists will have to understand their future lies in creating content away from an institution. Embrace free electronic distribution and multiplicity of options -that's what readers want and that's what you'll have to give them. Newspapers are being left with nothing but name recognition and bad equity. Time to bail out of that sinking boat.

[Alex via Miami & Beyond]

But Rick over at South Florida Daily Blog puts it best:

How out of touch are old-school journalists with the internet and the people who use it? Well, I think Leonard Pitts pretty much showed us with that last sentence.

- Jose D. Duran

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