As information gatekeepers, newspapers decided what stories to sell each day and those decisions were often driven by forces other than editorial judgment. Ads were sold at exorbitant rates because space was scarce and demand was high. Newspapers grew from family businesses to public companies; in the process, they succumbed to typical market demands, catering to advertisers and investors and ignoring the less lucrative needs of readers.
Publishers who lived through the corporate heyday of newspapers viewed the Internet’s power to transform news reporting and news consumption as a direct threat, something to challenge and defeat, but as monopolists they weren’t fully prepared for the competition.
The mainstream media adopted online news only after the information gatekeepers begrudgingly filed their own stories of failed monopoly capitalism. For many papers, like the Rocky Mountain News, this revelation has been too little, too late.
“Why a once-profitable industry suddenly seems as outmoded as America's automakers is a tale that involves arrogance, mistakes, eroding trust and the rise of a digital world in which newspapers feel compelled to give away their content,” Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz wrote the other day.
Monday, March 16, 2009
A former reporter at DMI blog insists that the financial effectiveness of newspapers carried the seeds of their own demise: