Crawling into the evening; Slovakia pays up; Is Patch leaking?

My last entry berated newspaper publishers for fearing to take a leap of faith and try new things to get themselves out of the hole they dug themselves into.

But, fortunately, there are a few out there that are willing to give it a try. One of them is the Orange County Register, which decided to run with some recent research on the habits of tablet owners and create a P.M. edition for the iPad. But instead of just turning back the clock 30 years and giving readers a newspaper with final stock prices, the Register team instead focused on a key demographic and is tailoring the content to fit what they are looking for.  So instead of an electronic newspaper for the masses, its more of a niche product for young South California professionals.

It’s being offered at a price. But, as the Knight Foundation researchers found, tablet users are willing to pay for content if they find valuable to their lifestyle, in terms of information and fit.

A  smart move by the Register, and an experiment everyone should keep an eye on.

Keep in mind that survival of individual news companies won’t be reliant on one big money-maker, but several smaller ones. A P.M. tablet edition tailored for that particular audience could very well be a step in that direction.

The future of paid content … in Slovakia?

As more traditional news outlets jump onto the pay wall wagon, media blogger Alan Mutter highlights one model that seems to be working overseas. Two takeaways he notes:

1. News organizations working together to make it work (though he doesn’t mention if they are in competitive situations)

2. It’s easy for customers to pay.

Would something like this work in, say,  New York or Chicago, where competition among news orgs is fierce? That is unsure,  but it would be interesting to see the lions sitting with the lambs for the sake of journalism’s future.

More Hype on Hyperlocal

Interest blog item from Erik Wemple of the Washington Post on AOL and hyperlocal site Patch.  It’s interesting that Forbes predicts AOL’s massive venture is expected to lose $100 million this year. Seems like Patch’s revenue model — which is very similar to the one that doomed other good ventures earlier in the decade — has yet to catch on for the majority of its 800 sites.

What makes it sad is that Patch was one of the largest employer of out-of-work journalists in the past year (notably at a lower pay scale than they were previously making). If AOL cannot build a sustainable revenue stream for Patch, these journalists will be back on the streets…and that’s the real tragedy.

Why are newspapers afraid of innovation?

If newspaper publishers ran Apple, we’d still be buying Apple 2E computers built in a California garage.

If newspaper publishers ran Hyundai, we’d still be driving econoboxes that barely made it past their warranties.

If newspaper publishers ran NASA, we’d still be shooting monkeys into space.

If..well, you get the idea.

It never ceases to amaze me that in an industry that holds others’ to the fire for the sake of change, they are so adverse to it themselves. This becomes clearer after reading the Poynter Institute’s Rick Edmond’s post on the innovative  e “three-around”  printing   technology that is as innovative for print as it is efficient.

The process would mean a radical revamp of current newspaper formats, as Edmonds points out, and there would be some capital costs involved. Nonetheless, the company that developed the technology last year has said they are not getting takers to the new process.

Why? Edmonds quotes one of the developers: ““We have a lot of people who say they want to go second, but no one wants to be first.”

What we as an industry continue to realize is that the most successful companies are the ones that are willing to take the risk, make the investment in time and money,  to survive. Yes, Apple has the iPad and iPhone, but they also had the Newton (and, frankly, AppleTV is something they do not talk highly of today).

I agree with Edmonds’ assumption that it could be due to the industry focused so hard on a digital future that they do not want to put that kind of money into a print effort. But so many publishers still look at their newspapers as the flagship of their business. If they want to keep the ship afloat, they cannot leave it as is.

Hopefully, someone will step forward and take the risk on three-arounds to see if it will, indeed, provide a more efficient and economical alternative to the print industry.

It’s time to give the monkeys a break.