I spoke to Fredrik Wass the other day about the importance of chunkability. It struck me that the mistakes being made by mainstream media (MSM) regarding news has a lot of similarities with what went wrong with the classified ads.
Classified ads used to be a major source of income for newspapers. It still is in some sense, but it’s considerably less today at least. Being the market leaders, their main focus was keeping the status quo. The same offer was presented in each paper, more or less. Things were good.
Then the internet came along and turned everything upside down. Craigslist in the Bay Area, and Blocket in Sweden. A better offer – cheaper, or free. Suddenly the market shrinks. The figure I read was that Craigslist made $6 million dollars, but $60 million dollars was removed from the market.
As I see it, the problem was that the MSM misjudged the market to come. They saw that the market for classifieds in the internet was considerably less profitable than the one in print. Following that argument, it would make sense to stick with what they had. Why cannibalize a profitable business?
The problem was that the comparison was wrong. MSM were hoping to keep their current business when that wasn’t an option. Wide usage of the internet and a superior offer had to lead to a shrinking of the market. Therefore the correct question that they should have asked themselves was “do we want any part of the classifieds market at all?”. If the answer was yes, the internet was they way to go. Keeping status quo simply wasn’t an option.
The same thing is happening right now, only this time it’s about news. MSM seems to think that supplying one paper, or any other channel providing the same variation of content, will still be the prolific way of consuming media. And as any reader of this blog will know – it’s not.
The days of having one newspaper are over. The days of getting one stream of information from one place are over. The future will be put together by hundreds or thousands of streams, filtered and aggregated by different people and companies before they finally are presented to the end consumer.
An example: Average Joe won’t just go to DN.se and read all the news there. They will read the editorial at DN, the sports at Aftonbladet, local news about Lund in Sydsvenskan, daily news at SvD and then perhaps 30 niche blogs. As a media company, you should be happy being just one of these streams. You can’t have it they way it was, the same way you can’t have the old market for classifieds back.
Remember – it’s either that, or not being read by anyone at all.