typewriterThe transition from mere a newspaper to full-blown social news organizations (SNO) requires a significant investement in technological infrastructre. That’s not an easy bullet to bite when ad-revenues are falling and potential investors are increasingly wary of a fledgling industry. So perhaps print publishers should be looking at technology VCs, rather than the more conventional sources of capital.

After all, becoming a social news organization is more of a technological undertaking than an editorial one. After all, an SNO requires more than just taking on technical infrastructure. It also requires internalizing tech culture and making sure that you have the resources and people and over see it.

Just consider how (1) approaching readers as users so that you can (2) offer them cross platform interaction through APIs to (3) can collect behavioral data, and (4) replace your ad-sales departments with a comprehensive marketing agencies (like Vice Magazine) that can (5) help mine that user database, and then (6) use your users to target advertisers and (7) diversify their ad offerings accordingly and (7) subsequently collaborate with editorial to develop symbiotic content model.

Internalizing a tech culture is so important for a newspaper to survive because it’s technology and new media that have eaten in to readerships, ad sales, and classifieds revenue. Simply put, it’s adapt and overcome. This is more than a media revolution. It’s evolution, and if outlets don’t evolve into media entities, they will simply go extinct.

Consider, recent comments by Vanity Fair‘s editor Graydon Carter:

The Internet is partly to blame for all of this, and perhaps micro-pricing or gated content will be part of the solution. “Youthing” down a paper to attract 21-year-olds isn’t the answer: the only way you’re ever going to get the average 21-year-old to read a daily newspaper is to wait 9 years until he’s 30. My suggestion to newspapers everywhere is to give the public a reason to read them again. So here’s an idea: get on a big story with widespread public appeal, devote your best resources to it, say a quiet prayer, and swing for the fences. [emphasis my own]

Say a prayer, indeed! While original and compelling content is part of the solution (something that both Nick Denton and Tom foremski agree with), it’s only part of the solution.

Where Carter is kinda wrong is in “youthing down” a paper, and I say “kinda wrong” because papers should actually be “youthing up rather than down. You see, content devlivery is another integral part of the solution, and if newspapers are going to survive, they have to start accommodating the 30-year-olds of 5 years from now — not necessarily the 30-year-olds of 9 years from now, but definitely the 30-year-olds of 5 years from now. ‘Cause if they don’t, the 25 year-olds of today are going to get into the habit of going elsewhere for their (less authoritative) content, and we’re all going to be the worse for it.

This is why social media APIs are so much part an parcel of a symbiotic editorial model: because readers are now users, and users interact with content. They don’t just consume it. As Alan Rusbridger, the Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian, noted in a recent interview, there is a blurring between the reader and the journalist, so it’s become necessary to involve the reader more and create a community around your journalist core.

And everything from approaching your readers as user to diversifying your revenue stream and targeting advertisers through user-data is a technological undertaking. So tech VCs may not only provide newspapers with the financial resources to make the transition to an SNO, they might also provide access to a network of resources and people who can help ensure that the transition goes more smoothly.

2 thoughts on “Why Newspapers Need Tech VC

  1. The problem with tech VCs is that they invest in easily scalable business models. They don’t like service based businesses that require people to grow them, such as newspapers…

  2. You know a lot more about VC mindset than I do, so I have to concede that point to you.

    Come to think of it, the more I think about the technology entailed doing this, the more that I think it’s still the jurisdiction of a tech VC, but not that of a newspapers. An ad platform that could hyper-target according to both an internal user database and the user-data aggregated via a third party API is something that could rival Google (or maybe even only be developed by them).

    That might be something that’d attract tech VCs, but it’s definitely something that any content organization (news or otherwise) should stay the f**k away from.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *