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Wrong Question: Washington Post & The Death of Print Media?

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It is hard to recognize an important “moment in time” while it is happening and even harder to recognize when it is happening to you. Moments often happen quickly and are only noticeable in hindsight.However, what has been happening to the newspaper industry as been happening for months, even years, and it is still hard for many of them to recognize.

Howard Kurtz has been a long time writer for The Washington Post and in the May 11th edition he wrote a great article asking if a lack of vision is to blame for the newspapers’ woes? His article is a must read, but he asks the wrong question for our purposes.

Better Question: Why does success blind us to change?

The newspaper industry had a great run for a long period of time. That is no longer true. Denver’s second largest newspaper was shut down earlier this year. The Chicago Tribune is in bankruptcy, the New York Times is considering closing down the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun just laid off 30% of their workforce. This “moment” seems to be happening in slow motion yet many in the print media business can not seem to realize these changes and worse, refuse to make necessary changes before the marketplace forces them into history.

In 1995 the Boston Globe rejected an offer from Monster.com to post its classified job listing online. Today they lose millions of dollars annually to them and other job sites and still have not created a competitive alternative to loyal readers of the Globe. They chased their customers away to protect their profit margins.

The danger in reading Howard Kurtz's article is to confine this problem to the newspaper business. The same mistake ruined Polaroid and Kodak’s film developing business, put travel agencies out of business, unemployed TV repair men, altered the book selling business, etc.

It takes great courage to risk your business, cannibalize revenues and risk your customer based before competitors force you to do so — but new distribution, new marketing and the dramatic changes created by new technology are requiring just that. So, the important question at hand has nothing to do with the print business, but your business.

What changes will force your doors to close? What technology will cut your profits in half? What new marketing will cause your best customers to try a competitor?

Asking these questions may help you discover a revolutionary new business model, but more likely they will help you recognize “the moment” when your business falls under attack and requires change to protect you from the competitor your fear most.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Todd Taskey May 18, 2009 at 5:44 pm


It is logical to take what we know and imagine it being a bit different in the future. That is why “they didn’t see it coming?”

As alternatives to ink and paper emerge, newspapers will become less necessary and eventually extinct. It is also likely the TV “channel”, AM radio, the Rolodex and interruption marketing will go the way of camera film, answering machines and, yes, many of today’s newspapers…


Ken Fahmy May 18, 2009 at 2:29 pm

No more Newspapers? I doubt it. Diminished market share due to alternative means of communication absolutely. Why didn’t they see it coming?

This is a great reminder for all of us that as small business owners that we must constantly be evolving through our approach to marketing, product improvement, or providing for an enhanced value added service to our customers. Technology is a great thing it can work for us if we partake or against as others pass us by who do.

This demise of the old and in with the new is “Creative Destruction” at its finest.


Jay Eisenberg May 15, 2009 at 5:09 pm

This is a great thought provoking article and forces us to think about our business in new and creative ways. Great job.


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