The Google Guys And The Future Of Newspapers

Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page were in Davos for the World Economic Forum this week. Talking with a select group of journalists, they mused on many things including the question, “Will Newspapers Survive?” Since Google News and other similar services are a direct competitor to newspapers, their opinions may be biased but it’s quite clear that traditional newspapers are under threat from the Internet.

All newspapers must be questioning how Print and Online should co-exist. Los Angeles Times editor James O’Shea set out the L.A. Times strategy, which can be summarized as follows:

By constantly updating the Web site with breaking news, O’Shea said he hopes to make the online paper competitive against online news aggregators: “We can’t hide from the fact that smart competitors such as Google and Craigslist are stealing readers and advertisers from us. .. In contrast to the Web site’s breaking news, O’Shea said the print edition will strike a more thoughtful pose, becoming a vehicle for “tightly-written context, analysis, interpretation and expertise.”

That’s one approach. When you come to an institution as large as the New York Times, the issues are even more challenging. There are many elements to their strategy including a paid subscription version, the Times Reader. However they have benefited by another trend, which is that blogs can increase online newspapers traffic and the New York Times is at the moment the most visited online newspaper.

In Canada one excellent example of an online newspaper is the Globe & Mail Online. The format is almost more similar to a blog than a traditional newspaper. Indeed it has the appearance of a Slog, if you are familiar with that term. A slog is short for a website log, which is a section or ‘slice’ of a regular website with date/time stamped entries.

The Montreal Gazette has gone another route with ‘The Gazette Digital‘. This offers a 7-day free trial but it seems impossible to find out what it will cost once the trial is over. The format mimics the appearance of the Print version, but at least to this reader is somewhat difficult to navigate and use. Adroit mouse manipulation is required even with the following ‘digital tools’.

Here is a sample of digital tools, which we hope will help you enjoy Montreal Gazette Digital:
* One- or two-page view
* Magnifying lens with 5 zoom levels
* Bookmark management and easy sharing
* 7-day archive
* Full-text search
* Offline reading with PressReader
* SmartNavigation: Takes online newspaper reading to a new level with sophisticated digital tools:

One hopes that they have done some usability studies with potential readers, although the Print version might make you question this. Overall it provides a good example of the challenges that the traditional newspapers face in deciding how to handle the online experience.

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