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Mohr Calls Out The Newspapers

By - September 04, 2006


Tom Mohr, who used to run Knight Ridder’s digital efforts and is now ensconced at ASU and Charles River Ventures, calls out the newspaper industry in a major piece in Editor & Publisher. He posits that the newspaper industry needs the equivalent of a “Marshall Plan” and needs to get over its internal disputes and work together.

It is instructive that after twelve years of the consumer web, not a single example of breakthrough online innovation has emerged out of a newspaper company. Not in recruitment. Not in auto. Not in classifieds. Not in shopping, directory, new ad models, or content aggregation.

He imagines a company, Switzerland Inc., that works on behalf of all newspapers.

But what if 2/3 or more of the U.S. newspaper industry sits on one platform, managed by Switzerland Inc.? What if Switzerland Inc. decides to deny Yahoo! and perhaps Google access to newspaper industry content for three months, followed by a negotiation for better terms?

That’s the power of a network.

I can’t imagine it ever happening, but Mohr’s got a point. Federation is the way to go….

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8 thoughts on “Mohr Calls Out The Newspapers

  1. Alberto says:

    A very interesting piece, but as you mention very complex for it to be implemented practically. I see media partnering and sharing in terms of common platforms and maybe even content, I don’t see how the unique value of each is then calculated as profit for each: how would each “partner” monetization be calculated?

    A further challenge for media is to losely integrate horizontally and not only vertically (as suggested by the manifesto). I wrote a brief post on this some time ago. Linked here, and there is also an interesting article on this on last weeks economist..

  2. They should totally do that. They should call it Pathfinder or some other incubator name and…oh, they did that. Maybe they could stop blaming Google and Yahoo, understand those place represent traffic that makes them money and start transforming themselves into the online world rather than buring their heads in the sand.

  3. Alberto says:

    hehe… exactly why don’t they get that they can actually monetize on aggregators as they represent value if levergaed upon…

    Just wrote some further thoughts directly on the piece. linked here.

  4. Don Dodge says:

    In the past I subscribed to Forbes, Fortune, Inc, Red Herring, Venture, Computer World, Computer Reseller News, Byte, and Time. I also subscribed to The Wall Street Journal and my local newspaper. Now I subscribe to none of them. I get my news online.

    At its peak in 2000, The San Jose Mercury News had a Sunday circulation of 326,839 subscribers, according to the newspaper. Last September, the company counted 278,470 Sunday subscribers, a drop of about 15 percent. Revenue from the company’s help-wanted ads fell to $18 million a year from more than $118 million, according to the paper. The newsroom was whittled to 280 people from 404, a 30 percent decline.

    Magazines are probably in the same boat, especially those that focus on the younger generation and technology savvy people. I wrote a blog on this subject today.

  5. Alberto says:

    sorry, the site had broken links, this works.

  6. Newspapers have tried to join together with a number of initiatives like New Century Network (early, early days) and Classified Ventures, which now runs, and a few other verticals. The big chains also own and

    The big problem is that they let print business models get in the way of online. If there’s a conflict between the print model and online model, more often than not print wins. That’s changing, but probably too slowly to have an impact.

    The Economist had an interesting piece a few weeks ago: