If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a read. Here’s a link:

http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/02/27/hearst-to-begin-charging-for-digital-news/

And here’s the skinny: Nothing in the memo is going to surprise anyone. Among the highlights: The newspaper revenue model is outdated, sales forces need to change the way it sells and we need to figure out what needs to stay free and what users will pay for.

There’s a lot of debate in the blogosphere about what this means for Hearst, whether its plan will work, yada yada. But I think we should, instead, look at what Hearst is doing this way: as an industry, we’re still playing catch up when it comes to online information. Transitioning sales staff to sell more multimedia? That should have been done years ago, around the time newspapers were still having those silly arguements about whether we should put breaking news on our sites.

Let’s take the lessons we’ve learned and apply them to mobile and the upcoming e-reader technology. The lesson is a fairly simple one: let’s not be left behind, like we’ve been online. We need to figure out what works, for our users and advertisers, in these new distribution channels. And we need to be out front, not bringing up the rear. We need to push ourselves and take real risks as we figure out, for example, what information we should offer on mobile and how advertising best displays. (I, for one, think it’s a mistake to take all newspaper content and place it on mobile since our customers use their mobile device differently then they use a laptop. More on that subject some other time).

We face the real danger that we’ll let our current economic woes stifle us. If we do, we’ll find that we’re no better off, and most likely much worse off.

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