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Monday, August 22, 2005

Will Time, Newsweek, U.S. News be First Major MSM Institutions Killed by Internet News?

USA Today's media columnist Peter Johnson has an interesting piece today that includes this observation from University of Mississippi journalism professor Samir Husni: "If they really believe in their websites, then why do I need a magazine, and isn't it just a vehicle to drive me to the Web?" Husni says. "Sooner or later I'll just get my fill from the Web."

That is precisely the nub of the dilemma facing all print and broadcast network news poo-bahs. If they view their web sites as assets in which to invest, they have to use their old assets to drive traffic to the new sites. But that is guaranteed to drain readership and profits from the old assets.

The three old-line news weeklies are most vulnerable on this score because it is most difficult for them to adapt to the 24-hour news cycle increasingly dominated by web-based news media. Nobody wants to read stale news, so the news weeklies can either go for long-form pieces that seek to provide comprehensive coverage of a single issue or dilute the substance between the covers by covering the same ground as People, etc.

The long-form strategy won't work because the people to whom that approach appeals are most likely to be aware of the vastly superior and more quickly accessed resources that are available to them on the internet, so why expect them to settle for more cover features?

The People/celebrity news strategy won't work because too many others have long been doing it better than Henry Luce's heirs could ever hope to do.

That's my view. Check out Johnson's column.