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Monday, March 27, 2006

"Wisdom of Crowds" Author Says Newspapers Still Have Time, Assets to Save Their Future

James Surowiecki wrote the New Media essential read, "The Wisdom of Crowds," which is one of three titles I recommend to anybody who wants or needs to understand the communication revolution in our midst. The other three are here, here and here.

Surowiecki has an excellent column in The New Yorker that ought to be required reading for all newspaper owners, shareholders, publishers, editors and reporters (but especially the first two). Newspapers are having a hard time with lost circulation and advertising revenues, as well as editorial staffs that are often stretched beyond the breaking point.

But the right response to the inevitable doom scenario isn't the fervent cost-cutting and profit-taking that increasingly characterizes the newspaper industry's dominant business model, according to Surowiecki:

"Settling for a tolerable short-term future, newspapers could end up writing themselves out of the long-term one. Yet it’s also clear that this moment of supposed doom represents a sizable opportunity for newspapers, a chance to reinvigorate their product and, eventually, improve the economics of their business."

And how to do that? Hey, it's the same for newspapers as any other industry in need of reinvention:

"Seizing that opportunity is going to require new investment, not penny-pinching. Established media - radio, the movies, television - haven’t vanished when new forms have come along. They’ve adapted by playing to their distinctive strengths.

"For most newspapers, this will mean abandoning things that are ubiquitous on the Internet, like stock tables and wire stories, and investing in content they can own, like serious local coverage and in-depth reporting."

For more Surowiecki, go here.