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Why traditional 'print' media is doomed

January 24, 2008 93 comments

It’s their own fault.

Recently, I had the pleasure of being interviewed for a front page story at the LA Times and a feature spread in BusinessWeek. I have a huge amount of respect for both publications, and was honored to be interviewed. And the interviews themselves didn’t disappoint – both reporters were extremely thorough, knowledgeable, and detailed. There were lots of follow-up calls, and both stories were then exhaustively fact checked and reviewed by an army of editors. Everything top-notch publications are supposed to do, they did, and then some.

Blogging has become my go-to resource for up-to-the-minute news, but both these interviews really brought home for me why traditional media continues to be so much better at well-researched pieces. So great, right? They each have a business niche. Traditional media can focus on deeply researched articles and exposés while bloggers cover all the timely news and commentary. Traditional media can still thrive – it’s not gonna die.

Wrong.

Where these august publications fell down was in their online presentation. Someone running these businesses hasn’t figured out that their online business model is advertising. They’ve made it impossible to link to their articles directly (ie, drive money-making traffic to them). On the LA Times’ site, nearly every link you can find forces you to log in to view the content. Lots of people have told me, personally, that they couldn’t read the article because they weren’t going to sign in. Imagine how many people don’t know me or simply didn’t speak up and just walked away.

And BusinessWeek is far, far worse. BusinessWeek actually asked us specifically *not* to link to the article. Yes, that’s right, an ad-driven publication doesn’t want us to drive traffic to them. They were kind enough to point us to their User Agreement where, sure enough, they prohibit deep linking. Talk about stupid. Ok, fine, so I’ll link to Google (who’s apparently allowed to deep-link?) and they’ll link you to the article for me. Like so – this link behaves like a deep-link, but in reality I’m linking to Google, who’s redirecting you to the article. (Ironically, this is nerfing BusinessWeek’s PageRank so they show up lower in Google than other publications that allow deep-linking).

I can’t imagine what must be going through the minds of the stellar reporters and editors they have at the LA Times and BusinessWeek, but I’ll bet “frustration” is only the very tip of the iceberg. To spend all of this time and energy on their articles, only to have the crazy business people make it impossible for people to read their work, must be incredibly trying.

On a related note, try clicking the ‘Digg This’ icon at the end of the LA Times story. You’d think this would be a smart way to drive traffic, no? It would be, except they’re sending digg *Page 2* of the story – so even if it makes Digg’s homepage, people clicking through will start in the middle of the story, instead of the beginning. I’ll bet that makes the LA Times a lot of money. Not.

After doing these stories, I’m more likely than ever before to trust stories from publications like the LA Times and BusinessWeek – but less likely to link to them.

Feed readers: Click here to digg this.

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