Extra, Extra: Newspapers’ Web Revenue is Stalling

Today’s news: newspapers’ web revenue is stalling.

No wonder: Google is mixing up search, advertising, and publication, while newspapers are responding to this competitive pressure by sliding down the slippery slope into becoming aggregators.

This is a tough game, and I’m not sure how it plays out. I understand how media players fear Google commodifying their content, but I don’t think the best strategy for them is to accelerate this process.

On one hand, the increasing dependence on Google for traffic degrades brand loyalty, since it leads to hit-and-run users. On the other hand, Indeed, the increasing dependence on ad networks means that, as Paul Iaffaldano of the TWC Media Solutions Group suggests, “the publishers commoditize their own inventory”.

I use Google News and Techmeme to get an overview of general news and technology headlines, but I am still loyal to several sites and feeds. I’m probably more of a news junkie than most. Even so, if publishers sacrifice their differentation as a short-term survival tactic, they will ultimately lose everything.

It’s a bit late, but I think publishers need to figure out how to renegotiate their balance of power with aggregators and even search engines. If economics of publishing on the web reduce to an SEO war, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.