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Newspaper companies really embracing the web

By May 27, 2008 2 Comments

Newspaper companies are often seen as soon-to-be-extinct relics of a bygone age, but at least two of them have read the tea leaves correctly, and are embracing the new order. I am thinking of the Guardian and the New York Times.

I’m writing this because of two bits of news I just read.

Firstly, the latest circulation figures for American newspapers make grim reading for the old guard. The New York Times was about the worst hit:

The New York Times lost more than 150,000 copies on Sunday. Circulation on that day fell a whopping 9.2% to 1,476,400. The paper’s daily circulation declined 3.8% to 1,077,256. [the declines are over the last twelve months]

And, secondly, the New York Times will soon release an API:

Once the API is complete, the Times‘ internal developers will use it to build platforms to organize all the structured data such as events listings, restaurants reviews, recipes, etc. They will offer a key to programmers, developers and others who are interested in mashing-up various data sets on the site. “The plan is definitely to open [the code] up,” Frons said. “How far we don’t know.”

Granted, it isn’t exactly clear what people will be able to do with the NYT API, but this is at least a step towards making all their content available for anyone anywhere on the web.

This leaves a couple of business models open to them – 1) as Fred Wilson has been saying for some time the future business model for content is to microchunk it, syndicate and embed the monetisation in the feed, or 2) go the Chris Anderson route and embrace free as the future.

Embracing free means using your content to build your brand and leveraging that to make money in other ways – like recruitment or dating. The Guardian is doing very well with both of these. I heard the other day that their growth in the recruitment revenues is now more than offsetting the decline in physical newspaper sales.