Commentary

The Answer For Newspapers -- Online Video

Newspapers have long been suffering a slow decline. Try talking to someone under the age of 18 and asking them where they get their news, weather, sports or classified listings. More often than not, their answers will include non-newspaper sources such as Comedy Central, Weather.com, Yahoo Sports and Craigslist. Although these online properties have been increasingly eating away at newspaper budgets, there is hope.

Personally, I am a big fan of newspapers. I think there is something enjoyable and nostalgic about sitting back and flipping through the pages of print publications. However, this new generation has become so accustomed to acquiring information via social networks, "The Daily Show," MTV, etc. that the tide has shifted for an industry founded by legendary names like Hearst and Pulitzer.

So what are newspapers to do? Companies like Knight Ridder no longer exist, Tribune is now owned by a real estate mogul who drives a Harley, while the famed Wall Street Journal is now owned by the same company that produces the infamous Page 3 in London. The industry is going through huge shifts in ownership, and eventually the business models will follow. While many of the new owners have made a claim to that time-honored feeling of owning a newspaper, these new owners are not doing this out of a soft spot in their heart. Rather, they are individuals who have crunched enough numbers to know that opportunity still exists. And in my mind, that opportunity partially exists because of the potential online video has to offer.

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Newspapers are oftentimes the most trusted source for information in local communities. And while many loyal readers have shifted to viewing the content online, the problem has been that the loss of print revenue has not been made up via the digital growth. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the following: 1) CPMs, and ultimately revenue per page / per user online, are not as high as print. 2) There has been a lack of national advertising in many newspapers. 3) Consumers have so many other choices on the Web that print publications are no longer the only option. So, while the competition is only going to increase, newspapers are beginning to attract more national advertisers, and CPMs can significantly increase as video usage rises.

The papers have already begun taking steps to take advantage of this shift. The Washington Post has begun training its reporters on how to record video clips. Other similar companies have already begun distributing content well beyond the typical format, as blogs, mobile and other platforms have emerged, with video and broadband distribution on the horizon. In the long term, the difference between CNN and USA Today may be only in name. The distribution of news will ultimately become a commodity, as the quality of the news source itself is what matters.

Newspapers need to and have slowly begun to create every story in a video format. This will not only create additional demand for their content, but will drive CPMs. In certain cases video CPMs can be five times what standard display ad impressions can command.

By shifting to a more aggressive video model, newspapers will not only compete with broadcasters for viewers online, they will be able to reclaim some of the younger audience that is more attracted to video distribution. While newspapers have already begun creating more video opportunities, I believe they have only scratched the surface of utilizing video to its full potential.

Many newspapers can, and I believe will, become more dominant again -- but not in their current form. In the long term, the newspaper itself may be the least popular source of information and will remain a newspaper in name only. These publications will ultimately succeed by redefining themselves as content distributors through all sorts of channels with no limitations. Online video is the first step toward achieving this goal, and is the driving factor in how these storied companies will once again reclaim some of their allure.

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