Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How a newspaper is like a farmstand

In interviewing Lee Rice a couple of weeks ago about the reopening of his Rice Family Farmstand, he asked me a question that I get a lot.
“So how’s the newspaper business?” he asked me. “It’s gotta be tough with the Internet taking away your business.”
I told him that the Internet only takes away your business if you give everything away for free on the Internet.
As we were standing in his farmstand full of fruits and vegetables, I could see the lightbulb turn on when I put it this way: Imagine taking a table of all your produce and putting it over there. When customers come in, you tell them everything in here costs money, but over there, it’s all free. What do you think would happen to your business?
And really, it’s as simple as that. Newspapers are losing a significant chunk of revenue from lost circulation because readers are getting it for free on newspapers’ websites. What’s worse, “aggregators,” or websites that “collect” information from other websites, are practically stealing newspapers’ hard work and making money off it themselves. So imagine someone coming to Rice’s farmstand, taking a bunch of melons and berries off the free table and walking across the street and selling them for 3 bucks a basket. You’d be infuriated.

I have more analogies in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

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