Interesting Times for Newspapers

Do you remember that public TV program for kids about geography: “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego“? That’s a little bit what my life feels like . . .

Today I’m in “fabulous” Las Vegas for the NAA (newspaper) Marketing Conference. I’m here to observe and moderate a session on — what else — local search (which is really about newspaper site usability in this context). I’ve been to these shows for the past few years. But this one feels different and more interesting — in part because there seems to be a wider array of people here.

The Topix people are here (of course) and so is Matthew Snyder of Nokia. I also ran into Rajesh Navar, CEO of local marketplace Live Deal, and VoiceStar CEO Ari Jacoby. In addition I was at a reception last night with Dan Finnegan of Yahoo! (HotJobs) and Tim Lambert, formerly of Yahoo! and now with SpotRunner — to name just a few. Enough TMZ talk.

There’s that old saying (or is it a curse): “May you live in interesting times.”

That’s clearly what it is these days for newspapers, “interesting times.” But one does get the sense that there’s lots of movement (if not momentum) now and that the online divisions of newspapers are getting the attention and resources that they have been denied historically.

There’s a great deal of fear and pain but also excitement and forced action. The newspapers are finally on the move. And lucky for them there still is considerable opportunity in the local Internet.

As always, execution is the key. And that’s what remains to be seen, for example, with the Yahoo!-consortium relationship. Will it be embraced by both sides for mutual benefit or will it be partly and cautiously pursued with limited results?

Clearly there are those here at the show who feel Yahoo! will be the main beneficiary because it will get content and has the stronger online brand. I believe, however, that newspapers also stand to benefit tremendously if they act decisively and do things like tap into the various Yahoo! APIs. They also need to distribute their advertisers out to the larger Internet and Yahoo! is a vehicle for that.

More later . . .

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Related: MediaPost reports the recommendations of a Classified Intelligence report on competing with Craigslist: make general merchandise classifieds free and develop a separate classifieds site/brand. But look at the brand strength of Craigslist.

Here are two posts from The Kelsey Group’s Mike Boland on NAA show-related announcements and session summaries.

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