Newsvine, Newspaper Competition and RSS

I’ve argued that general (not local) news has become a “commodity” (I’m not the only one). News aggregators have helped this along (but widespread use of wire services and cost cutting at print newspapers were the precursor). That hurts reader loyalty when they can go to any one of a dozen sites and get the same information.

Indeed, one of the factors that was reportedly hurting or slowing online newspaper advertising — Centro CEO Shawn Riegsecker argues it’s not in fact slowing — is competition from numerous online sources for news and other information traditionally found in newspapers (local, classifieds, A&E). And those competitors keep proliferating. For example, personal start pages like My Yahoo, Google IG, Netvibes and Pageflakes are news readers that entirely replace the need to visit a newspaper site (even a news aggregator like Google News). Add Newsvine to the list, which is relaunching as a more personalized news site.

The NY Times has built a newsreader (My Times) that incorporates third party content. I’ve argued that all newspapers should do some version of this. But beyond straight news they must also build a stronger destination presence (or multiple sites) to keep users from just reading news headlines on a newsreader or aggregator site. If you had to do one, doing some version of the latter is better than the former.

Even though RSS is still for early adopters (to some degree) it will be very mainstream ultimately. Online newspapers need syndication and distribution and shouldn’t recoil from these developments. It’s time to embrace and move beyond them. We’re getting to what might be called “put up or shut up” time. I’m just fearful that many of the traditional print newspaper cultures aren’t going to adapt quickly enough.

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