After a 40 year run, The Wall Street Journal announced today that it will stop publishing its European and Asian editions.
It's hardly as surprise, following the News Corp's announcement that the international editions posted losses of $643 million this year.
Well, the news that papers are in trouble is hardly news. They have been in trouble since Craig Newmark first launched Craig's List in 1995, and initiated the ever continuing process of the Internet striping away advertising revenue from papers.
Today, Craigslit has been supplanted by Google and Facebook. Last year, Google and Facebook together grab an eye-watering 99% of all online advertising growth. The handwriting is on the wall, if not printed in the paper.
As well, readership for papers continue to fall of. Pretty much no one under the age of 30 reads a paper, and certainly does not buy one. The prospects here are poor.
If papers are going to survive, they are going to have to engage in some radical re-thinking on the revenue side. If there is no revenue, there is no newspaper. It is as simple as that.
Newspapers are many things, but one thing they are for sure is magnets for content creators - that is, people whose passion to create content. Newspapers don't attract people who really wanted to be artists but fell back onto journalism just in case. If you set out to be a reporter, it is knowing full well that you will never make a fortune, but you will spend your life telling stories.
That's a good start. The papers are repositories of armies of natural story tellers.
The mistake papers make, and the trick they miss is that they are still married to pen and ink (even if it is online). They may talk a good game of 'multimedia', but take a look at the 'papers', even online and what do you see? A printed newspaper on the screen.
Now, I don't want to be picky, but here is today's Asia Wall Street Journal online. Tell me, does it look any different from the print edition? I don't think so.
Now... the Internet, of course, does a lot more than just reproduce text- and it has done that since, Oh, say, 2005. It does a LOT more - it does video, it does live streaming, it does a LOT of user generated content (note: Facebook is 100% User Generated Content as is Instagram. They seem to be doing OK financially). Do you see ANY of that in the Asian Wall Street Journal?
I bet every reporter with the Asian Wall Street Journal has an iPhone (OK, or a Galaxy). I bet in their spare time they are shooting and posting video and putting stuff on Instagram and SnapChat all the time. They are NOT doing that for the WSJ.
See the problem.
Now, as it happens, TV and video still pay a lot. A lot. And your average person spends a whole lot more time watching video than reading. (In the US - 5 hours a day watching TV, 19 minutes a day reading).
So how hard would it be to take something like The Asian Wall Street Journal and move it from thinking 19th Century print to 21st Century digital media?
I guess we will never find out.