Why newspapers should be loving up mobile content aggregators instead of suing them

I cancelled my daily newspaper home delivery some time ago – right around the day my iPad arrived last spring. Have I missed it? What’s to miss…ink on my fingers, single-viewpoint or mass media outdated news? I definitely do not miss it. Am I alone in going paper free and expanding my news consumption beyond the distribution borders of my local rag? I don’t think so.

I will admit that I did download my local paper’s app for my iPad so I do get a slice of my local news that way but, for the most part I stick with a news regiment that uses the technology that is out there to bring me news stories from around the world and multiple sources and viewpoints. I use mobile tools like Zite.com, FlipBoard, Pulse News Reader, the HuffPo, the New York Times, the Financial Times, The Daily and scores more including Twitter and Facebook.

So what? Well, I recently sat down to talk with Ali Davar who is the founder of Zite and since that interview his company has been in the news because of a cease and desist letter he received from 10 big media companies about the way his service displays their content (great article here from RWW).

It struck me that the challenge each one of these media outlets have to stay relevant is massive but the nature of where the industry is going – with or without the incumbents – is showing us that news silos won’t work forever. The fact that I collect my news from brandless news aggregators more so than I rely on branded print or digital editions should be an eye opener to the industry. The fact that I don’t subscribe to print anything anymore should be an eye opener to the industry. The fact that their first volley is a cease and desist letter and not a partnership offer is indicative of how much they want to protect the little value they still have behind those walls.

This is hard. Change is hard but isn’t it about gaining broader distribution for some of these outlets? If the New York Times partnered with a company like Zite, would they be able to introduce their writers, their content, their viewpoint and their advertisers to a larger audience that perhaps would never have read their paper to begin with? Instead of clumping a bunch of stories under a brand with labels like “Sports” or “Business” or “Arts” why not bring them together under specific interests like “Derek Jeter” or “Apple” or “Tron” – don’t humans react to content areas of interest and not broad sections.

One last ripple that mobile can really bring forward for publications working with partners – localization. A platform like Zite could actually offer a section focused on the news of nearby. In your city it would be the news you know from the resources you would typically read. In a city you aren’t familiar with, when you launch the app it would show lead local stories from local papers. Localized news from cities and neighbourhoods doesn’t have to die but it can be brought to prominence and broaden its readership by embracing these distribution channels and embracing mobile.

Print is not dying – in fact it may be mobile that saves it from itself in the long run. The big guys have to realize that mobile is a completely different world and what worked in print, won’t in mobile.

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of UNTETHER.tv and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

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