Financial Times has put together an article (thanks to reader Jeff for the link - also a free registration is required to read the whole article) about the future of newspapers. Among other research the article confirms a suspicion that many of the "dinosaurs" like me had from the beginning. That giving away the product for free online was a huge mistake when you were trying to sell the print product.
Here's an excerpt from the article:
"Even the business magnate Warren Buffett, a long-time investor in the Washington Post – which does not charge online – has backed digital payments. Sitting in front of the printing presses at the Omaha World-Herald, a local paper he bought last year, he told CNBC last month: “You shouldn’t be giving away a product that you’re trying to sell.”
By putting the same content online for free that they were charging for in print, Berkshire Hathaway’s chairman said newspapers had been competing against themselves. Now, he added, “you’re seeing throughout the industry a reaction to that problem and an answer to it”.
At the time (as I have reported several times before) we were brushed off about our concerns, me personally by the genius that helps run AnnArbor.com, who told me that a free presence online was necessary and that we would see its benefit in the long run. Yes, I guess we have all seen the benefit in the long run.
The funny thing, not in a ha-ha way, is that the same people who totally screwed up the business by giving the product away for free are still there and those of us who questioned the free model are now mostly gone. The Peter Principle is alive and well.