The web has become the vanguard of reinventing news distribution in the digital age. And while newspapers have often lagged in seizing new opportunities on the web, they have a golden opportunity to lead the charge in reinventing a foundation of the news ecosystem — the newswire.
Newswires have traditionally been based on a number of assumptions: good news content is scarce; wire copy is an effective way of engaging readers; and newspapers can all publish the same wire content in their own limited-distribution regions without making it a commodity.
All these assumptions go out the window on the web.
So reinventing the newswire requires fundamental shifts in mindset: From the limitations of scarcity in print to the opportunities of abundance on the web. From a walled-garden approach — “if we don’t create a story or get it from the wires, then it doesn’t exist” — to one that embraces the web, where consumers have access to every publication in the world and the most interesting and informative takes often come from sources other than the traditional wires.
The current mindset of most newsrooms, as they face shrinking budgets, is that they may need to forgo the broad coverage that they traditionally provided through wire content in order to afford staff for original local reporting. Several newspapers have in fact announced their intention to cancel their wire subscriptions.
But newspaper web sites can tap into this wealth of web content without expensive licensing agreements — they just need to LINK to it.
A web newswire can distribute links instead of full content, driving traffic to the sites that originally published the news, instead of creating a commodity out of the news by publishing the same content on hundreds of sites.
A web newswire can distribute links to a newspaper’s own content, giving it national distribution (think Alaska newspapers’ reporting on Sarah Palin) but where all the attention comes back to the newspaper’s site.
A web newswire can also distribute links to great blog content, magazine articles, and content created by people in their communities.
The most successful web-native news destinations are all about links — so by publishing newswire links to the best content on the web, newspapers can enhance their positions as daily news destinations.
Think Google, Drudge Report, Yahoo, Digg, and Fark. These sites constantly send readers away by linking to the best content, and readers keep coming back for more.
Instead of chasing links from Drudge, for example, as many newspaper sites do, they should focus on BEING a destination for finding links. Imagine a web newswire where the collective linking of newspapers’ sites could actually compete with sites like Drudge in driving traffic to newspaper content and other high quality journalism.
Instead of abandoning broad coverage in favor of pure local, newspaper sites can still be a destination to find out what’s going on in the world, in a way that complements their local reporting and integrates into their local community. Why shouldn’t readers discuss national issues on a newspaper site, given that they share the bond of living in the same community?
A web newswire can also solve the problem of how newsrooms with increasingly limited resources can find links to the best content on the web. If all newsrooms contribute links to the newswire and share their daily “link news budgets,” they can tap into the collective editorial intelligence of hundreds of newsrooms.
If consumers can vote up the best content together, why not newsrooms? This is the same cooperative approach that gave birth to the traditional newswires, but one that harnesses the “network effects” of the web — the same network effects that power sites like Google, Digg, and Twitter.
And… it can all be done for free.
Publish2 has built a platform for newspapers to create a new web-native newswire — and we’re offering it to newspapers (and all journalists) at no cost.
The opportunity to serve readers more effectively and deploy resources more efficiently has a huge upside in and of itself for newsrooms faced with shrinking budgets. We are also developing a way for marketers to tap into the distribution power of a new web-based wire service, and provide a way for every newsroom that participates in the Publish2 Newswire to create a new source of revenue.
Imagine turning the newswire from a cost center into a profit center.