Newspapers: The Horse & Buggy of Media

I was listening to an interview on the FAN (Toronto’s sports radio station) on the way down to Waterloo today that featured Boston Globe sports reporter Kevin Paul Dupont.

Before he was asked about the Boston Bruins’ playoff series demolition of the Montreal Canadiens, Dupont talked about how the New York Times has decided that if the Boston Globe’s unions don’t accept huge cost reductions, it may have to consider closing the newspaper.

Dupont was surprisingly frank about the economic realities facing the Globe and newspapers, in general. One of the analogies he used was newspaper are going through the same process that hi the horse and buggy industry at the turn of the 20th century.

It was an interesting comment because it’s simplistic yet pretty a pretty accurate depiction of what’s happening. The difference is people bought horse and buggies, and they purchased their successors, automobiles. Today, people are buying newspapers but not spending anything for digital content.

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  • Trevor

    The interesting thing is that the 'buggy' industry couldn't adapt and neither can the newspaper biz. Hard to fault them, really, history is littered with industries that could not change. Case in point: How many international corporations are over 50 years old? How many are over 100? Not many. They calcify, get institutional arthritis and die (with a surprised look, I might add).

    Companies, like people, tend to stick to what they know…then get whacked like Nassem Taleb's Thanksgiving Turkey

    People are buying content online. Ask Amazon! Ask Apple! Ask Craigslist! What they are not buying is yesterday's approach to information sharing.

    Nobody dreamed we could monetize search. Nobody thinks we can monetize news. What we're seeing right now is the buggy industry dying before its automotive successor shows up.


  • Michael Sherrin

    The analog still works, even when you consider paying money. Consumers paid a different company for an automobile than for their horse and buggy just like now, consumers are paying another way than directly to newspapers. Of course, consumers rarely supported newspapers beyond the marginal cost of the printed paper. Most of the revenue came from advertisers who paid to get access to all those readers. Further, about half the costs of any newspaper comes from the printing and delivery. Get rid of those costs (or significantly lower them by putting more content online) and the lower online advertising rates can be more profitable. As more and more readers move online, newspapers will have to become news organizations, not tied to a paper version, but to producing the best news product and providing the most value for consumers.

  • Sheldon

    I love the horse and buggy analogy, awesome. Note that I haven't bought a newspaper in 2 years.