I found Henry Blodget's analysis of "Why Newspapers are Screwed" in the Insider to be quite interesting and rather solid. It's an important issue, especially considering the recent Dow Jones sale, and one which was on the lips of all the equity investors I ran into this past week while in Cincinnati (okay, the Dow Jones sale and the crazy global monetary happenings). Anyway, I think newspapers can avoid Blodget's doomsday situation if they innovate and change what we think of as a "newspaper" fast enough.
Wired Mag's peek into my hometown's Cincinnati Enquirer has some clues as to how newspapers can innovate. I think my Enquirer, gotta love it, has more of an up hill battle than the Times for many reasons (brand strength, creative resources, etc) and so that means there's hope for the Times.
Of course one part of that hope for the Times was supposed to be video:
As PaidContent covered back in May, during the Streaming Media East conference, NYTimes.com once expected to net $30 million a year from streaming video, even having a special "video lounge" for "enjoying" advertising.
That effort appears to be slow out of the gate, as nearly 4 months later we're just seeing the first long-form ads appear on the site. Like I said before, newspapers can survive if they innovate fast enough.
If the NY Times wants to live a long(er) life, they're going to have to roll out new stuff faster than they're doing. Even if they reach the estimated $30 million advertising bucks from video, by their own estimations that will happen by upping their video traffic from 5 million to 60 million monthly downloads -- oh yeah, and at $60 CPMs / 80% sell-through.
Truth be told, the Times isn't going to lose all their paper subscribers any time soon and by the time they do little of what we're predicting today will make any sense. But Henry does bring up some realities and watching a super powerful site like the Times move so slowly is a reminder to all: move fast to stay alive -- not to be ahead of the curve, but to be ahead of your old self.