Newspapers Still Evolving For The 21st Century

Newspapers make an interesting case study for academic librarians. Newspapers, like libraries, are coping with new forms of Internet competition. Newspapers, like libraries, are primarily information mediators in an age when access to information has been disintermediated. I occasionally share news about the challenges newspapers face in the 21st century as it might enable library professionals to better understand the challenges that we confront.

In a step in the right direction a consortium of seven newspaper chains representing 176 daily papers across the country announced a broad partnership with Yahoo to share content, advertising and technology, another sign that the wary newspaper business is increasingly willing to shake hands with the technology companies they once saw as a threat. For the newspapers, which have struggled in recent years as readers and advertisers have flocked to the Internet, the deal represents an effort to earn a greater share of the fast-growing amount spent online on all types of ads.

But John Dvorak, columnist for PC Magaine, is less enthusiastic about some newspaper practices, and takes them to task in a recent column. He has a problem with newspapers because they still refuse to provide links to useful information, and they don’t use web screenshots to provide additional information. I have to admit that I don’t recall having seen either used in a newspaper, but it certainly sounds like an idea that newspapers should pursue. Dvorak gives some reasons for why he thinks the newspapers are holding on to the old ways, and how it’s likely to hurt them in the long run.

Academic libraries are learning this lesson, and moving in the direction of adopting technologies and service delivery methods that better meet the needs of net savvy users in hopes of meeting their changing expectations. As Tom Sanville, Executive Director of OhioLINK, recently advised in an interview, we need to move past the old ideas and routines that have been successful in the past – but which will not keep us successful in the future.

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