The big question really facing newspapers

The big question really facing newspapers

Summary: The combination of Drupal and Acquia gives newspapers the best of both worlds -- a vibrant community to drive the software forward, and serious professional help to make sure you get things right.


It's no longer a question of print or online.

It's what you're about online.

In answering that question the choice of a Content Management System becomes critical.

The capabilities of your CMS will determine what you can offer people. Its ease-of-use will determine how quickly you can implement new features.

This is an area where open source really shines. The CMS Matrix counts dozens-and-dozens of options including some, like CampSite, that were built from the ground-up for use by online newspapers.

Personally, when it comes to this life-or-death technology decision, I would look closely at Drupal. Or more precisely at its commercial equivalent, Acquia.

The combination of Drupal and Acquia gives newspapers the best of both worlds -- a vibrant community to drive the software forward, and serious professional help to make sure you get things right.

Newspapers should feel fortunate, in a way, because some of the shaking out has already happened in this space. Back when I first started poking around here, in 2003, there was far less available. Most of it was almost entirely text-based, if you wanted to scale. Newspapers must scale quickly to survive.

Now you can support all types of files, and the features of most popular social networks. It all goes into a database, to which Acquia has recently added better search capability. Not that there's anything wrong with Google, and integrating with Google features like maps, as well as Google search, is a great way to look big before you get big.

As to all those who are complaining that we "have" to pay you for doing the same bad job you've been doing for years, forget it. Journalists are not doctors, we're cooks, and no one is going to subsidize a failing restaurant. (If you're lucky we'll put Gordon Ramsey on your case -- but that's it.)

The point is that the newspaper business may be dying, but that's like saying the buggy whip business is dying. The opportunity to organize and advocate a place, industry or lifestyle is not going away.

In fact it's getting better. Now that you're magnetic ink the sky is the limit.

Topics: Software, Enterprise Software, Google

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  • Why Drupal?

    So much buzz about Drupal, and yet when we talk to people deploying Drupal in the field, the response is generally one of frustration (far more often than satisfaction). "Building a CMS with Drupal is like trying to make a car out of slabs of bacon."

    CMS/framework choice is a really complicated field. There are a ton of considerations to take into account. Drupal might be the right choice for a particular organization, but for my money, I'd always recommend a framework over a CMS, and of the available frameworks, it's Django hands-down.
    • Oohhh! Brother...

      What the heck would I need a CMS (I reckon that's an acronym for Content Management System) for?!? What the hell is it good for?! Isn't it like buying garage brewed beer?! Everyone thinks he's got it! But the canned item off the shelf is bound to be better! Everyone is entitled to his personal opinion. However, not anyone is able to express it in writing too... Heck! I'm done with it! I'm like... blogging here too!
  • The Real Reason

    Newspapers are dying because of a lack of journalistic integrity anymore. They are just vehicles for propaganda. Many of them have been operating on the web in addition for many years and still losing millions. Your content is out-of-date and chalk full of dumb opinions. Bye bye SF Chronicles and New York Times. We don't need you anymore.
    • Journalistic Integrity?

      As opposed to when?

      When have newspapers ever been free of bias in their writings? Heck, most papers were far worse when they were strictly local affairs; they wrote strictly to their audiences then and they made no apologies for it.

      The problem isn't the change in the papers. It's our use of the word "bias" as if it's such a bad thing. I don't want a rote list of facts. I want something written from a perspective so that I can understand it.

      Nothing is wrong with having a bias, just let me know what it is.
  • No, the issue is...

    that I'd rather take a print newspaper in the
    bathrooom with me, and take the Sports under my
    arm to work.

    The other issue is how local adverts are going to be
    handled. Now, my local McDonalds ( or locally owned
    non-chain store), can advertise a coupon in my local
    paper. How is Google going to manage thousands of
    small city/counties for advertisements.
  • What a bull...

    I've been hearing stuff about the end of paper-printed newspapers since about 1980. Here we are, at the beginning of a new century and large news corporations are still investing in web offset and printing towers, folders and splicers. Yes, the plates are digitally exposed and the mailing is done entirely automatic, the paper is supplied by robotized lines and the machines are more computer than mechanics. All is computer driven, touch screen and sensors. HOWEVER!!! Newspapers still SELL! Why?! First of all, it's a matter of accessibility! Try reading your PDA or even a Kindle while in a crowded subway. Or in a bus. Or waiting in the rain under your umbrella. Furthermore, try reading it in a place that has no Wi-Fi coverage. And without an Internet subscription. Newspapers are highly compliant! I can buy one today but not tomorrow if I so decide! I can't cancel a subscription to a service provider from one day to another! I can't even change it from one day to another. I need a power source, I need a technology gadget (not very cheap either) and I need the necessary amount of technological savvy to operate it. None of these are needed for reading a newspaper. And I can still use it in the garbage can after I'm done with it! Ever tried to wrap your vegetable peels in a PDA?!
  • RE: The big question really facing newspapers

    To understand where newpapers may be going, you must understand where they came from why.

    Time was, the town crier shouted the news in the town square. Kinda worked but was strictly a public service function.

    Printed newspapers as we now know them came about as printing technology and marketing made it possible to layout and distribute large publications created by paid staff without bankrupting the publisher. The choice of the paper broadsheet form was dictated by papermaking and press technology, making the newspaper a solution to a communications need rather than an artform in itself.

    As we see the rise of electronic media, we are also seeing a contraction of a key metric that has made newspapers viable: mass circulation can no longer be counted upon to make the large volume printing process cost effective, and reduced circulation cuts the ad revenues, making the entire operation much less viable and sustainable. The recent close of the printed Seattle Post Intelligencer is evidence of this trend. We can expect to see this trend continue with the closure of more paper editions, especially in medium to smaller markets. I agree with Kostagh, however, that the newspaper will probably never quite disappear; it's just too much fun to scan on a Sunday morning over coffee, and the serendipity of jumping from section to section is not easily replicated in electronic forms.

    However, what may be the most ominous trend for newspapers is the open blog. One of most valuable parts of the news business has been the presence and work of expert reporters willng to go anywhere and to any lengths to get the stories their readers want and need. Attracting, supporting and keeping such people is expensive... in a world where everyone and anyone can be a "reporter" by merely blogging, it may become too expensive. If we lose that "fourth estate" willing and sufficiently knowledgeable to keep government and business honest, we will lose a part of our freedom. I hope we don't have to face an America without it.