"We had all the advantages and let it slip away"

Among the most honest assessments of the failure of newspapers to adapt to the Web comes from John Temple, former editor, president and publisher of the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News. The whole thing is unflinching, powerful, and nearly every word worth reading if you’re part of a media company hoping to survive the current digital environment, much less the shift to the mobile web. It was hard to pull out highlights, but here’s a few:

As one former Scripps executive told me in talking about what has happened to the newspaper industry, words that I think apply to the Rocky, “We had all the advantages and let it slip away. We couldn’t give up the idea that we were newspaper companies.”

Also an admission of the (in hindsight) classic mistake of judging new ventures using the expectations of the old:

The service was shut down after about 9 months, but not before scooping the paper on the start of the First Gulf War, reporting 12 hours before the paper landed on most doorsteps that the war had begun. The project was halted, I was told, because “we just couldn’t show that it was having any measurable impact on retention of print subscribers and it wasn’t producing revenue.”

Right from the start, new offerings were measured by what they did for the core product, not on their own merits. A big mistake.

And some great words about understanding that you’re working with a new medium, not just a new format in which to present the old:

You have to have a strategy and you have to be committed to pursuing it. We perceived the Web site as a newspaper online, as a complement to the paper, not as its own thing. That’s not a strategy.

Go. Read it now. Thanks to Jay Rosen for the link (via Twitter).

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