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February 14, 2011 / Toby Dayton

Impending Death Of The Dailies? Most Are Walking Zombies

It’s funny how things work sometimes. During a recent conversation, I made the comment that the newspaper most at risk from the launch of Rupert Murdoch’s The Daily (Newscorp’s very well-executed daily newspaper released specifically for the iPad) was USA Today. Low and behold, a MinnPost article today is reporting that Gannett is exploring the possibility of selling the newspaper. The article makes no mention of The Daily, and it is undoubtedly way too early to give the iPad newspaper any credit for having an impact of any kind on Gannett’s decision. But there is little doubt that The Daily has caused some tremors in daily newspaper board rooms around the country in the past few weeks and it certainly stands as another example of how rapidly the web, mobile devices, and digital media are obliterating the media landscape in this country.

Local metro daily newspapers that are not running at an absolute dead sprint right now every day of the week have absolutely no chance at all of surviving in the years to come. None. Zero. Not a prayer. And the last time I looked, I could hardly find a local daily that was even speed-walking. Hoping to unveil a redesigned website this Spring? Too late. You’ve already lost the race. Working on your iPad/iPhone app for Q2/3/4 if all goes well? Too late. The race is over. Hoping your Groupon clone takes off in 2011? Too late. You don’t have a chance. Still using Monster in any form whatsoever in your sales effort or on your website? You died years ago.

Leading companies on the web (and I’m not even talking about the billion dollar club but the thousands of smaller innovators like Slate, MinnPost, BringMeTheNews, and countless others) are constantly innovating and experimenting, releasing new services and challenging models of all kinds everywhere. These companies are running at lightning speed, and certainly not all of them will win, but they’re absolutely in the race and are making a strong case for their long-term success. And where are the dailies? Other than The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and a maybe, and only maybe, a few others….they’re in a hospital bed in a full body cast, recovering from the train wreck of the past decade, too weak and frightened to even attempt a single ambitious step forward. Run and win a race at a dead sprint against the Usain Bolt’s of the digital world? Good luck with that. Let me know when you’ve unveiled your redesigned website. We’re all waiting breathlessly with anticipation.