Can Big Data save newspapers from extinction?

Published June 23, 2014   |   
Rich Cooper

For four years I had the job growing up that a lot of young men had—I was a “paperboy” for the local newspaper, in this case The Pittsburgh Press. This was back in the Stone Age, as my kids would call it, before the Internet when the news actually came to your front door and not your immediate fingertips via an electronic screen.

My old first job has certainly changed as larger delivery services have replaced the local paperboy/girl routes but no industry has probably encountered greater change and disruption as the newspaper business. The reason—the Internet.

For decades, delivering the news required huge investments and a broad infrastructure of journalists, printers and distributors. The Internet changed all of that by stripping away the financial barriers to entry, allowing most anyone to write and publish. Because so much of digital content is free, the old business models fell apart, leading to diminishing profits, layoffs of thousands of journalists, (and paperboys/girls) and even the shuttering of some of America’s oldest news publications—including my old paper.

As any reporter or news junkie will tell you, news travels fast and people want to be kept in the immediate loop for world events, sports scores or the birth announcement that is heralded for the family down the street. As such ,newspapers can no longer assume readers will find and select their product from a narrow set of news outlets. There is so much content being produced so quickly that everyone must compete for attention, from the “Gray Lady” in New York to the blogger sitting in his basement.

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