Newspaper News Bits

A few interesting developments have come out of the newspaper world over the past few weeks.

As we reported last week, The Wall Street Journal offered the print paper and online access for free all day yesterday. The paper has branded the new look as WSJ 3.0  something that will likely open the flood gates of online companies branding products in a way that is just as meaningless, clichi and pervasive in every new business plan as “Web 2.0.”

Branding aside, the move represents a step forward for WSJ’s online product with new blogs and podcasts as well as an improved search and navigation interface. Search Engine Journal points out that there should be more social media components to the site if it is to be deserving of its new title, and Search Engine Watch has additional commentary.

The Journal is essentially one of the only papers with the level of quality and specialization to demand a premium for online access. The New York Times can do the same with TimesSelect, given the differentiation of its many editorial voices. Otherwise, online news has mostly become a commodity, causing paid access to be difficult to pull off and represent a barrier to adoption (even free registration can be a barrier). This is why ad supported models have (correctly) been chosen as the monetization strategy of choice by most online newspapers.

Integrating different forms of advertising and unifying different content silos into search results (related news, classifieds, directory listings and other things) will be the trick to creating attractive user-centric destinations that can monetize many sources of local and national content. So far we’ve seen little of this, but search technology providers such as Planet Discover (bought by Gannett last year) are doing some interesting things.

Elsewhere in the newspaper world, The Washington Post will bring together its print and online newsrooms this month by giving print editors oversight of online content. This should add a dynamic element to the paper’s ability to cover breaking news and is an integration we should see more of in the newspaper industry. Gannett has begun to do something similar, along with The New York Times and USA Today. More from paidContent.

PaidContent also reports that McClatchy acquired a set of citizen journalism sites in the Fresno, California, area last month. The jury is still out on the potential traction such UGC news sites are capable of, but there are companies doing some interesting things by way of news, classifieds, directory content and even social networking on a “hyper local level,” such as Backfence, Bakotopia and Enterprise NewsMedia’s Wicked Local. If anything in the newspaper world comes close to the term 3.0, it’s this type of integration. But again this term, like Web 2.0 (or “News 2.0”), is mostly meaningless.

Lastly, The New York Times also had a New Year’s Day column by David Carr on the cultural trends affecting the slide in print newspaper readership, and McClatchy’s sale of the flagship Minneapolis Star Tribune as a watershed moment.

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