On the decay of old media: Helsingin Sanomat goes back to the 1990’s

I was skimming twitter this morning when I saw a link to an article/blog post in HS site about how they plan to “revolutionize” the way people interact/work with HS today.

First let me get this out of my chest: whoever was tasked with creating this project is either a complete noob in this thing we call the internet or their task was to create a good video for a concept that has no chance in hell to succeed! What a large #FAIL!

Now for the actual content. HS misses the whole internet thing completely.

  1. First, they created this video which is about creating a platform that transfers their “paper” product to your screen. Really? Don’t you have a little bit of imagination? Or at least look around to see what is happening! People don’t want the “old” media in a new format. They want and need a new media, that is a more integral part of their life, not another format to learn!
  2. Second, they completely ignore that in the age of the internet when the competition is just a click away the media business model has to be about producing good content first and only later about the medium to deliver it. The medium will evolve forever! (remeber sites from 1999? not so successful if launched today!) Having a concept that revolves around the way that media is organized *on the screen* is like trying to build a car by 1800’s standards: you know with a 1000 bhp engine on a model T. Totally clueless if you ask me
  3. Third, the video seems to show that they want to use all kinds of media formats in their content: videos, more photos, more ads, etc. Well, I don’t see how a decreasing revenue ecosystem (print media) can really work with a future model that will exponentially increase their production costs (more video report teams, more photographers and photo editors, more expensive content handling and management systems, etc.) I mean, look at Huffingtonpost.com. They are competing for attention with the big guys with a much smaller work-force!
  4. Fourth (and last – although I could continue for ever), they completely forget that in the age of the Internet, access to content is the commodity, what they should be focusing on is either a content-niche (opinion, creating social dialogue, etc. — where they have no competition) or then try to create a dialogue with their customers that cannot be replicated elsewhere (like user engagement through social media, etc.). Trying to just create another “way” to access their content, which is closed, limited and will be out-dated 6 months after they spend millions implementing it is not just dumb, it should be considered neglect by WSOY board!

Helsingin Sanomat: please wise up and truly innovate! Look around, there’s lots of people in Finland with great ideas. Take a risk, listen to them. After all Finland is one of the most advanced countries in online/mobile services. Surely we must have people in this country who can give you great ideas!

Here’s the sad, sad video. Well produced, but with the wrong content…

Photo credit: fireflythegreat @ flickr

One thought on “On the decay of old media: Helsingin Sanomat goes back to the 1990’s

  1. Dude, you may be wearing your Internet spectacles but HS wants to go post-Internet. They’re taking “mobile” to your breakfast table and that’s a very smart move.

    * Firstly the “product” part of the video was created by a student group in a 2008 demo competition. I don’t think it accurately reflects what HS intends to do.

    * Secondly, HS is all about generating content. They have an army of reporters that must be paid every month. The content they generate must be marked up and sold to aggregators and consumers. The main news is already available for free on HS and competitors web sites, mobile sites and RSS feeds. But HS also produces value-added content that is available for a fee, such as when you subscribe to their printed paper.

    Now there are certain problems with printed paper, including cost of manufacturing and distribution and of course the fact that printing and delivering takes time. Even if you live in a densely populated first-tier area, it’s at least 4 hours from press stop to your letter box. In the countryside you’ll be lucky to get your paper by lunchtime! Also, HS has already hit the practical size limit of a printed paper: any thicker and they will be half shredded by the letter boxes. This of course means that they can’t sell any more ads.

    By going “netpad”, they can circumvent all of these problems for their premium content. This wasn’t possible before the netpad arrived because the right form factor didn’t exist. Laptops take up too much space at the breakfast table. Smartphones have too small screens and, until the N900, couldn’t handle embedded flash movies properly.

    * Thirdly, dynamic content is not limited to FLash movies. There are polls, story updates, story timelines, links to factual sites like Wikipedia, mash-ups with oma.hs.fi or http://www.oikotie.fi. It takes a minute to set up the keywords and then the extra stuff just appears.

    * Fourthly, HS is not a newbie when it comes to digital media. They have been experimenting with these things for a long time. A “netpad edition” would allow them to move into longer opinion pieces. They already have two kinds of customer dialogue. Firstly they publish letters and opinion pieces from the readers, where the turnaround time is typically a week. Secondly they have the public semi-anonymous discussions where the turnover is quick but which is totally useless for the printed edition. You just can’t reprint a flamewar. 😉 Now imagine if they could add a third kind of dialogue, allowing for moderated and *authenticated* electronic letters?

    I fully agree that the netpad is not the first and not the last content platform. There will be more platforms coming up, including podcasts, internet-enabled TV:s, whatever. The key point is that the money they can save easily pays for a couple dozen people to develop and test new platforms and support end users etc.


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