Print publishers don’t have a ‘god given right’ to survive online

Interesting coverage of the Cannes Advertising Festival by Mark Sweney of MediaGuardian.co.uk, in particular his notes on a talk by Professor Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at Microsoft.

I totally agree that publishers of mags and newspapers shouldn’t think they have a god given right. But I do think they have a prayer – as long as they get up to speed with their nearest online competitors asap.

If print publishers migrate all of the best bits of their popular mag, go on to tweak these features to exploit the web AND ensure they’re offering a similarly rewarding experience to the new generation of online only rivals, then all should be well.

A good example is NME.com. The likes of MySpace are snapping at its heals, but its mix of UGC, user profiles, video content and quality journalism means it’s easily capable of being a major player online as well as off. But it’s also reaping the rewards of early web investment.

Anyone offering a strong vertical portal and ‘owning’ a niche area of interest I think has more than a fighting chance against the please-all dotcom behemoths. MySpace knows this too – which is why its site is cut up into niche interest ‘passion centres’. This also explains MTV and Yahoo’s recent decision to develop hobby/interest led microsites and focus efforts on ‘owning’ a space.

Print publishers, like NME.com, just need to hit the ground running asap. If not, shoestring upstarts (e.g. Monkeymag.co.uk) begin to scoop up everyone you’re not catering for on the web (e.g. Loaded).

Read Mark’s post from Cannes.