Kindle & Digital Newspapers? They Still Don't Get It

It seems every day we hear more and more bad news about newspapers, so it was with some excitement that I read about the introduction of the Amazon Kindle, in The New York Times last week. It's more or less the same device, with a much bigger screen.

For a long time when people asked me what I thought newspapers should have been doing differently in the last five years, I told them that building the Kindle would have been a good idea, as it would convert folks like me from paper to digital. Now it turns out that Amazon beat them to it, and partnered with The New York Times, and a few other papers.

But buried deep within the article was the a sentence about pricing that stunned me.

Three newspapers, The New York Times, The Boston Globe
and The Washington Post, will offer a reduced price on the Kindle in
exchange for a long-term subscription, but only for people who live in
areas where their paper editions are not available.

Isn't this backwards? Shouldn't they be pricing this aggressively to woo folks like me from paper to digital? I guess they still don't recognize that their paper printing days are numbered, and their strategy is to milk existing subscribers like me for subscription fees until we leave on our own accord.

The danger in this strategy is that competition will trump them. What will happen when some clever entrepreneur does a mash-up of the Times and other newspapers for the Kindle that I find better than the Times itself?  It could happen, and probably will. And if the Times blocks such a venture (as the AP is trying to do with Google right now) they only shoot themselves in the foot.

What I learned in B-school decades ago was that the first question every business needs to answer is "What business are we in?" Clearly the Times has answered that question: We are (still) in the business of printing paper and distributing it. If their answer was "news distribution" then I'd think they would have a very different approach to the Kindle DX – like giving it away for free to print subscribers in return for a long-term fee-based subscription.

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