Newspapers rushed onto the Web to catch up with the dot.com’s but never learned the “golden rule” of Web publishing: provide unique Web content, then monetize it.
Reno-based Swift Communications, owner of The Union, called its plan “Web first.” Newsrooms were told to post Web updates, video, etc., ASAP, and the results were measured.
Trouble is, there was no strategy for the advertising group to monetize the Web content or measure it. Oops.
So they would up giving away print content and more for free, cannibalizing their paid print subscriptions and eroding advertising.
Swift was not alone. It happened in a lot of places, largely the result of insular management teams who never saw the Internet train coming or were in denial. Surprisingly, most of them are still intact.
Now newspapers are paying more attention to the issue, but they are behind the eight ball.
One unique feature that has run recently at theunion.com (and not in print) is called the “gas guide.” It provides the gas prices at local stations, a good idea.
Trouble is, all week long, the gas prices for the local stations have been incorrect. (I happen to pass this route daily from my home in Nevada City to an indoor swimming pool in Grass Valley, so I noticed this).
Nobody apparently has bothered to check whether the figures are accurate or not. I notice a disclaimer on the site, provided by an outfit called www.gasbuddy.com. It also adds, “regular prices in the past 48 hours shown.”
It would be a lot more useful to provide the information in real-time.
But there’s hope. According to the site, “We need your help! We rely on volunteer gas price spotters to submit gas prices. If you know of any current gas prices in this area, please post them using the form below!”
Perhaps somebody could step forward to help out. I’m not sure what the business model is here, except for being a good samaritan.
I’m not sure if a gas guide has legs in such a small town anyway.
Around here, we all know the pattern. For example, the gas station by our house, the Chevron on Sacramento St., is typically the highest in the area, while the ARCO or Flyer’s in Burger Basin are the lowest. It’s been that way since I’ve lived here.
Close but no cigars.