Investment legend Warren Buffett says the newspaper industry’s sorry state stems from its inability to adjust to change, especially the Internet.
Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns The Buffalo News, and he’s a board member of The Washington Post Co.
The industry was too satisfied with its success years ago, he said.
"It is so easy when you've got a wonderful business," he recently told Editor & Publisher magazine, which itself ceased Internet and print publication at the end of 2009.
"Complacency is pretty easy, and it is why they weren't looking over their shoulder at what was happening."
Newspapers have suffered as readers and advertisers migrate to the Internet.
Papers have generally failed to get readers to pay for content online.
And Web advertising rates are cheaper than print.
"When the Internet came along, you gave away your (online) product for free and charged for it in another place (print)," Buffett said.
"I'm not positive what you would have done differently, but not figuring out some kind of business model was a mistake."
As for whether his Buffalo paper will charge for online news, Buffett said, “We are going to look at everything everyone else does. How do you charge when a thousand other people don't?”
Rupert Murdoch, whose Wall Street Journal charges for online subscriptions, has been emphatic about the need to charge for news on the web.
“We need to do a better job of persuading consumers that high-quality news and information does not come free,” he told a recent conference.
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