Here’s An Idea: The Harvard Business Review on the ‘Nichepaper’

Big ups to Robb Montgomery on Twitter for a link to this article on the “nichepaper manifesto.” I’m not big on buzzwords, nor am I big on manifestos, but I like the ideas described in this piece on the future of newspapers by the Harvard Business Review.

What does it boil down to? The future of newspapers lies in so-called “nichepapers,” news organizations built around “a profound mastery of a tightly defined domain — finance, politics, even entertainment” — and offering “deep, unwavering knowledge of it.”

Some examples: Talking Points Memo, Perez Hilton, Business Insider, Huffington Post. As a classic niche publication, Arkansas Business could also fit this model.

The article goes further to say that, “The 21st century news organization is a portfolio of the different kinds of nichepapers.” Here’s why:

Nichepapers are the future of news because their economics are superior. All the Nichepapers above are “real” enterprises, with staff, offices, and fixed and variable costs. Nichepapers offer more bang for the buck: greater benefits for far less cost. Readers get more, better, and faster content — while publishers realize lower capital intensity, lower distribution, marketing, and production costs, and less risk. What is different about them is that they are finding new paths to growth, and rediscovering the lost art of profitability by awesomeness.

Not a fan of phrases like “profitability by awesomeness,” either. But you get the point.

If you care about newspapers, you should read the whole thing right here, then tell me what you think. This is of course but one possible model of how news organizations might look in the near future.

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Of course, “niche” is nothing new. Arkansas Business is a niche newspaper and part of a company that produces a host of niche products. And in November, Arkansas Business media writer Mark Hengel wrote about how “niche” is becoming an important part of the business plan for general circulation daily newspapers.

AdAge: Twitter ‘Quitters’ Make Service’s Reach Limited

AdAge this week takes a look at Twitter‘s big, buzz-worthy numbers and spike and traffic, due in part to Oprah’s and Ashton’s inane Twitter campaigns. The trade publication suggests that Twitter’s reach will remain limited, because so many of these new Twitter signees have logged on because of the hype and then … well, nothing.

… the breathless [traffic] reports have not accounted for what people do after they sign up for a Twitter account. Creating a Twitter account doesn’t equal becoming an uber-user, or even a casual user, of the micro-blogging site. Nielsen Online data released today suggest more than 60% of people who sign up for Twitter abandon the service.

“Twitter Quitters” are threatening Twitter’s very survival! (You can see Nielsen’s post on the matter here.)

Of course, there’s no doubt that folks are signing on to Twitter just to see what all this buzz is about, then leaving the quirky service because they don’t get it, don’t have the time to work with it, don’t sit on their computers or cell phones all day or (possibly?) are put off by its increasingly precious nomenclature (Tweets, tweeps, twibes? Srlsy?).

There’s also the social media arms race effect, in which people, groups and companies sign on to the service just to say they’re on it. Even SEC coaches feel as if they have to tweet, even if they don’t know what it is!

Tennessee Coach Lane Kiffin doesn’t know if Twittering is a recruiting advantage, but he’s not taking any chances.

Kiffin opened a Twitter account recently after learning Georgia Coach Mark Richt had one.

“To me, it’s more one of those things that you don’t want anyone doing anything that you’re not,” Kiffin said. “Reading that Coach Richt had started that and had one, we just wanted to make sure that there wasn’t anything that could possibly be a benefit that we weren’t doing.”

(What? No comment from Houston Nutt, the undisputed king of collegiate text messaging? Sigh. Moving on …)

So, yes, AdAge’s report makes absolute sense. Is this a bad thing for Twitter? Not necessarily. AdAge says that if Twitter can get users to stick, then it will remain a niche service. As the employee of a niche publisher, I know that niche audiences, no matter how small, can be prized by advertisers and content providers alike. Niche isn’t bad. But it might not be what Twitter’s creators and investors are aiming for.

Meanwhile, I want to know this, Twittersphere: As we’ve seen, Twitter has legitimate uses for work, nonprofits, marketing, customer service, internal communications, emergency communications and more. But are Twitter noobs — the disciples of Oprah and Ashton — truly ruining Twitter for its power users? Are too many folks crashing the party?

Let me know in comments.