Newspapers to model social media?

Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate holding company perhaps most well known for its powerful CEO and chairman, Warren Buffett, has acquired 28 daily newspapers in the past 15 months at a cost of $344 million, according to this article.

Why would a successful company buy newspapers? They're dead...or aren't they?

I can honestly say this is one of the first positive things I've seen written about the newspaper industry in a very long, long time.The article discusses Buffett's remarks to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway and his excitement about the recent acquisition of these newspapers.

I think Buffett makes some key points though, points I heard reference by my journalism teachers at Northeastern years ago.

Namely, the importance of local news.

“Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents," Buffett says.

I think this is a concept that is ironically proved by how powerful social media is.  Social media is in itself all of these little micro communities where people share information, feelings, photos, etc. about a certain topic or idea or event.

I think newspapers have a great opportunity to become a leader of news within smaller communities. News but, as Buffett cites, not what we consider "breaking news."  Newspapers will probably never be the news breakers again, but that changed with the Kennedy assassination.

Buffett goes on to discus the challenge in making a business model that will in fact make newspapers money, citing that the bigger papers like the New York Times have managed to make it work. I can testify that as I recently bought a subscription for my iPad.

I hope that newspapers DO stick around for some time.  While I'm all about moving forward and reading the Times on my iPad, there is something very satisfying about sitting down with a New York Times and a cup of coffee.