The Newspaper Cloud? update from March 2009

Could cloud computing offer a lifeline to the newspaper industry? Digital Technology International (DTI) and Internap (INAP) have teamed on an SaaS service customized for newspapers.

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Could cloud computing offer a lifeline to the newspaper industry? That's the approach being pursued by Digital Technology International (DTI), which is offering newspaper publishers a way to port their entire operation - including content publishing, circulation and advertising - onto the Web.  

DTI is a long-time provider of technology systems for newspapers, with more than 2,000 clients around the world, including the Washington Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Houston Chronicle and and Salt Lake Tribune. The company has teamed with Internap Network Services (INAP) to create DTI Cloud, a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering customized for newspapers seeking to shift their operations to an online delivery model.

DTI's core software offering uses a single database to publish content to multiple channels. Internap provides the back-end through its data centers and content delivery technology.     

“In this unprecedented environment, media organizations have to transform their business infrastructure and business models from process-oriented ‘manufacturers’ of newspapers into nimble audience-centric media businesses,” said DTI CEO Don Oldham. “Our software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, DTI Cloud, helps newspapers immediately lower costs and will put them on the path toward higher revenue, targeted advertising models, which capitalize on synergies between digital and print publishing.”

The offering will be most appealing to current DTI customers, who in theory should be able to migrate their existing data to the online system.

The cost savings available through a cloud model may look tempting. Could a headlong rush into the cloud be the miraculous survival strategy the newspaper industry has been seeking? 

Allow me to inject a dose of reality based on personal experience. I spent 15 years in the newsrooms of daily newspapers. I used to be afraid of computers. But in 1994 I used America Online to publish a web page for the first time. It was instantly clear to me that the future of publishing involved a person, a computer and an Internet connection. It took all the cost out of the equation - no newsprint, no trucks, no delivery people.

I spent much of the next five years advocating from within, trying to convince my bosses  about the importance of technology and the Internet. The response was this: computers cost money and the Internet is where people make stuff up. 

In 2000, I gave up and shifted to writing for technology web sites. The newspaper industry has spent the ensuing nine years in a defensive crouch, fighting the future. Meanwhile, more nimble competitors (including blogs and online classifieds) grabbed up Internet real estate and mindshare. The innovative online solutions that newspapers might have offered their core advertisers were instead built by entrepreneurs.

Can cloud computing save the newspaper industry? It might prove a handy lifeboat for a few news executives who finally conclude, as the water laps around their ankles, that the deckchairs are never going to look any better.

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