Washington Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis Dispenses Advice to Newspapers

Frank AhrensSenior Writer IMarch 19, 2008

AOL founding executive and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis generously offered his “Ten-Point Plan to Reinvent the Newspaper Business” earlier this week on his blog, “Ted’s Take.”

Among his suggestions: “Syndicate for Web 2.0. Atomize your online Web 1.0 site,” and “Get rid of senior editors. Turn them into algorithmic managers.”

Thanks, Ted! 

I surely appreciate Ted’s unsolicited suggestions, inasmuch as I understand them. And, as a newspaper reporter, I’d never dream of offering Ted advice on running his hockey team — what do I know about hockey? But I can’t help notice the similarities between the newspaper industry and the National Hockey League. Such as:

-- Both are struggling to retain customers.

-- Both were once the dominant players in their fields (professional sports and news) but have become increasingly irrelevant, dwarfed by ascendant competitors. Newspapers are getting hammered by Google; the NHL has lost fans to the NFL, the NBA, MLB, golf, NASCAR, tennis, ultimate fighting and staring at paint until it dries.

-- Just when their popularity was waning already, both made disastrous choices. The NHL smartly decided to go on strike, disappearing off the sports radar. Many newspapers arrogantly believed this Internet thing would never catch on and failed to build good Web sites until it was too late. 

-- Both arrogantly over-expanded in the 1990s, with the NHL putting franchises in cities that should never have had them and newspapers hiring too many reporters and editors and putting bureaus in countries that made no economic sense.

-- Both remain popular in at least one demographic: older, white consumers.

There is one major difference between the newspaper industry and hockey, however: Newspapers have the ability to distribute their content on the Internet, tossing a lifeline to the sinking ink-on-paper franchises.

What can hockey players do? Strap on cleats and learn football?

Atomize that, Ted.