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Eons, Tributes, and Why Newspapers Should Cover Competitors

Posted by Scott Kirsner  August 24, 2009 11:36 AM

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Yesterday's Innovation Economy column focused on Tributes.com, a spin-off from Eons, the social network for boomers and seniors that Jeff Taylor launched three years ago.

Eons doesn't seem to be have too much wind in its sails (its last funding was raised in 2007, though there's still some cash left in the bank), and Taylor seems to be pinning more of his hopes on Tributes, which hosts digital obituaries. Like an earlier Jeff Taylor venture, Monster.com, Tributes is a "disruptive" start-up aimed squarely at the old-school business of selling death notices that show up in print, in papers like the Boston Globe.

The first e-mail I got Sunday morning, from a reader named John, said, "...I find it interesting that companies that are dissing newspapers [like Tributes] get newspapers to write articles about them."

My response: I acknowledge that newspapers have plenty of problems these days, but one thing I appreciate about them (and I'm not talking just about the Globe) is that they don't tend to respond to rivals by refusing to write about them. Would newspapers (and their readers) have been better off if they never reported on the emergence of new media like radio, TV, and the Internet, all of which represented threats to their business? Would the Globe or its readers be better off if the paper never covered the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, etc.?

I was interested in Tributes' business model, and Taylor's prediction that Tributes' revenues will surpass those of Eons by next year. So I wrote about it.

I'm interested in your take...

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1 comments so far...
  1. The development of new media is as newsworthy a business topic (relevant to print journalism) as any other. Simply because social networks and online news sources are competition of a sort to more traditional media outlets, the two worlds have become interlinked with Facebook fan pages, Twitter, podcasts and blogs (such as this one.) It would be a major disservice to readers to ignore/refuse to report on these topics. However, to a certain extent I do feel that within the local media scene there is a fine-line in one outlet covering the other. Weeky Dig's Media Farm is doing it right, The Globe's Names column covering a party hosted by Stuff doesn't make much sense to me.

    Posted by Sam M. August 25, 09 10:57 AM
 

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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