This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, Sept. 27, 2006, after the release of the Newspaper Next report, a collaborative project between API and Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news business, Breaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.
I get really annoyed when I look for a place to plug in my laptop computer at an airport.
I look around the lounge for an electrical outlet. Often no seats are within reach of an outlet. Sometimes you could reach an outlet by stretching the cord across a busy area where people are likely to walk. The few outlets around often are occupied by travelers charging computers, cell phones and other electronic devices between flights. Sometimes the travelers are sitting on the floor, because the only outlet they could find was not near any seats. This is true even at huge hub airports that get lots of passengers waiting between connecting flights. Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare are two of the worst.
As my exasperation over these airports’ failure to modernize grows, I look around the lounge and invariably see a large bank of pay telephones. Rarely do I see any of them in use. But I see lots of passengers on cell phones.
Airports are taxpayer-supported, with hardly any competition. Airlines choose which airports they will use based on other factors than passenger convenience. Passengers don’t often pick which airports they will use. They choose by fare and destination, sometimes by frequent flier plan. And they put up with whatever airports that means. So airports don’t have to innovate or even update. I’m sure that wiring a major airport for the 21st Century (or even the late 20th) would be a massively expensive undertaking. So they don’t and passengers sit on the floor to charge our computers between flights.
At a recent state association conference, I spoke following a panel of state political party chairs. In the question-and-answer session, a publisher noted that the parties, and their candidates, don’t hesitate to ask newspapers for free publicity when they are making announcements or staging events. Why, he asked, were they spending nearly all of their advertising dollars elsewhere? (more…)