Did newspaper companies ever build printing presses?

Today, I was sittting in the lobby of a posh hotel waiting to interview Jason Calacanis about Mahalo, the human-powered search site that he recently launched. His plane was delayed for five hours, but he was on his way. As we watched members of Motley Crue traipse through the lobby, I got to chat to Wil Harris, and we were talking about innovation and news organisations, or possibly the lack of innovation. I said it was not in the DNA of most news organisations to develop products or software. Wil put it a great way:

Newspapers never felt the need to build their own printing presses.

Why do they feel the need to re-invent the wheel? We both asked. There is Drupal, WordPress and any number of third-party software vendors.

Just look at Mahalo. It runs on MediaWiki, and Jason uses Google AdSense on a few entries already to earn some revenue. As Jason told John Battelle:

Google Adsense exists as a massive, scalable, and wildly efficient monitization engine. We’re not going to sell ads directly… we’re gonna leverage the services out there based on which ones perform best on a PER-SERP basis.

Especially for a lot of small news organisations without the development budget, there are a lot of great web services that can quickly be adapted to build sites and services and generate revenue. Why build it all over again?

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