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16.4.14 1959
The W - Print - The Future of Newspapers
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TheBucsFan
TheChiefsFan








Since: 2.1.02

Since last post: 20 days
Last activity: 7 days
#1 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.82
This is in response to this post by Mr. Boffo:


    I don't want to derail the thread, so if this would work better in a different forum, let me know.

    But I'm wondering what people think the long term scenario is for newspapers. According to some numbers I whipped up only two of the top 100 newspapers in 2004 saw their daily circulation increase from that time to 2008 (USA Today with modest gains, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review which must have something special going on to have a 26% increase in circulation). The average top 100 newspaper has seen daily circulation decrease 16%, with two newspapers (the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain Gazette) seeing circulation drop 38%.

    So what are we looking at long term? Will it be just the USA Today left standing when the dust settles?


First of all, I don't think newspapers are going anywhere, though they have clearly lost a lot of influence they once had. In my opinion, though, the industry has only itself to blame.

I blame much of it on the coverage of the OJ Simpson trial. Clearly, newspapers didn't ignore celebrity gossip bullshit before the murder trial, and it's a bit off to categorize the trial as "celebrity gossip," but the media saw the public eat that shit up with the biggest spoon it could find, and decided that was where the money was. The celebrity obsession reached a disgusting pinnacle in 2007 with the coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death.

At the daily newspaper I worked at during that episode, it was a daily argument between me and the managing editor (usually lost by me) over the fact that the then-ongoing Alberto Gonzales/fired attorneys mess was a small story on the inside of our paper while Anna Nicole Smith was on the front page multiple times. And while you may think the Gonzales affair was blown out of proportion, surely you must agree it has a little more significance than the death of someone known for nothing beyond big breasts and a low IQ.

And even if that particular issue isn't a major deal, it's indicative of an attitude shift. The days of Edward R Murrow, the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate scandal being the face of the media are long over. Now - and I don't think this should come as a shock - with newspapers no longer focusing on things that, you know, matter, their readership is dropping dramatically. The response by the newspapers has been to cut staff and reduce the resources that go into producing their papers, thereby giving readers even less of a reason to pay to pick up said papers, causing the downward spiral we are witnessing now.

Another cause of this is that newspapers continue to feed the partisan bullshit that eventually leads to half the country dismissing publications such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal as "liberal" or "conservative." I think a major reason this happens is because the newspapers have decided the entire world can be broken down into "Democrats" and "Republicans." And while I do think there are some newspapers that hold themselves to a slightly higher standard than others, there isn't a newspaper in the US that I would say stays away from the mistake of thinking every single government- or politics-related point can be personified by a Democrat or a Republican in Washington.

On a smaller scale, back to the newspaper where I was working in 2007. I eventually left the paper because of the way they wanted me to cover the city and county governments I was responsible for covering. I would often skip council meetings and such because what was going to happen was usually blatantly obvious beforehand, and would instead spend my time talking to people who stood to be affected by whatever was about to happen at said meetings. My argument was, and still is, that if people really gave a shit about what happened at those meetings, they would go themselves. They don't, however, because it's not what is said or done at the meetings that matters, but how what is said or done at the meetings impacts people that matters. A simple "quote-by-quote" recap of the meeting is virtually pointless, in my opinion.

I've sat through more bullshit forums and interviews than I care to recall in which I've been told the reason nobody is reading newspapers is because the Internet and television have shortened their attention spans, or changed the way they want their news presented. While that is probably part of the cause of this shift, it totally passes the buck on newspapers' role in their own decline. If it really was that people wanted the Internet instead of a print edition, it would simply be a matter of taking the content currently in newspapers, put it online, perhaps package it a little different, and you would retain your readers. But that has been tried repeatedly, and it has repeatedly failed. Because the content is the problem. They don't report on things that matter, so people don't care.

Anyway, for newspapers to survive their current struggles, it will require a huge shift in attitude, toward a view of the newsroom as an investment and not a liability. Cutting reporting staff as a means to make money is an oxymoron, but it's exactly what the newspapers are doing - and were doing long before any "global economic crisis."

(edited by TheBucsFan on 30.1.09 1059)
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Matt Tracker
Scrapple








Since: 8.5.03
From: North Carolina

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#2 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.40
    Originally posted by TheBucsFan
    My argument was, and still is, that if people really gave a shit about what happened at those meetings, they would go themselves.


Doesn't that disqualify the point of news agencies entirely?

Background info: I worked for two college papers, a county daily, and an alt-weekly from 1990-2004.

I see papers losing their syndication networks and going back to local ownership. I worked for a NYTimes syndicated paper, and layoffs were ordered to offset losses at other papers or corporate offices. Our paper was doing fine; our budget didn't require cuts in the workforce. Losing reporters and print operators isn't helping that paper do its job, and I wouldn't be surprised if the paper is bought by a local company within ten years.

I think papers have to be more creative in pursuing ad clients. That sounds simplistic, but so many papers still follow the model of focusing on realtors and dealerships. They've ignored small businesses who need the circulation of a daily to reach the community's attention. By offering those businesses a better deal for long-term advertising, they'd attract more companies and lock in income over a longer period.

I see many people concerned over the fate of "print." Print will fluctuate as technology changes. But "text" won't go nowhere, and as long as companies take advantage of text avenues, they can remain competitive.

I do agree with TheBucsFan about content, and papers can compete by expanding their content beyond wire reports. Some papers are already cutting subscriptions to the Associate press wire because of cost increases. Frankly, printed wire reports nowadays are only useful if the articles provide more info than the two minutes devoted to the same subject by cable news.

This leads to my real beef: So long as newspapers insist that their average readers have only a sixth-grade education, they will continue to dumb down the news content and presentation to that reading level. You get better readers if you encourage READING, not just quick info assimilation.




"To be the man, you gotta beat demands." -- The Lovely Mrs. Tracker
DrDirt
Banger








Since: 8.10.03
From: flyover country

Since last post: 6 days
Last activity: 5 hours
#3 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.43
Newspapers have several fits that will help them remain viable:

1. In depth coverage of more regional/local issues of concern.

2. Local sports

3. Local "stuff" in general that is ignored by everyone else.

4. Locals like to see their name, their kid's names, and their grandkids names in touchable print.

I agree that papers could buck the trends and get smaller, not bigger. The best thing that could happen to papers is having real newspaper people run them and ditch the suits.



Perception is reality
TheBucsFan
TheChiefsFan








Since: 2.1.02

Since last post: 20 days
Last activity: 7 days
#4 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.82
    Originally posted by Matt Tracker
      Originally posted by TheBucsFan
      My argument was, and still is, that if people really gave a shit about what happened at those meetings, they would go themselves.


    Doesn't that disqualify the point of news agencies entirely?


Not at all. I think the point of a news outlet is, or should be, to spread relevant, interesting and important information. I don't think the exact quote of some council member, senator, lawyer or business owner in general fits any of those descriptions (there are, of course, exceptions). I also think the public realizes this fact, which is why your typical City Council or Senate meeting is viewed or attended by such a small portion of those potentially affected.

People depend, or should be able to depend, on the media to tell them why what happens at those meetings is important or relevant because most people don't have the time and/or resources and/or perspective to find out for themselves. But a simple recap of the meeting does not accomplish that.

Besides, even is that was the point, maybe it's time to reconsider that, as it's clearly time to rethink the entire business model.


    I think papers have to be more creative in pursuing ad clients. That sounds simplistic, but so many papers still follow the model of focusing on realtors and dealerships. They've ignored small businesses who need the circulation of a daily to reach the community's attention. By offering those businesses a better deal for long-term advertising, they'd attract more companies and lock in income over a longer period.

    I see many people concerned over the fate of "print." Print will fluctuate as technology changes. But "text" won't go nowhere, and as long as companies take advantage of text avenues, they can remain competitive.


There has definitely been a major, major blow to advertising in newspapers because of TV and the Internet, and I don't mean to discount that. I just think the means to combat it should be work to increase the readership of your newspapers so potential advertisers have more of a reason to consider using your medium. Newspapers' responses at large, however, have been to take steps that I think can only lead to even *lower* readership, which just causes more problems in the attempt to lure advertisers.



    This leads to my real beef: So long as newspapers insist that their average readers have only a sixth-grade education, they will continue to dumb down the news content and presentation to that reading level. You get better readers if you encourage READING, not just quick info assimilation.


I think it's important to write every story, as much as possible, as if the person reading it is completely unfamiliar with the subject. This isn't the same as treating people like idiots, but not everyone reads the paper every day and not every one who does reads every single story every day. I think sometimes the reporters and editors do have to spell things out for people because otherwise you run the risk of them not understanding why the newspaper thinks it's important or worth reporting, or what background brought the story to that point.

Given that, I have no problem with stories that amount to "quick info assimilation," as long as the info being assimilated isn't total crap. I write essays and proposals and stuff the same way I would a news story: largely just one string of facts. Novels bore the living hell out of me, unless it's really gripping.

    Originally posted by DrDirt
    Newspapers have several fits that will help them remain viable:

    1. In depth coverage of more regional/local issues of concern.


Yeah, but most newspapers are getting away from even this. The most recent newspaper I worked at in the US was the { Sorry, you must be logged in to see this text! } , which is owned by a company that controls virtually every newspaper in the { Sorry, you must be logged in to see this text! } , minus the { Sorry, you must be logged in to see this text! } but including the { Sorry, you must be logged in to see this text! } . The company bought up one paper after another for a few years to the point where now, it's papers combined cover an area of roughly 3 million people.

Not counting the { Sorry, you must be logged in to see this text! } , numbers for which I don't know, the company had 64 reporters working at 13 daily newspapers. And that was as of a year or so ago, before two rounds of layoffs. I don't know what the number is now.

The editors of the respective papers would have a phone conference each morning at which they would list what their two or three reporters were doing, and the other editors would take note and use those other stories. The result was 13 daily newspapers that all had exactly the same content, just packaged slightly different (different stories and photos on the front page, for example). There were a million other flaws with the way this company was run as well.

Why would anyone read that?

(On a side note, the { Sorry, you must be logged in to see this text! } at its peak, shortly before the company in question bought it in the early 1990s, had a circulation in the 250,000 neighborhood. When I was there, the company reported it was 130,000, though I heard that was [shock!] inflated or overly optimistic.)

This goes back to Matt's point, one I wholeheartedly agree with, that more corporate ownership and less local ownership has been much of the problem, and reverting will probably be part of the solution.


    2. Local sports

    3. Local "stuff" in general that is ignored by everyone else.

    4. Locals like to see their name, their kid's names, and their grandkids names in touchable print.


I don't think there is enough of any of this to fill a newspaper with worthwhile information. There's a place for it in the newspaper, but the papers can't survive on it.


    I agree that papers could buck the trends and get smaller, not bigger. The best thing that could happen to papers is having real newspaper people run them and ditch the suits.


I agree. The worst thing that happened to newspapers is they became money-making operations above all else, and consequently run by people whose main objective to make money. Reporting valuable and impactful information is just one of many possible tools to be used from time to time to make money, and that attitude needs to change if newspapers are ever to start making money again.

(edited by TheBucsFan on 31.1.09 0940)
Mr. Boffo
Scrapple








Since: 24.3.02
From: Oshkosh, WI

Since last post: 262 days
Last activity: 222 days
#5 Posted on | Instant Rating: 5.24
    Originally posted by TheBucsFan

    Yeah, but most newspapers are getting away from even this. The most recent newspaper I worked at in the US was the { Sorry, you must be logged in to see this text! } , which is owned by a company that controls virtually every newspaper in the { Sorry, you must be logged in to see this text! } , minus the { Sorry, you must be logged in to see this text! } but including the { Sorry, you must be logged in to see this text! } . The company bought up one paper after another for a few years to the point where now, it's papers combined cover an area of roughly 3 million people.



I think that happens in a lot of areas. In my area, Gannett does all the local newspapers. Click that link and look at the Wisconsin newspapers. Just like you say, it's 11 different newspapers that look exactly the same and are about 12 pages long. I would rather they combine those into one statewide newspaper that maybe has something useful in it.
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