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Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Rosie, May 31, 2008.

  1. Rosie

    Rosie Active Member

    I've been giving this whole "the newspaper industry is a dying entity" mantra a lot of thought lately.

    I know of three newspapers which have started up within the last three years that are doing very, very well.

    They are small, but more important, they are privately owned, two by actual long-time newspaper people.

    There's no question that there's much needed to be done to shore up this industry. But think for a minute. If someway, somehow, newspapers -- at least some of them -- could be torn from the clutches of the huge corporations which own them and put into private ownership, that could help save and reinvigorate this industry.

    Yes, I know realistically it won't happen, but what if?
  2. STLIrish

    STLIrish Active Member

    Certainly seems like it could be preferable to the current publicly-traded death spiral that many papers are in.
    But, then, I'm sure there's folks in Philly, Minneapolis and various Tribune Co. papers who might tell you that going private ain't necessarily a bed of roses.

    It's really all in the financing at some level. If a smart, innovative private owner bought a paper (or chain) without taking on staggering debt to do it, then used the profits, which are still considerable, to innovate their way out of the dying-print product/immature web product dilemma we have, then they might be on to something.
    But the companies that own newspapers now won't give them away, so it takes a boatload of capital to buy them. That usually means debt, the servicing of which sucks up all your cash flow.
    Granted, at this rate, the public newspapers will eventually be worth so little that someone could maybe pick them up free and clear. But things will have gotten pretty grim by the time we reach that point.
  3. BrianGriffin

    BrianGriffin Active Member

    I think you're on to something. I think there's more demand for the product than people are assuming. But what it takes to produce the product there is demand for doesn't fit into the scheme of a large corporation. Newspapers have always been about serving their communities. Large corporations have always been about serving the stockholders/investors. Those things conflict. What has given way is the service to the community and once the community senses that, it becomes more lukewarm to the product.

    So, to me, it's corporate ownership that's killing papers, along with a bad economy.

    Quick story. I live in a metro area of 193,000. Our circulation figures are 36k daily, 41k on Sundays. We are family owned. To my west is a metro area of 385k with a circulation of 56k. It's part of a major chain. So our market penetration is much better. To my east is an area of 450k. The paper there has a circulation of 45k on weekdays and 54k on Sundays. Their market penetration is not even close to ours. They are also a major chain.

    Is it because we are a family owned and, as a result, are better at reacting to the needs of the community? I don't know if there's enough evidence in raw circulation numbers to say that. But I do strongly suspect it.
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