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Warren Buffett says papers “are toast”

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Readallover, Apr 23, 2019.

  1. CD Boogie

    CD Boogie Well-Known Member

    Especially ones like this

    View Richard Seaman's Obituary on ConnPost.com and share memories
  2. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    Romenesko, there's a blast from the past.
  3. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    I just know when I wrote an obit for my family - I didn't get paid by the line anywhere close what the newspaper charged by the line. $2k for a 12-inch obit?
  4. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Two reasons:

    1. They're very sophisticated, well-written link farms. Yep, they are. Of course these two organizations do their own excellent reporting, but they also - the Post, especially - look up news across the nation and rewrite, with perhaps a little extra reporting, perhaps not, and fashion it as their own work. The click might - but often do not - get back to the local resources.

    2. Millennials and many Gen-Xers prefer national news to local news (except for college sports diehards, but they're being replaced by national sports fans) and national life in general to local life. Millennials choose their "fam" by affinity, connect that affinity to a national audience, and develop their citizenship identity that way. Their news identity is the NYT and Washington Post. Eventually, it'll creep eastward more and more toward Europe.

    The true challenge of local news isn't really to get people to care about local news sources. It's to get them to care about where they live, period. Their neighbors. Truth is, we've always had socio-political silos of sorts. But those silos were once built on what was around you - a community identity - for better and worse. Now those silos are built around philosophy, ethos, affinity. An message-board dwelling incel in Wichita Kansas believes an incel in Bucharest has more in common with him than the guy in the apartment next door. That's largely nonsense, but try convincing the guy in Wichita of that.

    The local news paradigm has always been "let's cover what we can walk to." The city council. The local festival. The high school sports team. Interestingly enough, news consumers generally still want someone to be doing that. I think news consumers still want someone to be responsible for that, especially if some crook is on the loose. They just don't want to pay to consume it and, what's more, they don't want to - and will not - consume it at all unless it's salacious, because they don't really care. Not when there's the Daily Donald Trump, the Daily AOC, the Daily MeToo scandal, the Daily trend piece about millennials that millennials love to hate-read about themselves. But people increasingly care less about the city council, the local festival, the high school sports team as anything more than vehicles toward something - a place to hang and said you hung, in the case of the latter two. The NYT and Post function in similar fashion. They're part of an intellectual Pinterest, of sorts. They're good for a personal brand. The local newspaper is not.

    Not long back, there was a group of single millennials in my local community/social group/church who were interested in having meals with folks outside their age range/worldview/lifestyles. Lots of folks were up for that, and on it went for a time, pleasant enough. It was, and then it wasn't. No particular relationships came of it, in part because the aim - of both sides, really, if they're all honest - wasn't relationship, but acquisition and achievement. Something to say you did or learned. A data point of experience to collect for, I dunno, the kind of thing people collected visiting Notre Dame in Paris, for the day it burned down. It was not actual connection, but the idea of connection. Both sides agreed to the idea as a kind of good. Friend groups did not grow larger, though. They stayed the same. The same 7-8 friends hung out with the same groups, posted the same pictures of each other to Instagram, the families involved proceeded with their photos of kids or meals, and on it went.

    The dilemma of local news is bound up in that absence of real community. To the extent local news matters, it generally does so only in its adherence to any given value set, and what can be acquired from that value set. National organizations have inherent advantages there.

    I imagine the trend is reversible, but not in the near future. We led 20, 30 and 40-somethings to this water. The Internet did, too.
  5. Readallover

    Readallover Member

    That was the brilliance of Roger Ailes - recognizing that people want “news” that jives with their way of thinking. Fox is for conservatives, MSNBC is for liberals and CNN is for middle of the roaders. And CNN is dead last in ratings among these three.
    And what of newspapers? By adhering to so-called objectivity, papers ultimately speak to no audience anymore. The community isn’t the commonality that binds people together anymore and so goes the local newspaper to its demise. It’s the political tribe that we bond to, the blue versus red states, etc... the neutral ground that newspapers purport to tread is a no-mans wasteland
    Fredrick likes this.
  6. Slacker

    Slacker Well-Known Member

    Jibes, dude!
    Baron Scicluna and Batman like this.
  7. Twirling Time

    Twirling Time Well-Known Member


    playthrough likes this.
  8. crimsonace

    crimsonace Well-Known Member

    This is absolutely it. Throughout the transition, newspaper execs kept running newspapers like - well, traditional newspapers (and TV news departments ran like traditional TV news departments). The internet was - and is - seen as an appendage to the "real" product and any changes were made with reference to the old product.

    Traditional newspapers = reliance on ad revenue, with subscriptions being a small fraction of the pie. When ad revenue drops, cuts have to be made. People buy the Sunday paper for the want ads and the coupons. By the time newspapers realized the disruption of the internet and online journalism, it was really too late to adapt.

    We've seen this is so many worlds. Kmart died when it got undercut by Walmart. It didn't have a niche because Walmart was cheaper and Target/Kohls were perceived to be higher-quality. Sears, A&P, Borders - none really understood how to compete with the changing marketplace. Even Microsoft - which was deemed to be a monopoly less than 25 years ago - has struggled to evolve into the world of mobile computing.

    I'm still not 100% sure what the industry is going to look like. A few traditional publications - like the NYT and WaPo - are going to survive, because of their large national reach. The local newspaper is going to struggle, and I fear TV stations - with their ratings and consultant-driven coverage decisions often devolving the news into saccharine visual clickbait rather than depth and meaningful watchdog reporting - will become the primary news outlets in most communities. What's really worrisome is what will happen in a lot of smaller communities, where there's not really the capital to sustain a daily newspaper (and where governments are often the most corrupt).
    maumann, SFIND and Bronco77 like this.
  9. TarHeelMan

    TarHeelMan Member

    If they are toast, he's got quite a few to sell off/close.
  10. LanceyHoward

    LanceyHoward Well-Known Member

    True, but Buffet will be able to absorb the losses.

    What I think is telling is that Buffett stopped buying even with the depressed prices. He could have bought the entire industry and passed. For example, Oklahoma City Oklahoman just sold to Gatehouse for 12 million dollars. Buffet owns Tulsa and I think Tulsa prints OKC. So for a relative pittance Buffett could have combined the websites and some of staffs and basically controlled the newspaper industry in a state with a population of four million people. And he passed.
  11. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    Alma hit the nail on the head. There’s no sense of community anywhere anymore. Everyone rallies around each other after a tragedy, but afterward it’s every person for themselves.
    Tweener likes this.
  12. dirtybird

    dirtybird Well-Known Member

    This is interesting because there's some good stuff in here, but seems like a few odd potholes.

    On 1. The link farm does help, but frankly lots of places do that. I know your other big companies also have link farms. Efficent ones. I'd imagine those two papers surviving is more linked to having created brands that people seem to identify with and being able to leverage those brands into money. (The Athletic did a good job here as well, even if it's mismanaged on the spending side)

    The second part, it acknowledges a central truth, the world is smaller and getting more so all the time. It's probably about availability, of course, but I don't know I can go so far as to say this sense of "community" is at the root of all of this because that makes it a sort of morality play. There's a few spots in there that popped to me.

    -"fam"? Really? In my affluent millennial life, I've not run into a soul who uses that phrase with any seriousness.

    -The part about having a more national news outlook, is that supported by data? It strikes me we might just be coming to learn what has always been true. The reason we didn't know before was out news was bundled. I recall a story from a J-school professor that people would buy the NYT in the late 60s, read some stellar Vietnam coverage and then toss the whole thing. Maybe these people didn't care to read about the the machinations of their borough politics, but there simply wasn't a measure of it. (Like if you pointed out the millions who pay for CSPAN as proof people care about that kind of political minutiae)

    -"I think news consumers still want someone to be responsible for that, especially if some crook is on the loose. They just don't want to pay to consume it"

    This reminds me of my old paper where people were not going to read about the local mid-major basketball team losing its 16th in a row, but were incensed that you weren't there (Same for a HS basketball game between a disappointing local power and a top team in the state)

    -"People increasingly care less about the city council, the local festival, the high school sports team as anything more than vehicles toward something"

    You say people care less about these things. They only go to the festival to hang out/say they went. Is the point of a festival not to hang out? Take the kids?

    As for city council, do we know that people care less. Or did we just assume because we said it was important in the paper that someone was reading?

    -Your dinner plan, is that because people are different and used to always form long lasting friendships when they set up meetings that sounded like good ideas? Or are people more often than not just stagnant, and often start things before deciding they're not worth the effort?

    -As I read this, I kept thinking about the stranger danger push in the 1980s. The proliferation of cable news meant tales of horror from random boogey men beamed into homes. I could live in Florida, but my mom could change the way I was supposed to be interact with the space in my neighborhood and the people in it based on some story from Minnesota. The nearby world was for a spell treated as something to be feared or not trusted. We talk about kids needing to just go outside all day, but it's most often not lived up to (especially in places where the space doesn't function that way).

    I guess I'll end it this way, I don't know if this "real community" was a thing that at any point really existed or was more than anything a feeling. If it's the latter, I suppose building it might not be the hardest thing. But local news lost what was essentially which was a monopoly. If you wanted your national, you had to pay freight for local. I don't know if a sense of community helps that because there's a real chance not that many people wanted this stuff in the first place, but treated it like a bonus (the same way I'm sure no one pays for cable to watch old Law and Order, but also like being able to watch old Law and Order).
    wicked, Lugnuts, PCLoadLetter and 2 others like this.
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