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Warren Buffett says papers “are toast”

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

  1. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    I agree, and my second point alludes to the brand.

    I could answer point by point, but I think this sort of summarizes what you're trying to say.

    In essence: Yes, it used to be different. Vastly different. People did not spend hours on phones and tablets texting people because you could not do that. You could not read books on TV. Yes, to get national news in print, you did have to either buy the local news - which had some national news - or go spend extra on the national news, for which you'd really want to have a purposeful interest, given it cost money, vs. being "free" so long as you had a phone.

    Towns have grown smaller. Cities have grown bigger. Large retail chains first overtook smaller local stores, and now those chains are being overtaken by Amazon. Grocery stores are ramping up delivery. There is simply less cause for anyone to personally interact with anyone else, and in this absence of interaction, it naturally follows you'd care less the grouping of people around you unless they jibed with some affinity.

    Also: What is data? "Data" would measure what exactly? A consumer's confidence in their interest in local news? Their aspired interest in it? If you're inclined to think "it was ever thus," what would "it was not ever thus" look like in data? This isn't a knock on data, per se, but how we substitute data for basic discernment.

    I could say, well, look at massive declines in local paper subscriptions as evidence of a decreased interest in local news, and common sense would tell me I'm right, because if you're not even looking at the local news, it'd be hard to say your interest increased or stayed the same. (We also know local sites like Patch were a failure, too. To some degree FB's local news upticked some, but FB even tells us it'd like to share more local news.) Warren Buffet would apparently say "well, they only wanted the ads in the first place," but he knows that only to the extent he fully believes they exclusively wanted only the ads; Craigslist has been around awhile, and subscriptions still drop as older people pass away. Why do older folks take the paper? Common sense says it's because they want to know what's going on in the place where they live. The ads aren't really there in the paper any more. The weather's on TV, and almost everyone has one of those.

    And I should be fair. "Community" still exists. But it has changed - and is continuing to change - into affinity and identity, and that affinity and identity increasingly has less to do with where you live and with whom you live (unless you desire it add to your brand, like living in NYC) than personal likes and identities. In a sense, this is a kind of democratization - a freedom to be unshackled from the trappings of one's upbringing, surroundings, and even income, since a poor lover of Jane Austen books and a rich love of Jane Austin books can knowingly co-exist on a message board for lovers of Jane Austin books in ways they could not 40 years ago.
    Lugnuts, maumann and SFIND like this.
  2. FileNotFound

    FileNotFound Well-Known Member

    I’m working on a research project which requires I spend a lot of time looking through my hometown paper from 40-50 years ago on newspapers.com. One thing I’m always struck by is how little local news was on the front page — often, none of the 10-15 slugs on the front was a local story, in my midwestern town of 100,000 or so at the time. I’m not sure we care less about local news than we did 50 years ago; we just care less about having it delivered to us twice a day on dead trees.
  3. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    40 years ago my newspaper was doing long stories every day related to Three Mile Island . . . and what it meant for us in The Atomic City (Oak Ridge, Tenn.).
    maumann likes this.
  4. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    Alma, you're spot onto something, as usual.

    We're becoming "affinity-based" as opposed to "location-based." Which might be a good thing. Like you said-- freedom.

    I live in a very nice suburban town... been here for many years. Do I know my neighbors that well? Eh. I know them but don't socialize with them. I don't want to. We don't share interests.

    Meanwhile I do freelance journalism for a sport (tennis), and within that sport, we have "TT" or Tennis Twitter-- a global coffee klatch that debates/discusses tennis. There's also a similar thing on Instagram, where I really do feel a sense of community sometimes.

    As for my physical community, usually we come together when there's a problem. We attend meetings, discuss/ debate... until the problem is cleared up, then we go back to our "affinity-based lives." I enjoy the process of working through these local problems with the folks in my community (for example, there's a problem now with mold in one of the schools)... but when this is over, I won't want to socialize with most of these people. Just being honest.

    I've also observed the phenomenon you described in your earlier post, which if I can boil it down, is "Do it for the 'Gram." In other words, you like the idea of it, you photograph it, you post it... and done. Peace out. That's probably not a great thing, since no real human connection happened.

    We're evolving, for sure. Some of it for the good, and some of it for the bad. But we are certainly going through a period of rapid change as a species.
    Ben Pope and Alma like this.
  5. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Well-Known Member

    Warren is 88. He's earned the right to say whatever he wants just by living this long. He knows he isn't going to live long enough for newspapers to actually die in his lifetime, so he can talk shit about them and try to hurt his competition while he's still alive.
  6. britwrit

    britwrit Well-Known Member

    Just curious. What's the ad to editorial content ratio like?

    I'm skimming through the New York Times from 1970, the year I was born. Even taking away the classifieds, I'd say ads make up over 50% of the available space. No ads on the front but even on say, page 3, you'd have a single column of news and the rest display stuff for big department stores and the like.
  7. LanceyHoward

    LanceyHoward Well-Known Member

    I was told in the 70's by a newspaper executive at the Denver Post that in order for a newspaper to qualify for reduced post office mailing rates a newspaper had to have editorial content of at least 25%. She said that publishers that were interested in a quality product would have editorial content that were higher than 25% while miserly publishers would restrict news space to as close as 25% as possible. I would look at various papers back then and that seemed to be true.

    On another note I was a Denver Post newsboy from 1971-1973. The Sunday paper had so many classifieds and retail inserts that the trucks did not have enough space for the entire paper. The circulation managers would make a separate run on Saturday to bring us the classifieds, Sunday magazine and and comics.
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2019
    britwrit likes this.
  8. FileNotFound

    FileNotFound Well-Known Member

    During my newsroom days (1986-2004), the newspapers for which I worked were typically shooting for a 70-30 ads/editorial ratio in the paper. I see print products now where I can easily count the number of non-house ads on my hands.
    britwrit likes this.
  9. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    When I first came to Fort Lauderdale (1986), I go out one Saturday to buy the paper. My first thought upon seeing the pile of papers at the store: "Gee, they didn't mention anything about having a Bulldog Sunday edition." Upon closer inspection, it wasn't a Bulldog Sunday. It was the Saturday paper, with a monster section of classifieds and another monster section of real estate ads.
    britwrit likes this.
  10. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    Great discussion about the meaning of "community" here ... and for those of us participating/following this discussion at two different SJ watering holes, it's interesting to see the different directions it took.
  11. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    A decent piece in the WSJ, but it doesn't exactly speak to why local news orgs can't convert readers to digital subscriptions.

    You just can't convince people to care. You'd almost be wise to try and have local reporters spinning and riffing on national issues. Readers claim they don't like that, but the numbers say they care almost exclusively about national politics, and nothing about local politics.

    I have friends who can tell you all about Ilhan Omar, who is truly immaterial to their lives, and nothing about their own city council.

    Nevertheless, I'd put it all behind a paywall. Ignore the complaints. Nup. You want it? Pay for it. If you don't want to pay for it, I'm not sure a local news org should want you as a customer.
    wicked and PaperDoll like this.
  12. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    One more thing: Why do local rags almost always farm out political opinions? College rags have more self-sourced opinions than local newspapers do. Why?

    Well, the paper wants to remain impartial, is one answer. Then that paper runs hack columnists like Cal Thomas. Or it runs letters to the editor from readers who often aren't as sophisticated as the reporters on the issues.

    Or a nationally syndicated parenting column. A reporter who's a parent can't share their own parenting experiences? Really? That wouldn't be more relevant to the audience?
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