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What Newspapers Really Want

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by NightOwl, May 13, 2008.

  1. NightOwl

    NightOwl Guest

    My new theory is this:

    The suits -- the corporate suits in your company and mine -- are watching us bleat and blather about how newspapers must be saved.

    And I think they laugh about that.

    They know where the market is going, but they have to play their cards right.

    My theory is that the suits will be happy to let newspapers die -- no more ink, no more newsprint, no more trucks and gasoline, and most of the circulation, delivery, customer-service sector gone as well.

    Because it's this: They're dying to go online, and online only.

    Guess I'd do the same thing in their shoes, if I could pull it off. Chop off a bunch of overhead, put all the news on the computer.

    Two problems they face: How to attract enough advertising revenue to support a totally online effort, and, more important right now, how to make a graceful exit from the readers who want the print product.

    I guarantee you this: If the suits can figure out how to shift the advertising revenue to the online side, they'll give up the print product in a minute.

    Think about it: You could run the operation from a building the size of my paper's parking garage. Much smaller staff, not much overhead.......just computer delivery.

    We're all barking about how newspapers must be saved -- and I totally agree with that -- but I bet they're looking long-term in the corporate suite and realizing that they could do pretty much the same thing at this point and dump all the overhead that goes with publishing a print product.

    Buyouts are the gentle first step. Ease the staff out, and by nature ease the print readers out. Pretty soon you can ease everything over to online, I guess.

    And I think that's what they're banking on at this point.

    What do you think?
  2. BYH

    BYH Active Member

    Could not agree more.

    all part of a self-fulfilling prophecy. See? we told you newspapers could not survive! Never mind you spent a decade or more giving people reasons NOT to pick the paper up.
  3. Oz

    Oz Active Member

    NightOwl, you summed it up for me. Thinking longterm, I'm confident with what I do I'll draw a paycheck somewhere. It's the people in composing rooms who run the machines that would get hit the hardest. Save on ink, paper, manpower, vans to deliver the papers, gas to fill the van tanks ... especially when you consider papers with a broad rural readership, like mine and some of my past papers. Get the news out, but at a far cheaper cost.

    How to make money off the Internet is all I can see holding that back. Right now, readers still like a print version. They grew up with newspapers and don't want to change. As a co-worker says, you still need something to read in the bathroom and to use to line the litter box or bird cage.

    But more and more each year, the pressure's going to build, and at some point someone's going to test the waters to see if enough people would sign up for an online product only. Maybe give readers the Sunday paper in print with inserts and coupons at their doorstep as a bonus.

    Consumers still need to become much more tech-savvy before that moment comes, though. Some people just don't want to go online for their news.
  4. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    The problem is - most of the local product I see produced for the web is inconsequential. I spend much more time on "national" websites than local sites. Give me a story or two that makes me want to click a page or two after looking at your homepage. Too many local sites really don't do that.
    The "paper" stories these days (usually very feature-y and not exactly timely) do not really motivate me to click.
  5. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    A couple of nights ago, I was walking out of my newspaper building. I saw a little girl helping her mom load papers in the hatch of their car to deliver (this was around midnight on a weekend). I couldn't help but feel sorry for them, knowing that the mom might not have a job in a few months or years.
  6. captzulu

    captzulu Member

    Of course that's what the suits want to do; it makes a lot of sense from a business perspective. Why would you run a business with a ton of overhead if you don't have to? It will make sense from a journalism perspective, too, once they figure out how to make money online. I generally don't buy into the idea that if online news is all we have, then all we would have is shallow reporting and celebrity gossip. Online or print is just the medium for delivery; what information you deliver within that medium is a different matter. Besides, if we say that the only way we can produce in-depth, thoughtful journalism is by delivering news on paper a day late, that doesn't say much about our abilities as journalists, especially considering we pride ourselves on our supposed grace under deadline pressure. There are definitely a lot of crap content going online now from management's constant push for getting news up immediately, but with time, papers will find a happy medium between getting news up as it happens and taking a bit more time to dig deeper, and they'll learn to combine the immediacy of the Web with good aspects of traditional journalism, such as taking a little bit of time to actually edit copy before it goes up on the Web (and I would point out that for all the complaints about copy going up online mostly unedited, there's a lot of copy that's going into the print edition mostly unedited at many places too, especially given the shrinking staff sizes).
  7. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    The problem, however, is you have to have an online brand. It's very expensive to print and deliver newspapers, which is why there is little competition.

    But anyone can start a website covering local news so if the Podunk Press doesn't become the local news online destination in Podunk, it's got nothing.
  8. PHINJ

    PHINJ Active Member

    Most newspaper companies aren't going to survive.
  9. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    For the love of God. Did you just read that?
    First off, that's one big fucking problem.
    And there is this: Yahoo! isn't performing well enough and was in danger of a hostile takeover. So, if you Yahoo! can't keep up with the advertiser and investor demands on the internet, what are the chances that Lee or MediaNews or Tribune or Gannett will fare better? You're giving up the Samurai's last blade for Russian Roulette.

    I posted this over on another post. It belongs here, too:
  10. rascalface

    rascalface Member

    A good chunk of Web readers (I believe a majority, and the number is growing) never see a paper's homepage. They enter the site through Google or some other search engine or news aggregator.
  11. Oz

    Oz Active Member

    That's why our paper is developing an online brand. Referring to blogs and content in the papers, constantly posting Web updates through the day, creating separate Web sites for towns throughout the area -- and so far, the numbers are encouraging, because traffic's going up each week. It's giving me hope that when people need their local news now, we're the first place they're going for it.
  12. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    That's the plan, sportsfan!
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