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December 3, 2009 10:05 AM   Subscribe

The Dallas News has a bold new strategy for "becoming the most comprehensive and trusted partner for local businesses in attracting and retaining customers and continuing to generate important, relevant content for our consumers": Making it's editors report directly to advertising sales managers
posted by Artw (87 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, that's one paper I won't regret the internet having killed.
posted by Netzapper at 10:11 AM on December 3, 2009


yeah, without having read the links, my first thought is "you have got to be fucking kidding me."
posted by shmegegge at 10:12 AM on December 3, 2009


President Obama, who it's said enjoys the refreshing taste of Coola Cola on occasion, further said that..."
posted by shmegegge at 10:13 AM on December 3, 2009 [15 favorites]


inevitable.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:13 AM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


even after reading the links, my thoughts are still "you have got to be fucking kidding me."
posted by hippybear at 10:13 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


So, now they're a magazine?
posted by The Whelk at 10:13 AM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


A newpaper's clients are not readers but the advertisers. Doesn't everyone know this by now?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:14 AM on December 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


should have said, inevitable, and already happening in hundreds of smaller papers around the country where the few workers/many hats aspect of the job necessitates that editorial soil its hands with advertising, and vice versa.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:15 AM on December 3, 2009


Oh how I miss the Times Herald. 748-1414!!!!
posted by leetheflea at 10:15 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Don't see how you can be a real newspaper and a corporate rag at the same time myself.
posted by bearwife at 10:16 AM on December 3, 2009


Blazecock Pileon - right! and as in television, as everyone knows, the "content" is the ads and the "interruption" is the editorial content (news, stories, shows).
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:16 AM on December 3, 2009


Well, gee, if they wanted to stop publishing a newspaper that badly, why didn't they just say so?
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:16 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Making it's editors

Making its editors, not "it's."
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 10:18 AM on December 3, 2009 [15 favorites]


MOUNTAIN DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN
posted by hifiparasol at 10:20 AM on December 3, 2009 [30 favorites]


And it should probably be "their editors" anyway. Sorry.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 10:21 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


"It's the noble calling of a news man to collate and distribute corporate and governmental press releases. " -- Etched in granite in the lobby of the Dallas Morning News
posted by Burhanistan at 10:23 AM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


All the news that's fit to print profit.
posted by Cranberry at 10:24 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Imagine, if you will, the idea of corporate-sponsored investigative journalism: under the constant threat of highly-paid journalist mercenaries, companies would be forced to clean up their act else competitors gain an advantage in the eye of the public.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 10:24 AM on December 3, 2009


Making its editors, not "it's."

The editor that was supposed to catch that would like to offer you an exciting opportunity to be part of a new beverage experience.
posted by Artw at 10:25 AM on December 3, 2009 [14 favorites]


I worked at a company once that decide its IT staff should report to marketing.

That didn't work so well.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:28 AM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


infinitefloatingbrains: Or even more likely: under the constant threat of highly-paid journalist mercenaries, competitors to the sponsoring company will be harangued down to the smallest detail of their business practices while the sponsor itself will receive glowing praise within the pages of the newspaper.
posted by hippybear at 10:29 AM on December 3, 2009


Disgusting. The publisher should be shot.
posted by Damn That Television at 10:30 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bob at Bob's Asbestos Lawn Furniture and Used Hospital Mattress Emporium is making some calls right now, 'cause it might be time to end that decades-long advertiser boycott of the Dallas News.
posted by ardgedee at 10:33 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure that any scenario that includes the words "highly paid journalist mercenaries" should contain the word "likely."
posted by rikschell at 10:34 AM on December 3, 2009


once we ALL report to Google, this won't be a big deal...
posted by HuronBob at 10:34 AM on December 3, 2009


This will end well. And it will fun to watch unravel.
posted by JeffK at 10:34 AM on December 3, 2009


Hippybear - it is very fitting that this story was broken by the Dallas Observer, a direct competitor to the Dallas News, who themselves don't appear to have the story anywhere.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 10:35 AM on December 3, 2009


The thing that weirds me out is, as far as I know, nobody calls it the Dallas News. It's either Dallas Morning News or Morning News.
posted by kmz at 10:39 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon - right! and as in television, as everyone knows, the "content" is the ads and the "interruption" is the editorial content (news, stories, shows).

If networks could show you uninterrupted commercials, they would be happy to do so. For now, the major networks seem content with the money that comes from subtle and not-so-subtle product placements in news programs, sitcoms, dramas, etc.

As for pay-TV, most cable channels are approaching 24/7 infomercials, at this point. FOX News sells right-wing political propaganda, for example, through its unending stream of "fair and balanced" news programs and logorrheic pundits, who themselves have books to peddle. Every now and again HGTV shows half-hour ads for home renovation products from the latest "convention", completely devoid of any critical, functional pretext, etc. etc.

Even more subtle pressure can be applied from within, when networks are owned by conglomerates that sell other products, like GE editing out mention of nuclear waste from a program to be run on its former subsidiary NBC. GE, of course, sells electric turbines and other components used to make nuclear reactors. Or when the presidents of NBC and FOX News got together to quiet Olbermann and O'Reilly's criticisms of each other's employers.

Anything that gets in the way of moving product is bad for business. Criticism is bad for business. Good journalism is bad for business. Advertising is good for business. Loudmouthed truthiness is good for business.

Readers, listeners and viewers are only tolerated in this equation to the extent that they consume the advertising-truthy side of programming. Any informed, critical observations might cause people not to spend dollars.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:41 AM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Blazecock, as you say, with media you don't pay for, you aren't the customer, you're the product: eyeballs for advertisers. But I think you're missing an important difference between TV and newspapers, the subscription fees.

In theory, in that transaction, you are indeed the actual customer. This bold step forward means that you're paying out of your own pocket to become a product. It's like TV, but more expensive.
posted by Malor at 10:49 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


sells electric turbines and other components used to make nuclear reactors

And the reactors themselves.
posted by ctmf at 10:51 AM on December 3, 2009


I can't wait to see what the first really inappropriate ad tie-in will be.

"This bloody crime scene... brought to you by Clorox Bleach!"

Or, to intentionally place competitors' products in a bad light... "The alleged killer used a hamburger, much like a Whopper Jr., to gag his victim..."
posted by not_on_display at 10:55 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I used to joke that there would be a day where stories in newspapers would have ads directly embedded in them, like a little box saying "This article was brought to you by Bill's Plumbing" or whatever.

I guess it's not so much a joke anymore.

And I do understand that news content is just the things that go around the ads, but I still like to pretend the news is important. Because after all, they are called newspapers.

In conclusion: Depressing, but I'm not really surprised.
posted by darksong at 10:56 AM on December 3, 2009


The truth is, we all report to marketing.
posted by Avenger at 10:58 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or, to intentionally place competitors' products in a bad light... "The alleged killer used a hamburger, much like a Whopper Jr., to gag his victim..."

Hey! I had the idea for a crime drama wherein every week someone is killed by a competing advertisers product a long time ago! You give it back!
posted by The Whelk at 10:59 AM on December 3, 2009


I had an idea, years ago, for a tv show that would be hailed as a "television event like no one has ever seen!" and would consist of a three-month-long run-up to the premiere, and then when it shows, the show itself is just an hour of promo clips for next week's show.

Every week.

Theoretically, a studious viewer could tease some kind of narrative from what they see, but the show would be entirely ad-style setup, with no payoffs, ever.

Sometimes I still think this would be fun to do, but it almost seems like more work than writing a real show.

And oh, yeah: I still smile at all the times Dave Letterman said "GE Sucks," either obliquely or not. Where have days like that gone?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:06 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


All the news that's fit to print.

All the news that profits in print. FTFY.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:08 AM on December 3, 2009


30 Rock nods at that pretty much every week.
posted by Artw at 11:08 AM on December 3, 2009


If networks could show you uninterrupted commercials, they would be happy to do so.

It is not uncommon for channels on DISH Network to contain more than 50% informercial time during a 24-hour period. Granted, these are mostly smaller, niche channels, but it is disheartening to find on the schedule a huge block of programming labeled "your infant can read", "instant hair replacement", and "make money while you sleep". I do wonder whether a good portion of that is DISH preempting a program stream from the channel, or whether it's the channel itself which is running those blocks of "paid television". But I don't care enough to really do the research.
posted by hippybear at 11:18 AM on December 3, 2009


A list of the ways a newspaper spirals into nonexistence (from somebody who has been aboard a few):

1. Slashing editorial and design staff
2. Paring content down to what they think the readers want to read
3. Coupling editorial and advertising in a gimmicy attempt to lure new advertising dollars
4. Trying to monetize ads on a Website that have previously been given away for free as an "added value"
5. Making content "print only" in a desperate attempt to force readers to read the print version
6. Bulking out their Web page with free content from, essentially, bloggers, none of which is edited, in an attempt to make the Website seem as though it has more content, and therefore is more valuable
7. Experimenting with awkward pagination in order to make one story fit across several, or dozens, of Web pages in order to falsely inflate the number of hits a Website gets
8. Gaming Digg and related sites to get bursts of short-lived new traffic

I don't know what would work, but these experiements have been tried, and failed at, by every newspaper spiralling the drain, and I think the trouble is that all of them forget what business newspapers are in: They are in the business of providing the news. Any solution that starts from the "we're in the business of making our advertisers happy" is doomed to fail, because what a newspaper actually offers to advertisers is access to readers. The primary job of a newspaper must be to grow their readership, and this is done by providing what the readers need: news. Anything else is a gimmick, and won't work, because as you lose readers, you'll lose advertisers. It's really that simple.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:19 AM on December 3, 2009 [22 favorites]


After the jump, you will find a memo Dallas Morning News editor Bob Mong and senior vice president of sales Cyndy Carr

Can we as a society please PLEASE do away with the phrase "after the jump"? Please? It's dumb.
posted by Ratio at 11:20 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


In a blog context it's informative - what do you suggest replacing it with?
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mister Moofoo: "I had an idea, years ago, for a tv show..."

Great idea, I think that would go together nicely with my idea for an Infomercial for Itself.

Mefi TV network anyone?
posted by idiopath at 11:22 AM on December 3, 2009


Theoretically, a studious viewer could tease some kind of narrative from what they see, but the show would be entirely ad-style setup, with no payoffs, ever

You mean, like Lost?
posted by emjaybee at 11:25 AM on December 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


Forgot to add: I blame all this (and many other things) on CueCat.
posted by emjaybee at 11:27 AM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


I used to joke that there would be a day where stories in newspapers would have ads directly embedded in them
They've done that in novels, on occasion. Not just the cigarette or book-club ads bound into the middle of the book, but clumsily inserted into the narrative by the publisher:
“Now we'll never find the mystery person!” Bob sighed.
“Why don't we rest and have some delicious FOOCO® Soup?” suggested Joe.
They sat down for hearty bowls of FOOCO® Soup, enjoying its refreshing taste and several nutritious ingredients. “My, this is fine soup!” said Joe. “I agree, FOOCO® is the best!” said Fred.
Suddenly they spotted a lithe, opaque nose in the crowd. “After him!” cried Bob…
posted by hattifattener at 11:32 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Manufacturing Consent, indeed!
posted by symbioid at 11:36 AM on December 3, 2009


Had this happened much, much earlier:

DALLAS - President John F. Kennedy was assassinated earlier today near Dealey Plaza by a man police have identified as Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was reported to have used a 6.5 mm caliber Carcano rifle, which is available at McClelland Gun Shop, right on 1533 Centerville Road near Garland Road (see coupon in our Sunday edition).
posted by tommasz at 11:38 AM on December 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


GE, of course, sells electric turbines and other components used to make nuclear reactors.

They do rather more than that: http://www.ge-energy.com/prod_serv/products/nuclear_energy/en/index.htm
posted by kjs3 at 11:45 AM on December 3, 2009


And Bill Hicks is rolling in his grave.
posted by symbioid at 11:45 AM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Next up: ads on police cars.

"This tasering is brought to you by Duracell."
posted by generichuman at 11:48 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Greed ruins everything.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:52 AM on December 3, 2009


I'm not sure this is really any different from current reality, except that the curtain has been pulled back to reveal Oz.

That said, part of the reason the curtain is there is to help all of us cling to the illusion that we are reading truth and that newspapers are about the news. Indeed, if we don't have a reason to trust in that illusion, why buy the product?

Basically, making it official that the editors report directly to the advertising wonks instead of an unspoken understanding is a bad business move since it destroys the illusion.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:02 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


30 Rock nods at that pretty much every week.

Yep, it's called "Having your cake and eating it, too". And it was funny the first couple times they did it (shilling Snapple straight to the camera, waxing poetic about the fine line of GE products, etc.). But now that it's become a regular thing on the show, the cheekiness factor has all but withered away.

And what are we left with? Just another crummy commercial, all the more vulgar for its being plunked right down in the middle of all the jokes and zaniness.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:03 PM on December 3, 2009


A list of the ways a newspaper spirals into nonexistence (from somebody who has been aboard a few):

1. People who say they really appreciate local newspapers somehow fail to subscribe to them and instead get all of their news from the online version of the New York Times a paper that has no local news unless you live in New York and then bitch about the things local newspapers do to survive.
posted by MarshallPoe at 12:17 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


St. Alia, it's not greed, it's desperation: Belo has the anti-Midas touch, and everything they touch turns to poop.

My local paper, the Providence Journal, is a hollow shell of its old self: a typical edition is shorter than the daily paper we put out in college (go Tufts Daily!), and only the sports section is more than eight pages long. I think car ads are keeping that one afloat, as the "A" section contains news, weather, legal notices, obits, and business news all on eight pages.

It's pathetic. And as someone who grew up with a handful of papers to choose from in the Twin Cities (morning Pioneer Press, evening Pioneer Press, or the daily Red Star from Minneapolis), it makes me mad and sad to see a community -- no, a whole state! -- with such bad options for news.

Stupid Belo.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:22 PM on December 3, 2009


1. People who say they really appreciate local newspapers somehow fail to subscribe to them and instead get all of their news from the online version of the New York Times a paper that has no local news unless you live in New York and then bitch about the things local newspapers do to survive.

I never blame the customer for the failure of a business model.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:29 PM on December 3, 2009


Ahem. There is no Easter Bunny.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:33 PM on December 3, 2009


Ahem. There is no Easter Bunny.

This infobite brought to you by Energizer.
posted by hippybear at 12:37 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


A list of the ways a newspaper spirals into nonexistence (from somebody who has been aboard a few):

1. Slashing editorial and design staff
2. Paring content down to what they think the readers want to read
3. Coupling editorial and advertising in a gimmicy attempt to lure new advertising dollars
4. Trying to monetize ads on a Website that have previously been given away for free as an "added value"
5. Making content "print only" in a desperate attempt to force readers to read the print version
6. Bulking out their Web page with free content from, essentially, bloggers, none of which is edited, in an attempt to make the Website seem as though it has more content, and therefore is more valuable


me too. when I went to the annual shindig last year to collect some (apparently highly prestigious for a reporter and columnist) hardware, the event was held at an internationally renowned historic luxury beach resort. we stayed, ah, elsewhere, not real nearby.

I noticed that the GMs of the publications represented, and all the other people responsible for making decisions about how the money was allocated (ie: editorial vs. advertising) did not seem to be suffering from the downturn.

several bragged, on the one hand, of their commitment to hiring and retaining top editorial talent and paying the cost to maintain their clout and relevance in in-depth reporting, while at the same time winning literally dozens of editorial content awards for work that was done almost entirely by unpaid interns from the nearby (nationally ranked) journalism school.

these golden geese, with their editorial prizes won before they ever drew a paycheck - how will they ever secure meaningful employment when by now, every GM on the planet knows they have a virtually inexhaustible supply of bright, energetic youngsters who will work for free?
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:42 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


And oh, yeah: I still smile at all the times Dave Letterman said "GE Sucks," either obliquely or not. Where have days like that gone?

no such thing as bad publicity. see - now you're thinking about GE, and they got that shit for FREE.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:44 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


In a blog context it's informative - what do you suggest replacing it with?

"Below."
posted by Ratio at 12:58 PM on December 3, 2009


Except in the index view it won't be.
posted by Artw at 1:00 PM on December 3, 2009


Astro Zombie: The primary job of a newspaper must be to grow their readership, and this is done by providing what the readers need: news. Anything else is a gimmick, and won't work, because as you lose readers, you'll lose advertisers. It's really that simple.

But what if they're losing readers because people don't actually want news anymore? I don't think it's just the Web, I think there's something bigger going on here.

And then you say: I never blame the customer for the failure of a business model.

But... if people don't want to pay for news anymore, if they don't actually care, it's going to be very difficult to do it professionally. Businesses have to cater to their source of money, and it's a powerful corrosive influence when advertisers and large corporations pay the bills.

The business model of providing (relatively) unbiased news reporting on a subscription basis really shouldn't be failing, but it is. I don't have any subscriptions to any newspapers at all, largely because I don't want to deal with the newsprint. But I haven't found any online sources that I've wanted to subscribe to, either. The only money I really pay for news is my NPR donation every year. NPR provides an excellent product that I'm happy to pay for, but it's the only one I can think of. That worries me. Why don't I find any other news sources worth sending money to?
posted by Malor at 1:02 PM on December 3, 2009


Except in the index view it won't be.

That's what hyperlinks are for.
UrbanDictionary sums up my feelings on the matter.
posted by Ratio at 1:06 PM on December 3, 2009


This is not a good thing.

That said, it wouldn't have come to this if the editors hadn't been so bad at the business portion of their job -- which garnering an audience with compelling content.

Circulation
263,810 Daily
520,215 Sunday

In October 2009, the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported that The Dallas Morning News has a circulation of 263,810 (Monday through Friday) for a six-month period ending in September 2009. That figure represented a 22 percent drop in circulation from the same six-month period in 2008. The News, once among the top 10 newspapers in America, is now the country's 19th largest newspaper, according to the Bureau of Circulations.

Readership is in the toilet and everyone knows it. So, what's today's top story?

"Hopeful Texas Democrats roll out statewide slate of candidates."

Wait, wait. All right ... so the people of Dallas love sports, right? And their favorite team is the Dallas Cowboys, right?

Today's top sports headline:

"Dallas Cowboys' Wade Phillips knows coaching success is a subjective topic"

YAWN
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:06 PM on December 3, 2009


Malor: "Businesses have to cater to their source of money, and it's a powerful corrosive influence when advertisers and large corporations pay the bills. "

it's a pretty toxic influence on any business, though, for said advertisers to cause the content to be poorer. they may seem thrilled to be plastered all over a product, but when it actually turns away readers or viewers, suddenly they're not your friend anymore and they don't want to pay so much for all the coverage. it really isn't a winning business model to serve advertisers above viewership. advertisers want eyeballs, and pervasive irritating advertising loses eyeballs at higher cost to the advertiser since they're paying more for the more invasive placement. too few agencies and advertisers realize this, but enough are getting it that the current trend won't last for too long.

if a business is failing because the viewership isn't there regardless of content or quality, the answer is that there's nothing you can do about it, and no amount of sticking Slurm(tm) in every paragraph or shot will change that.
posted by shmegegge at 1:07 PM on December 3, 2009


What Malor said.

But if you like local newspapers then subscribe to one. That's how it works: they produce, you consume, and everybody is happy. If they produce and you don't consume, then they go out of business. You may think they are doing a crappy job. You may be right. But you have to ask yourself if it's better than no job at all. If you don't subscribe, then no job is what you (or rather they) will get.

I don't think people ever really miss local papers until they go away. That's a shame.
posted by MarshallPoe at 1:17 PM on December 3, 2009


"And their favorite team is the Dallas Cowboys, right?"

That's almost true, except that I'm probably the only Detroit Lions fan in north Texas. The Cowboys will be tied for second along with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

We do have a better selection of local TV stations, though. Our local newspaper is actually a free paper that is mostly advertisements and articles from the church or articles about the high school. They did cover a gnarly traffic wreck our fire department (i'm a part of) responded to... I think you can see me in the photo but it's hard to tell because the photographer didn't notice the large shubbery blocking most of the shot.

Newspapers are one industry that the internet is hitting hard. Why would someone read a paper when they get information sent right to them via email? Even the smaller news outfits are doing that now.
posted by drstein at 1:42 PM on December 3, 2009


Readership is in the toilet and everyone knows it. So, what's today's top story?

"Hopeful Texas Democrats roll out statewide slate of candidates."

Wait, wait. All right ... so the people of Dallas love sports, right? And their favorite team is the Dallas Cowboys, right?

Today's top sports headline:

"Dallas Cowboys' Wade Phillips knows coaching success is a subjective topic"

YAWN


Here's the headline you want:

"Dallas' Phillips jams Dems in the ass; pols respond in kind"

and then we'll *make* the sumbitch deny it!
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:42 PM on December 3, 2009


But if you like local newspapers then subscribe to one. That's how it works: they produce, you consume, and everybody is happy.

That's not the only model, and it's one that is broken. On top of that, a newspaper's largest income doesn't come from subscribers, but from ad sales. Television has managed to make money for years without charging customers. So has alt weeklies. I have never worked for a newspaper that charged money for its content, and I have been in the publishing industry for a decade and a half. Somehow we have managed to produce award-winning work.

There are plenty of business models, and this is the time to start exploring them. One of the websites I am currently working for bases its model on public radio -- grants and fundraising -- coupled with ad sales.

Maybe you're right to demand that newsreaders pay for the news they read, but if your business model relies on that, you're going to go broke.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:55 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


> That said, it wouldn't have come to this if the editors hadn't been so bad at the business
> portion of their job -- which garnering an audience with compelling content.

Remington, Havana: Please remain. You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war. W. R. Hearst.
posted by jfuller at 1:56 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The business model of providing (relatively) unbiased news reporting on a subscription basis really shouldn't be failing, but it is. I don't have any subscriptions to any newspapers at all, largely because I don't want to deal with the newsprint. But I haven't found any online sources that I've wanted to subscribe to, either. The only money I really pay for news is my NPR donation every year. NPR provides an excellent product that I'm happy to pay for, but it's the only one I can think of. That worries me. Why don't I find any other news sources worth sending money to?

I think the answer is right there in your paragraph: they're failing because the quality of the product they are putting out has fallen to the point that it's not worth paying for. The business model that's failing is "providing filler as cheaply as possible for paper-based ads". It seems that "providing high quality unbiased news reporting" is still a viable business model.
posted by breath at 2:19 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think newspapers are not failing because people refuse to pay for news. I think they are failing because the news most of them sell--in paper form--is stale. I used to skim a newspaper to find articles that interest me. Now I skim looking for news that I have not already seen on-line.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 2:42 PM on December 3, 2009


Maybe you're right to demand that newsreaders pay for the news they read, but if your business model relies on that, you're going to go broke.

true. and if you're a reporter in a small enough market, your readers not only quit buying the paper, they start buttonholing you in the grocery store and demanding to know what the hell is going on around town.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:48 PM on December 3, 2009


That's why I do all of my grocery shopping online.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:50 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


The small local daily I used to work for did at least 5 of the 8 things on Astro Zombie's list in the 2.5 years or so that I worked there.

To be fair, though, re: #2 -- our readers were idiots. They polled the subscribers to see what changes they'd like to see in the paper, and the #1 response was more local news, less national news.

So they cut national and world news down to a SINGLE PAGE, and filled the rest of the (now magically much, much smaller) paper with local news (and of course, more ads).... Unfortunately, this is a town of 60,000 people, and the amount of actually relevant local news could generally be disposed of in about half a page.

So having been given what they asked for, what happens? The subscriber base plummets.

As stupid as that was on all sides, though, I think the thing I found most personally offensive was when they started running ads above the fold on the front page.
posted by Limiter at 3:14 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be fair, though, re: #2 -- our readers were idiots. They polled the subscribers to see what changes they'd like to see in the paper, and the #1 response was more local news, less national news.

automagic Malcolm Gladwell derail - doesn't at least one of his books have something about the problem of asking people what they want versus actually effectively finding out what they want?

So they cut national and world news down to a SINGLE PAGE, and filled the rest of the (now magically much, much smaller) paper with local news (and of course, more ads).... Unfortunately, this is a town of 60,000 people, and the amount of actually relevant local news could generally be disposed of in about half a page.

What? 60,000? half a page? In a *county* of 30,000 we have like 6 newspapers and we have no trouble filling *all* of them with relevant local news. don't your city and county commissioners ever get federally indicted? and, god, don't you have an infinitely expandable section depicting the results of the most recent hog-dog hunt?

frickin' amateurs.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:21 PM on December 3, 2009


We have a small selection of local crazies, most famously a woman who refused to make repairs to her ancient ratty carriage barn, and then was shocked (SHOCKED!) when it was condemned and the county tried to tear it down, and that filled column inches for a few years, but even she's gone quiet lately. Last I heard, she was spending most of her time on a public access show detailing the many ways the county zoning board is plotting to overthrow democracy. The local government (usually) isn't clever enough to be corrupt on a scale that would interest the federal authorities. And no one's ever gotten around to organizing a really good hot-dog (hog-dog?) hunt.

Once the city's GM plant shut down (and is now officially never coming back) they really ran out of things to talk about. The big story last summer was the city building its first roundabout near the new Menards (and boy were people upset about *that*...)
posted by Limiter at 5:09 PM on December 3, 2009


This is just the latest Belo idea that is doomed to fail right out of the gate. They've been running their business by focus groups and consultants for a while now, and every idea they've tried has bombed. They long ago quit listening to anybody from the news side. Mong, et al, remind me of the mafia loan sharks who take over businesses and run them into the ground while looting everything not nailed down.
posted by Pistol at 5:18 PM on December 3, 2009


Once the city's GM plant shut down (and is now officially never coming back) they really ran out of things to talk about.


The answer is clear. you must stage a series of fake serial killings that then inspires an actual serial killer. Who do you see for the lead?
posted by The Whelk at 5:21 PM on December 3, 2009


no, not hot dog, Hog-Dog!
as in, "Honey, less go Hawg Huntin'!"
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:55 PM on December 3, 2009


The Whelk, I was damn close to just that. Only they weren't going to be staged. So I quit.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:56 PM on December 3, 2009


It's like people will only do things because they get paid... and that's just really sad.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:41 PM on December 3, 2009


It’s Project Zeus.
posted by Kirklander at 10:50 PM on December 3, 2009


As for the readers paying for the paper, yes, that is revenue, but it's not anywhere near what a newspaper needs to get. They're basically paying for the newsprint and delivery. Basically, you hope Circulation brings in enough to pay for itself. It's all about the ads. If a newspaper sells lots of ads, it makes money. If it doesn't sell lots of ads, it doesn't make as much money.

The bigger problem these days is that newspapers are eating themselves in a vicious cycle. Content costs money. The more content you have, the more newsprint you use. And newsprint is a major expense. So papers started cutting content. Page counts went down. There was less to read and readership went down. Now less ads are being sold. The operation needs to cut costs. So they cut content... Lather, rinse, repeat. Newspapers are under such intense pressure by Wall Street to keep the shareholders happy, even when ad counts are way down. So they cut, cut, and cut some more in a desperate bid for more profit. The cuts, though, are impacting readership in a big way, and are leaving the papers set up to drop further behind in the news race, and is costing the corporations money.

Intertwining editorial with advertising is not a good way to go when you're already losing readers. We still have our battles with the newsroom over things you would think are pretty small; they want the news separated from the ads as much as possible. I shudder to think how this is going to go.
posted by azpenguin at 11:15 PM on December 3, 2009


Blazecock, as you say, with media you don't pay for, you aren't the customer, you're the product: eyeballs for advertisers. But I think you're missing an important difference between TV and newspapers, the subscription fees.

In theory, in that transaction, you are indeed the actual customer. This bold step forward means that you're paying out of your own pocket to become a product. It's like TV, but more expensive.


The only reason they charge fees is because if they gave the papers out for free, they would have no way to prove anyone read them. By charging, they guarantee that someone cares enough to pay, and they are probably going to read it.
posted by delmoi at 2:13 AM on December 4, 2009


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