Yet Another Misguided Idea For Saving Newspapers

from the here-we-go-again dept

There are no easy answers to the problems facing the newspaper industry, but before we can begin to talk about solutions, it’s important to properly identify the problems. Oddly, a number of people seem to think that the problems facing the industry don’t have to do with declining subscriber rolls and a failure to to adapt to the internet. Instead, they see a problem with the current ownership structure, whereby owners actually have to answer to shareholders and demonstrate growth. In light of News Corp.’s bid for Dow Jones, this concern has become more pronounced (particularly among journalism school types that are worried about the influence of Rupert Murdoch). One solution, proposed by journalism professor Chris Daly, is to get newspapers to pitch their readers on the company’s stock (via Romenesko), sort of the way public television stations raise money through fundraising drives. The thinking is that if the readers were also the owners, their main priority would be good journalism. The most obvious problem here is that this idea doesn’t strike at the root of the industry’s real issues. There’s no shortage of “good journalism” in the New York Times, but the company obviously needs more than that to reverse its fortunes. Another problem is that the two papers he’s most concerned about, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, have ownership structures that are highly unfavorable to shareholders that aren’t part of the founding family. So, unless that were changed, the new class of reader/owners wouldn’t have much influence. Ultimate, any proposal that calls for newspapers to exist in some state where where profit isn’t the primary focus is a white flag, an admission that the problems can’t be fixed so they should just be swept under the rug. In the end, there’s no getting past the economics. You can put newspapers in a charitable trust or under the ownership of some civic-minded individual who doesn’t mind losing money, but if people keep canceling their subscriptions in droves, in the end it won’t do much good.


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Comments on “Yet Another Misguided Idea For Saving Newspapers”

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31 Comments
Drama2Sell says:

Newspapers?

Every so often I get a call from a telemarketer telling me that I can get my local paper delivered FOR FREE.

I keep telling them I don’t want it.

“But it’s free, you don’t have to do anything. We’ll deliver it. To your doorstep. Everyday.” they reply.

To which I say, please don’t do that. And if you do, I will call the police and say you are littering.

They hang up baffled.

So my question is–if you are willing to GIVE your product away for free, bring it right to my door each morning to hand it to me, and expect nothing in return–and I STILL DON’T WANT IT—is it really worth saving?

Doug says:

Re: Newspapers?

I have to agree.

I find 1 use for the newspaper and my wife another. I like to use it for cleaning glass. She likes it for receiving coupons.

Neither of us read it and if the extra copies wern’t free we would only get the Sunday edition with the coupons.

We could eliminate it entirely if we could get coupons on line and not get spammed in the process. I can find something else to clean the windows with.

Anyone nieave enough to think that local news is unbiased, honest reporting has not been paying attention. I can site specific examples where the local news misrepresented the facts to make the point that they wanted to make and never set the stor streight.

I believe we would all be better off without newspapers or mainstream TV news. For the most part they both harp on the negitave and bring society down.

Casper says:

Re: Newspapers?

I have been at war with my local news paper. They have been sending it to my door every morning and I can’t make them stop. They are not billing me, so they pretty much just ignore my calls, but I’m getting pretty mad.

You would think that when people won’t take the paper for free, it might be worthless. That’s not true, in my opinion, it’s one of the rare times the product actually has a negative value. It takes up trash space, it looks bad when a few pile up, and they are waisting large amounts of paper to have me just throw it away.

Just Me says:

Newspapers?

“if you are willing to GIVE your product away for free, bring it right to my door each morning to hand it to me, and expect nothing in return–and I STILL DON’T WANT IT—is it really worth saving?”

Good point. I still read the paper from time to time but there’s nothing there that I don’t get from other sources. It’s just handy if I’m on the bus.
I would never dream of getting a subscription, and I know I’m not everyone, but isn’t that one of the great things about a Free Market; if people stop buying it it goes away?
I know some people will argue that we don’t have a free market economy, but honestly, if newspapes aren’t selling thats because people don’t WANT them.
If enough people don’t want them that it’s no longer earning a profit maybe their time is just done.

Anonymous Coward says:

sell your stocks and lock up the doors.. there is no point in trying to revive the dead.

honestly, with the amount of desktop computers in the world, laptops and cell phones, its amazing that newspaper make enough money to survive.

lets not get over analytical here… not every company or business survives the test of times. cave drawings and newspapers are no exception.

wrs (user link) says:

Re: Re:

I’d just wonder whether the individual digital would get the news to everyone — or if there might be parts of society relying on newspapers primarily.

When I look at how parts of society support bills targeted against themselves (e.g. surveillance laws), I wonder which news sources thes people consider.

And I tend to assume, they’re not educated by the net but informed by some paper still living in the mid-1980s.

Biker Bill says:

Where does the news come from?

The news that everyone sees on mediums everywhere, dissected, repeated, analyzed, argued with, etc. originates with the mainstream media, primarily newspapers, who pay people (reporters) to dig it up.

The basic newspaper problem is that the news they generate at a price is disseminated by everyone else for free.

yogi (user link) says:

The quality of information

that I can get from a paper is no better than anywhere else. In fact, many bloggers have much less at stake and are more liable to report accurately and truthfully than the NYT .
Useful information and analysis have to be bought today separately and tailored to your needs.
The main thing we get from the papers is what the NYT is thinking and what it thinks we should know and think.Since I already know that – why should i buy it?
Yeah – cleaning the windows. but for that, one issue in every few months is enough.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think circulation numbers are even worse

than is being reported. They repeatedly find huge stockpiles of papers in dumpsters and landfills. I think many papers exaggerate their circulation in order to sell ads. I delivered papers for many years and notice the papers in the morning and afternoon in people’s driveways out of habit and the numbers have dwindled from everyone getting the paper to few getting the paper. Used to be if you go in a convenience store more than a few hours after delivery they would be sold out, now they just sit there. It would get attention except the media is reluctant to report on their own failures, usually it takes a competitor to do the investigative reporting and so many states and towns are down to a single paper.

Wifezilla (profile) says:

My husband and I own a small newspaper. We have seen steady growth over the last 3 years. Why is our paper different from others?

1. It has a specific, targeted audience
2. It is published monthly and features in depth articles that are not time sensitive
3. It is free and you can get it in dead tree or digital format
4. Our ad rates are reasonable
5. We actually pay attention to who advertises. If you suck, we wont put your ad in our paper.
6. We know where our money comes from, so we actually listen to our advertisers.
7. We don’t just regurgitate stuff anyone with a room temperature IQ can find on the net. (My local daily rag keeps printing things I read on Yahoo 4 days after I see it on the net. Gee….I wonder why they aren’t thriving?)

Here’s a radical idea…if you are a local paper, how about some local news about local people and local places? Oh yeah…you can’t buy those stories all written for you and you might actually have to do some reporting. /sarcasm

dave says:

Newspapers

Sorry to rain on this hip, tech parade, but while some newspapers will certainly parish, the industry will not. Many newspapers will enhance their print products further as flexible screen technology develops, but good, old fashioned reporting printed on newspaper about local interests (business, news, sports, etc) that you cannot find on CNN.com will always be in demand. And because of the lack of a viable profit model for those willing and able to publish this sort of content, it is unlikely they will become “web only” publishers. So before we all get so giddy about the impending death of newsprint, realize that if this were to actually happen we should also expect to have to go out and find our local (city or state) news on or own. VIVA LA NEWSPRINT!

dave says:

Newspapers

Sorry to rain on this hip, tech parade, but while some newspapers will certainly parish, the industry will not. Many newspapers will enhance their print products further as flexible screen technology develops, but good, old fashioned reporting printed on newspaper about local interests (business, news, sports, etc) that you cannot find on CNN.com will always be in demand. And because of the lack of a viable profit model for those willing and able to publish this sort of content, it is unlikely they will become “web only” publishers. So before we all get so giddy about the impending death of newsprint, realize that if this were to actually happen we should also expect to have to go out and find our local (city or state) news on or own. VIVA LA NEWSPRINT!

Phil says:

Newspapers by dave on May 27th, 2007 @ 7:47pm

Here’s a novel concept: Why don’t newspapers stop being the propaganda machine for the George Bush administration? I think everyone is tired of hearing the same old garbage about how George Bush is deluding himself into thinking the Iraq war was a good idea and perverting Christian values as justification for it, then trying to delude the rest of us as well. It’s no wonder that people are cancelling their newspaper subscriptions and going to online publications and video sites like YouTube; it’s the only truly “free” media left in the US since George Bush started bribing the corporate pigs from the mainstream newspapers to report his message in exchange for large sums of money. If newspapers were actually criticizing the president for what he’s doing rather than not only encouraging it but actively quashing all legitimate opposing views, maybe people would be more inclined to shell out dough for a subscription.

dave says:

Phil's comment ...

You cannot actually believe that Bush is ‘bribing’ the media to support his policy… c’mon Phil! Are those the same newspapers & media outlets who gleefully report on his public approval ratings (or lack thereof) each day? Guess he forgot to pay for those services. In fact, most of the larger media outlets are liberal in their politics, and slam conservatism any chance they get. So your reasoning that a pro- Bush voice is leading to declining subscriptions is flawed. I suppose that the decline of Hollywood box office receipts is also the result of that pro- Bush Hollywood crowd and all of their Bush fund raising & support rally efforts ? Where do you come up w/ this stuff?!

Phil says:

Re: Phil's comment ...

Well, true to a certain extent…I guess he can’t bribe everyone. But Fox News, the Washington Post, and the New York Times are notoriously pro-Bush, just to name a few. As for the “bribing” I have seen video footage of George Bush bribing reporters, and he has admitted to doing it (which FYI is illegal), but has also openly admitted he will continue to do it anyway, because he is after all the president and can get away with everything….

justme says:

ACK! I would buy newspapers but...

For years people cried because of all the trees that were cut down. Then they cried because the newspapers were filling up the land fields. Sheesh. Well I don’t buy them because I have not found one yet that was honest, unbiased, and reasonable priced. It’s no longer newspaper in the land fields, now it’s plastics.

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