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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  1. identicon
    dave, 27 May 2007 @ 7:40pm

    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!

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