By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Blogging the death of newspapers

This post is unfair to its intended targets, but it’s hilarious nevertheless. Paul Dailing writes at the Huffington Post:

I’ll join the ranks of Jeff Jarvis, Paul Gillin, Jay Rosen and Clay Shirky in competing to see who can use the most jargon to describe something everyone knows is happening. Apparently, it’s very simple.

The more you self-reference, pick feuds and talk about the failure of TimesSelect, the better you’re doing. If you make it sound like you’re the one who figured out newspapers are dying, you win.

I have to admit — there are times when this comes pretty close to the actual discourse. I’ll try to imagine Dailing whispering in my ear the next time I write my own death-of-newspapers post.

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  1. NewsHound

    Predicting the future is very difficult. The U.S. horse population declined 75% in the last century, largely because of the automobile. If all U. S. vehicles in use were replaced with a horse, the U.S. horse population would be 250 million instead of 5 or so million. Breeding a better horse or charging three times as much money would not have prevented the rapid growth of the use of motorized vehicles. Based on that, charging more money for newspapers is not going to help save the newspaper business either.We are an innovative civilization and as such have developed better ways to disseminate news other than beginning with the process of cutting down forests, converting it into paper, applying ink and delivering to readers to then be destroyed soon after, all at the expense of tremendous amounts of non-replenshable energy.That is not to say, just like there still are many very cherished horses still in use, the same may apply to newspapers – – that 100 years from now it is very likely there will still be cherished newspapers, too. Maybe.If newspapers can be the most competitive, efficient format to deliver effective advertising, the business will flourish. But penetration into the market must be sufficient to bring lots of buying power to advertisers.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    NewsHound: I don’t disagree with any of that. Please remember that I’m saying should be the Globe’s only mass-market platform. The print edition would be a niche publication for an elite audience.

  3. NewsHound

    Dan, I understand. This is a horribly complex business model to build, and most especially during economic shambles while at the same time technology innovation is accelerating at a fast pace and enthusiastically welcomed by the citizenry. We seem to love our newspapers and print media, but we also love our wireless connections to our phones and laptop computers.Importantly, too, though, is that the incremental cost of producing extra newspapers is very low – for the news portion alone for most newspapers about 20 cents.

  4. lkcape

    This is clearly a race for the print media to find the right mix to assure an adequate revenue stream before they run out of funds to operate.That half-measures and wishful thinking is governing their actions has not helped very much.

  5. NewsHound

    Dan – I’m watching you on TV right now and don’t misunderstand me, I have tremendous respect for your expressed thoughts and devotion to print media, but you said the newspapers are losing money on every paper they sell. I disagree. Newspapers are losing money on every newspaper they don’t sell. We must not forget the fundamental business of newspapers is advertising. Without extraordinary penetration into its market, it lacks appeal to advertisers. Reaching substantially a complete buying power is much different than a fragmented penetration.As previously mentioned, the incremental cost of producing additional copies of the news portion of a newspaper is almost inconsequential to the total picture. Major advertisers view rates based on cost per thousand of delivery. If a major daily can increase its circulation to a million instead of 300,000 for example, at no additional profit for the news portion, it will most certainly be more attractive to advertisers at a higher and more profitable rate.The solution to the newspaper business is selling newspapers -lots and lots of newspapers, not fewer. The cost of producing a news story or taking a picture is the same whether it is viewed by 300,000 or a million, and the cost of producing plates and putting them on a press and makeready is the same, whether it is 300,000 or a million. Anyone can price themselves out of business, whether it be newspapers, shoe companies, or steel companies – it’s all the same, sooner or later.

  6. Don, American

    My father was a life-long pressman. I have delivered newspapers. I edited a U.S. Army newspaper. I am bleeding printers’ ink over these closures.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    NewsHound: Yes. Chalk it up to misspeaking or not really getting the time to lay it out. Hard in a group discussion sometimes. Newspapers lose money on the circulation revenue from every paper they sell.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    NewsHound: P.S. It really would be quite a business if they literally lost money on every paper they sold, wouldn’t it? 😉

  9. NewsHound

    Dan – completely understand.

  10. Mike from Norwell

    Funny, but had an epiphany about that well-intentioned (but not thought out bill) to allow newspapers to operate as non-profits. Think the least of their problems right is dealing with an excess of taxable revenue. Maybe we should start getting some accountants, rather than lawyers, into Congress to figure this stuff out.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: The pure non-profit model actually sets you up so that you can operate at a loss, like the Christian Science Monitor, with a foundation or foundations making up the difference. Nothing that says you have to operate at a loss, but it’s not unusual. I’m not crazy about the model, but that’s the idea.Far better is to have a hybrid — a for-profit newspaper owned by a non-profit organization, as with the St. Petersburg Times and the New Hampshire Union-Leader. One of my employers, The Guardian, operates on a similar model, though I don’t understand it well.

  12. LFNeilson

    Global warning – the ink caps are melting.We all know the problem. Anyone have a marketing strategy for buggy whips?zzzzzz

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