Saturday, April 04, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Future of Daily Newspapers

Why is the newspaper bin for The Onion two feet away from the Denver Post and Westward news boxes...

Simple, because that's where the bin for the Rocky Mountain News was located.

The Rocky Mountain News is one of the many papers that have been around for over a century that no longer is in circulation as of the past couple months.

The process of News Paper death has been on my mind for awhile, here's a few random thoughts on a few random topics.

I'm A New Subscriber: I posted in December some of my thoughts on the newspaper industry a mentioned my wife and I were getting the end of the previous owners paper subscription. While we disposed of the weekly papers, I loved getting the Sunday coupons. So when the paper subscription ended, I got a Saturday and Sunday only subscription ($3 a month, cancel at any time) I can promise you as a frugal and meticulous grocery shopper, I get my $3 back plus a lot more in coupons, even if I don't scour every page of the news that is delivered on Saturday and Sunday.

News Value in My Daily: Today's newspaper's front story was about the big snow storm expected for today...the snow storm didn't happen as predicted, so the front page news is relatively irrelevant, the front page also covers the shooting tragedy in Binghampton, New York, but since press time more details continue to come out, so the news value is certainly fails to be as relevant as online and TV sources, that's to be expected. What can the industry do about this?

What I Enjoy in My Daily: In addition to the Sunday coupons (the ultimate reason I subscribe)the one thing that's nice about the newspaper, is it has a relaxing appeal, especially as a renewed weekend reader. I like to sit, relax, drink my coffee and look with out and links, search terms, or add this to Facebook buttons on the articles. As previously stated the news value is week, but if I'm just relaxing I like to read about local stories and features. For example, today's paper listed 10 local breakfast spots in time with unique and tasty breakfast treats. This is something unique and different I likely wouldn't have stumbled upon or look for, but I enjoyed reading every page of the feature.

Online: As many of these papers disappear, some, like the Seattle Post have continued to print online news, while discontinuing their daily distribution. This business model, while nice in concept as it saves jobs, seems like a bad business model. I won't pay for "extra online coverage." What can they provide? Special opinion columns or political columns? To charge and think they can get subscribers for exclusive content is a short term improvable idea to me. Especially for someone who only recently began paying anything for paper services.

Who reports the news: Don't doubt that I value the roles of reporters in asking tough questions, challenging authority, and creating news that follows guidelines and standard. I don't want my news to come from blogs, I want blogs to have thoughts on the news and events. I think there should be a way for reporters to get respectable wages for respectable and valuable work. The freedom of the press important, and there needs to be a press, but it just doesn't seem like there are many quality business models that support the current system. Without reporters and news ethics, democracy is jeopardized.

Advertising: One of the challenges in News financing seems to largely stem from advertising. I think in many ways newspapers probably have charged too much for advertising, and because classified ads and business ads are so expensive, businesses and individuals have been quick embraces of other mediums for selling their products. Why else do you think people sell cars and big items on ebay local and Craig's List. The classified section of the newspaper is ridiculously small, and you have to wonder if because of their size if the advertisers get more attention, or if they're more likely to become bird cage liners. I can't imagine online advertising will be better. Especially without high volume page views and if people are reading news on news feeds, or personal phone devises (blackberrys, iphones, etc.).

NPR & News I'm Looking For: One of the only growing news sources in today's market is NPR, which has picked up listeners at a surprising rate over the past ten years (FastCompany had a great story last month: Will NPR Save the News?). NPR CEO Vivian Schiller attributes a lot of the success to the human element the news coverage has. I think a part of that is that there news coverage broad coverage (broader then CNN or FoxNews ever creates) while at the same time providing enough information to the casual listener and enough new information to the knowledgeable participant. If my local daily had a little more coverage then AP Story blocks, I might read more of the stories. I also think a lot of the success comes from thoughtful interviews done by thoughtful interviewers. I almost always appreciate a 4 minute NPR interview segment regardless of what the topic is. I want to feel broadly informed about what's going on in the world, no other media source supplies that for me more than NPR.

Non-Profit Newspapers: Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland introduced legislation a couple weeks ago that would allow Newspapers to have non-profit status (like NPR). As a result, a non-profit Newspaper couldn't make political endorsements, subscription and ad purchases would be tax exempt, and other related changes would need to occur. I'm not sure how I feel about this idea. I could see how a newspaper could fall under the same rules as a station like NPR, but I think it's a little unsettling to think such a large industry would have to transition to the non-profit sphere.

Emotion: No one wants to see the local dailies fold. It's sad, and I think we know internally that something valuable is lost, but there certainly isn't any idea of how to save it.

Community Paper: I think that especially with local papers failing, the value of the community paper increases even more. I think that with local support and a high standard for quality local neighborhoods, cities, towns, and regions could snatch up an audience and talented reporters, designers, and photo journalist. MSNBC.com, and Google News, and big city dailies will never provide the local coverage that effects our daily lives the most. Community papers step up, and local citizens, demand more and support your community paper if you have one. These could be the future of local news.

Above Photo from Authentic Organizations.

1 comment:

Southern (in)Sanity said...

I am afraid unless there are some changes in the newspaper business, they are all going to struggle.

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