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Author: Subject: Will we still read newspapers in 5 years?

A Peach Supreme





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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 10:35 AM

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Refusing To Bleed Out
How The Los Angeles Times Could Save Itself (But Probably Won’t)
By Hugh Hewitt
Thursday, February 8, 2007

"I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care, either," said New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. to Haaretz Tuesday.

We don’t care either. The “we” are the one time loyal readers of newspapers. “We” are the “market.” And the market doesn’t “care” about carriages driven by horses, ships with sails, or the Pony Express. The market cares about demand, and demand for newspapers is drying up.

There are many reasons for that “system perturbation” as Pentagon guru Thomas Barnett brands those paradigm-shifting shocks that can hit countries, corporate sectors, or single companies. In the world of newspapers, the endemic hard-left bias of the newsrooms weakened the brand of the MSM so that when the internet arrived and the not-so-loyal customer shed the monthly cost of the unread glop of print on the driveway there was no cushion of dedicated news consumers across the political spectrum to help absorb the blow. Now the papers are sinking into a sea of red ink –victims of their own arrogance and ideological blinkers.

What to do? I wrote on this subject yesterday in very general terms: The papers have to jettison the old guard, and do so quickly.

But they have to do much, much more than hand out watches to the productivity-challenged cohort in their 50s and 60s that populate the upper reaches of management.

They have to change everything, and very quickly. When you are sinking like a stone –and the bigs in Boston and Los Angeles are—trimming a few dozen jobs here or changing the margins of the paper’s size there won’t do the trick.

I like newspapers, and I like journalists. I have contributed to the former since 1979 and have been the latter since 1990. So in that spirit pf a colleague whose medium of the web and radio is doing very well indeed, a few suggestions. They are particular to the Los Angeles Times, but the method can be replicated in any market.

I confess I no longer read the Times. It is dull beyond description. Occasionally one of their “writers” will issue forth with a particularly insipid bit of prose which will be called to my attention and I’ll try and engage the writer, but generally, its too damn dull to care. I suspect that their already plummeting circulation is buoyed by subscribers too lazy to get the number to cancel.

So, what could they do?

First, shift massive resources to the online edition. There are hundreds of reporters at Spring Street and various affiliated locales, but their story quota is, what, three bylines a week? Redirect 50% or more of these staffers to producing two stories a day and fire those who can’t produce. 3,000 to 4,000 words a week isn’t at all difficult, but it does require the work ethic of a college student.

Next, once the story pipeline is filled –all of them being published immediately after editing to the web and not being delayed until the glop edition—identify the best four to six reporters from each section and make them web only. That’s right. Put your best talent in the service of the new medium. Instruct them to pound it out and turn it into editors for a brisk and quick review and then push it out there on to the web. The sole advantage a “news organization” has right now are resources for the production of content. The editors are a dead weight but also a tradition unlikely to be pushed aside because most journalists can’t be trusted not to make absolutely horrific mistakes. So leverage that single advantage –mass—into an online attraction.

If the Times had ten to fifteen continually updated and bylined blogs by their best reporters, I’d be checking those blogs repeatedly during the day. There are five tool reporters on the staffs of every newspaper, but they are being played every third day instead of three or four times a day. Use them. Inform and entertain us!

After the basic revamp is in place, ask the toughest question of all: What can we do that no one else can do? In LA it is the business, first, second, and forever. The Times doesn’t want to be People, but it can be the first and last word on the American culture machine, though it has never seriously tried to be. It cannot compete with the Washington Post on politics and government, but no one can compete with the Times in covering the culture machine in all of its features, if the Times would only try.

Nor could anyone match the paper if it really wanted to cover the biggest state in the union in all of its glorious dysfunction in Sacramento or prodigious productivity in high tech. Nine-tenths of every current issue of the paper consists of stories that high school papers could produce instead of unique content that must be read because it is the best reporting on sectors and stories that only a talented and experienced California-based reporter could find and report fairly and fully.

There are technologies to deploy as well.

Show us how many people click on each story. Talk about the market sorting the wheat from the chaff. If a story is unread online, doesn’t that mean a tree fell in a forest and nobody heard it?

And demand interactivity from your writers, but not in the closeted “I’ll respond to the mail I can handle” fashion that reporters tell themselves distinguishes them for “courage.” If a columnist or reporter gets buried in harsh blowback , publish the blowback (less the vulgarity.) That is transparency. Everything else is spin.

Dump the snores. Who reads the book section, really? Review books that people read, and do it online.

Don’t publish game summaries of the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers and Angels –who reads those? The sports junkies got their news hours ago. Give the reader commentary, rumor, and calumny, and lots of readers’ boards.

When it comes to “opinion,” publish most of the paper’s commentary from writers inside of zip codes in which you deliver. Drop the anonymous pulse-killers of the unsigned editorials. Give them bylines or let them go. And please, no more out-of-state professors. The national writers publish on national forums, but the local voices need the exposure and bring with them local audiences. Obscure academics from faraway cities don’t need –and local readers don’t want—a chance to impress on the west coast. In Los Angeles there are hundreds of talented writers the papers routinely ignore. Why?

Finally, let me introduce you to Patterico, Kevin Roderick, Bill Bradley and Cathy Seipp.

Here are four extraordinary talents in your backyard, each with a significant readership the paper needs.

Patterico is the greatest ombudsman a paper never paid,. Imagine the huge credibility you would gain if you matched his DA salary plus 25%, and told him “Swing away” at LATimes.com. That. Would. Be. Bold.

Roderick ticks me off at least once a month, but he’s the go-to-guy for LA, the single best city-specific blog in America, and you are trying to invent what he has already perfected. Why? The old guard is gone. You don’t have to inherit their mistakes. Go pay him what he wants and brand him as the Times’ own.

Bradley is by far the best political reporter in California. He’s interesting and connected and doesn’t care where the chips fall.

And Seipp --she is read and loved by center-rightists across the Southland. Her account of her battle with cancer is moving and her commentaries on all other subjects funny and on point. This isn’t hard. Buy her blog and brand the paper as willing to bring on board the talent it manifestly doesn’t have and the appeal it cannot manufacture from within.

The Los Angeles Times could be a great, great news organization –if it would only give up pretending to be a great newspaper.

 

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Mark Ramsey

 
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Zen Peach



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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 10:48 AM
I rarely read a newspaper anymore, maybe 2-3 times a month. I get all the bad news I need online.

Interesting fact I found aout recently is that the Wall Street Journal trimmed the size of its paper by about 1/3 I think. A more narrow (not point of view, althought some would argue that) paper that might be either easier to read for strap hangers or they are propping themselves up for a buy out but spending less on production costs.

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 11:02 AM
I read the paper on a daily basis but I can see that as we become more and more a paperless society that newspapers as we know them will become a thing of the past. This makes me sad since I enjoy curling up with a good book, a magazine, the newspaper ... just wouldn't be the same with a computer involved.

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 11:08 AM
books are a different thing... they are not produced daily (in the respect that newspaper content changes everyday...

it'l be a lot longer before books are taken over by electronic devices... it's fairly simple to look at a news web site and pick out the articles you want to read... sitting down and reading 800 pages worth of a book is another story...

they've tried to make good ebook readers in the past but have not really made one that is easily portable and as easy to read... also... you can drop a book down a flight of stairs and not worry about if you'll be able to read it afterwards... not necessairly so with ebook readers...

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 11:16 AM
5 years ? yes. News papers and books will still be here. 20 - 30 years maybe not.



 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 11:50 AM
I read the local newspaper every day although I read a lot of news online. However, there is nothing like opening up the paper and doing the crossword puzzle while I am having lunch...

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 01:11 PM
Old news. The average age of a print newspaper reader in the country is around 55 years old. Slowly but surely, ad revenue to is turning to online publications by the billions every year. You can combine multi-media aspects with online publications, with sound and video. And, with WiFi hot spots growing by the day, including in your own house with a lot of ISP contracts these, you can take your laptop or personal device and read your online content while out and about in the city, while sitting at a cafe, or while sitting in your own warm bathroom. We are still only in the middle of what is to come. It happens a little bit at a time.

In the past there were similar marks in tech history that showed what was coming. I remember in the 1980's it was suddenly noticed that the large store chain Sears did not have an 800 phone number. They actually thought that folks would drive to the store to order something, and then drive back yet again to the store to pick up the ordered item. Even then, all an 800 number would have done is to cut out one of the trips to Sears.

Then, a TV commercial that I remember in the mid-1980's where a guy meets this great looking babe at a club and he asks her for her phone number and as she walks away he looks at what she had written on the piece of paper and all that was on it was her email address. He had yet to move to email, so he wa **** out of luck. Back then, not everybody had an email address much less a PC.

In the 1990's there were many companies that did not have a website to offer to the consumer. Now, you can buy everything online - from Amazon.com to ebay to almost every company under the sun.

Then, music became readily accessible digitally as the 21st cenbtruy unfolded. iPod, and so forth, with devices that can hold tens of thousands of songs in a space the size of a cigarette lighter. Not only that, but you can watch TV that is being broadcast from Saudi Arabia to Japan to Morocco, or listen to talk radio in Melbourne, Australia, all on your home computer.

Then Google comes along and on its 'News" page you can read articles from newspapers around the country, and around the world within seconds.

Yet, were only half way there.

quote:
NY Times publisher: Our goal is to manage the transition from print to internet

By Eytan Avriel

Despite his personal fortune and impressive lineage, Arthur Sulzberger, owner, chairman and publisher of the most respected newspaper in the world, is a stressed man.

Why would the man behind the New York Times be stressed? Well, profits from the paper have been declining for four years, and the Times company's market cap has been shrinking, too. Its share lags far behind the benchmark, and just last week, the group Sulzberger leads admitted suffering a $570 million loss because of write offs and losses at the Boston Globe.

As if that weren't enough, his personal bank, Morgan Stanley, recently set out on a campaign that could cost the man control over the paper.

All this may explain why Sulzberger does not talk with the press.

But perhaps the rarified alpine air at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, which ended last week, relaxes the CEOs of the world's leading companies. And what began as a casual chat ended in a fascinating glimpse into Sulzberger's world, and how he sees the future of the news business.

Given the constant erosion of the printed press, do you see the New York Times still being printed in five years?

"I really don't know whether we'll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don't care either," he says.

Sulzberger is focusing on how to best manage the transition from print to Internet.

"The Internet is a wonderful place to be, and we're leading there," he points out.

The Times, in fact, has doubled its online readership to 1.5 million a day to go along with its 1.1 million subscribers for the print edition.

Sulzberger says the New York Times is on a journey that will conclude the day the company decides to stop printing the paper. That will mark the end of the transition. It's a long journey, and there will be bumps on the road, says the man at the driving wheel, but he doesn't see a black void ahead.

Asked if local papers have a future, Sulzberger points out that the New York Times is not a local paper, but rather a national one based in New York that enjoys more readers from outside, than within, the city.

Classifieds have long been a major source of income to the press, but the business is moving to the Internet.

Sulzberger agrees, but what papers lose, Web sites gain. Media groups can develop their online advertising business, he explains. Also, because Internet advertising doesn't involve paper, ink and distribution, companies can earn the same amount of money even if it receives less advertising revenue.

Really? What about the costs of development and computerization?

"These costs aren't anywhere near what print costs," Sulzberger says. "The last time we made a major investment in print, it cost no less than $1 billion. Site development costs don't grow to that magnitude."

The New York Times recently merged its print and online news desks. Did it go smoothly, or were there ruffled feathers? Which team is leading the way today?

"You know what a newspaper's news desk is like? It's like the emergency room at a hospital, or an office in the military. Both organizations are very goal-oriented, and both are very hard to change," Sulzberger says.

Once change begins, it happens quickly, so the transition was difficult, he says. "But once the journalists grasped the concept, they flipped and embraced it, and supported the move." That included veteran managers, too.

How are you preparing for changes to the paper that are dictated by the Internet?

"We live in the Internet world. We have, for example, five people working in a special development unit whose only job is to initiate and develop things related to the electronic world - Internet, cellular, whatever comes.

The average age of readers of the New York Times print edition is 42, Sulzberger says, and that hasn't changed in 10 years. The average age of readers of its Internet edition is 37, which shows that the group is also managing to recruit young readers for both the printed version and Web site.

Also, the Times signed a deal with Microsoft to distribute the paper through a software program called Times Reader, Sulzberger says. The software enables users to conveniently read the paper on screens, mainly laptops. "I very much believe that the experience of reading a paper can be transfered to these new devices."

Will it be free?

No, Sulzberger says. If you want to read the New York Times online, you will have to pay.

In the age of bloggers, what is the future of online newspapers and the profession in general? There are millions of bloggers out there, and if the Times forgets who and what they are, it will lose the war, and rightly so, according to Sulzberger. "We are curators, curators of news. People don't click onto the New York Times to read blogs. They want reliable news that they can trust," he says.

"We aren't ignoring what's happening. We understand that the newspaper is not the focal point of city life as it was 10 years ago.

"Once upon a time, people had to read the paper to find out what was going on in theater. Today there are hundreds of forums and sites with that information," he says. "But the paper can integrate material from bloggers and external writers. We need to be part of that community and to have dialogue with the online world."

And while on community, the scandal about Jayson Blair, the reporter caught plagiarizing and fabricating, hurt the brand, not the business, he says. Blair was forced to quit in May 2003.

You're one of the few papers that continues to print on broadsheet, which people consider to be too big and clumsy. Until when?

"Until when? The New York Times has no intention of changing that," Sulzberger promises. At any rate, transitioning from broadsheet to tabloid would be prohibitively expensive, he says.

Do you feel that the newspaper world is weakening? Are advertisers pressing harder for better deals?

"Advertisers always press harder for better deals and influence over content," Sulzberger says. But the New York Times has nothing to apologize for and no reason to fold, "as long as I'm sure that what we wrote and what we're about to write is right."





 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 03:43 PM
I earn a living by selling supplies to people in the printing business. 10 years ago, I would have thought that we'd be almost out of business by now. You could see the technical possibilities on the horizon. The whole publishing niche of the printing business: books, magizines, newspapers, catalogs - all would eventually be delivered digitally.

Well, that may eventually happen, but it doesn't look very close at hand. Magizine publishing goes up every year, catalog production continues to expand, book publishing remains strong (measured by the number of titles published, although the average run-length is far less than before). Newspapers are the only portion of the segment that is down.

The factor in control of these changes is not what is technically feasible, but what is acceptable to by the market. Human nature (why fix it if it ain't broke, or at least dramatically better?) still finds printed media easier to deal with.

You could easily find all of the items in a newspaper, magizine, catalog, or book in on-line form. And if there was a demand, computer makers could produce nice, full-color tablet readers with good battery life and ease of use. The problem right now is that digital delivery is still seen as less versatile by the users, advertisers, and producers. The newspapers are loosing out because everyone knows the hot stories from online or broadcast sources before it can be put in print. But for everything else, print seems to be holding it's position remarkably well despite cheaper and technically superior delivery methods. Technology moves much faster than humans are willing to change. Which in my case is very reassuring - I still have a ways to go before retirement.

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 03:54 PM
quote:
First, shift massive resources to the online edition. There are hundreds of reporters at Spring Street and various affiliated locales, but their story quota is, what, three bylines a week? Redirect 50% or more of these staffers to producing two stories a day and fire those who can' t produce. 3,000 to 4,000 words a week isn' t at all difficult, but it does require the work ethic of a college student.


work ethic of a college student??

I did bong hits, and played frisbee


[Edited on 2/8/2007 by johnwott]

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 04:04 PM


I never read Newspapers anymore.............

The Atlanta Journal has sucked for years...even the effin Sports section.

If they threw that "rag" in my yard...I would chase them down and throw it back...LOL !

[Edited on 2/8/2007 by OldDirtRoad]

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 08:39 PM
I take the Atlanta Journal Constitution 7 days and hope to for at least 5 yrs. There are times when paper is better, lunch as said, watching TV, bathroom, and, for one who's out of the ofc alot, I carry it w/ me and can always catch a few min of reading w/o the risk of keeping a laptop in my car or on me. Present company excepted, I wonder how much content the claimed on line news reader really reads vs paper readers.

 

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  posted on 2/8/2007 at 08:48 PM
What? No Newspapers?!!!

What are we going to use to train the puppy & line the birdcage?

One of the main reasons that the only drawbridge on an Interstate Highway was installed was to allow the big ships to deliver paper pulp up the Potomac River to the Washington Post. Most people, especially the younger generations, are getting their news from tv & the internet. Newspapers are a major polluant. Good riddance.

 

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  posted on 2/9/2007 at 01:22 PM
No more need for a Daily Newspaper?....Ask William Randolph Hearst why Marijuana is Illegal. No Newspapers.... No more financial "Threat" from the Legalization of Hemp for the purpose of inexspensive paper.
Vely Intelesting

Somebody get me a Cheeseburger.

 

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  posted on 2/9/2007 at 03:51 PM
Globe and Mail here in Canada is a great national paper. The Globe has been a daily ritual for me for years (i'm 35). My day is pooched if it I miss reading a paper. My dad was an avid reader of the Toronto Star (another great paper) and it was one of the few ways we connected. Discussing daily events, sports whatever. It was a family thing we did, jawing around the table while we perused through the various sections. Good times
I doubt you will ever see a total demise of newspapers. They are too convenient to commuters, dentist offices etc. and advertisers love to get their message out. I can't see Bob's House of Carpets advertising on my blackberry. Same reason smaller radio stations stick around advertising dollars. Cheers

 

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  posted on 2/9/2007 at 08:16 PM
I will not take my laptop into the crapper to read online news.

Yes, newspapers will prevail.

 

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  posted on 2/9/2007 at 08:37 PM
For me the "newspaper" (lol) has gone the way of radio and television.
Not interested in being a part of the corporate controlling and dumbing down they are doing to america.
I used to read the St Petersburg times for years,and they are considerd a GOOD newspaper,but even it is looking more and more like U.S.A. Today!

 

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Then I guess time took it's toll,cut me deep,cut me cold.
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  posted on 2/18/2007 at 02:52 PM
quote:
http://www.nypost.com/seven/02182007/business/mags_circ_sags_business_paul_ tharp.htm



MAGS' CIRC SAGS
TOP TITLES DOWN
By PAUL THARP

February 18, 2007 -- The magazine publishing world was abuzz last week as the latest circulation numbers showed continued weakness - meaning more editors are surely on the hot seat.

Magazines - like television and other Old-Guard media - are seeing readers and advertising dollars follow consumers online.

"What's hurting magazines the most is the loss of readers of its printed pages to the Internet," said magazine analyst Martin Walker.

"The titles with the strongest performances are the fashion and beauty titles whose pages can been seen only on their printed versions, not on the Internet," said Walker.


While some titles are enjoying banner sales and strong comebacks, many of the old standbys are suffering double-digit declines in the second half of this year compared with a year earlier, such as the nation's biggest seller, Readers' Digest, which tumbled 12.2 percent to 10.1 million circulation.

Other legends also withered, including Woman's Day, off 20 percent to 4 million; Redbook, down 28.6 percent to 2.4 million; and even Anna Wintour's Vogue, off 6 percent to 1.3 million.


Bonnie Fuller, a high-profile editor who's reigned for years over a declining Star, could face fallout over the magazine's 15.9 percent plunge in newsstand sales in the second half this year from a year ago.

Newsstand sales account for about half the Star's 1.5 million circulation, and its hands-on editor, Joe Dolce, already walked the plank this week, replaced by Candace Trunzo, from sister title Enquirer. Fuller is editorial director of the Star.

Cosmopolitan has fallen below the 2 million mark in newsstand sales for the first time in years, dropping 5.9 percent to 1.9 million, or about two-thirds of its total 3 million circulation.

The costly slump at one of Hearst's stronger flagship titles could increase pressure on Cosmo editor Kate White to boost its readership among its core audience of young women in the workplace.

Rivals Time and Newsweek are also hurting, with Newsweek down 6.8 percent to 3.1 million, making it tough on Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Meacham, who's been in the top job since last autumn. Time is down 8.3 percent to 4 million.

Among the winners, Meredith's Better Homes & Gardens saw circulation rise 6.8 percent, BusinessWeek was ahead 25.4 percent, CondeNast Traveler gained 19.9 percent, and Time Inc.'s Cooking Light advanced 8.9 percent, while on the fashion front, Hachette's Elle was ahead 4.2 percent and Hearst's Harper's Bazaar was up 3.5 percent.


 

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  posted on 2/18/2007 at 02:56 PM
newspapers are a waste of paper. there are better ways to get information spread. i feel that they will be a thing of the past within the next 50 years.

 

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  posted on 2/18/2007 at 03:04 PM
I agree with you Linnie and even more so with magazines...I feel guilty about getting magazines and being "done with them" so quickly because of their fancier paper etc.

And this from a pine tree farmer...I should be happy about continued consumer usage of paper...

 
 


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