Newspapers…Still Not Getting It

About nine months ago, I wrote here about how I knew newspapers were dead.  Okay, at least dying.  Driving themselves to the verge of extinction . . . because they just don’t get it.

What don’t they get?

The present.  How the combination of the evolving whims of consumers and the evolution of technology has sped past them — and the fact that they cannot catch up.

Ever.

In that link above, I mention Jeff Jarvis.  In an email, Jeff convinced me that a book about the newspaper crisis would not sell — because he was begged by his publisher not to even submit a proposal.

They didn’t want to have to turn him down.

He knows his shit about newspapers and about IT.  And I don’t mean “It,” the word, or It, the Stephen King novel.  He knows his shIT.  And I suggest you look at his blog posts,

What is content, then?

and

Serendipity is unexpected relevance

They’re about the failure of newspapers and the dinosaurs in charge to comprehend the changes affecting them.  They’re about the arrogance — still — that they’re needed.

Journalism is needed.

Newspapers are not.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

"Psst! Newspapers meeting in secret! Chicago! Today! Keep it on the down low!"

Despite the possibility of federal anti-trust violations, a day-long series of meetings are being held today outside Chicago, where the upper management of newspaper chains across the company are meeting to determine the fate of online news — that is, they’re trying to decide how best to start charging for content, and then, probably, how to spin it so they won’t end up looking like the greedy bastards they really are.

James Warren at The Atlantic broke the story here just this morning, and since it’s not exactly newsworthy in and of itself, I doubt you’ll find much mention of the confab out on the Web, and certainly it won’t be mentioned at all on television, due to the cataclysmic significance of Jon and Kate, their brood of precious snowflakes, what Michelle Obama is wearing, or Bill O’Reilley’s combover. And, by the way, Anna Nicole is still dead.

However, a meeting of top execs that has been kept, well, not secret, but certainly clandestine, which is not even mentioned on its host’s online calendar of events — it’s hosted by the Newspaper Association of America — is important to every journalist across the country, and to every newspaper employee.

It should be important to consumers, too, because the whole point of the meeting, apparently, is to figure out how to gouge you — I mean, us — out of more money. “Models to Monetize Content” is all about how to charge us for reading their stories on the ‘net. But that’s not enough: they want to go after aggregators for “stealing” their content — even though aggregators, such as Yahoo and Google, or one of my favorite sites, Fark, do not steal content — they link a headline on their site to the story on the newspaper’s site. In actuality, this creates traffic for newspapers . . . but media conglomerates are insistent that it’s stealing.

Why?

Because they want the revenue. All the revenue.

This isn’t about the next evolution of quality journalism.

It’s about greed. It’s about arrogance.

Monetizing and micropayments simply will not work. I love newspapers; I love the information. I’ll buy a newspaper when I want one. But their content is no longer interesting to me as an informed adult in the 21st century. It’s old-fashioned. It’s trite.

It’s boring. There. I said it.

And I will not pay a penny for their content online.

It ain’t worth it.

Content is king, and when newspapers realize their online content has to evolve to reflect the interests of readers in this day and age — not the 1960s — maybe then newspapers will become successful online.

Until then, the geriatric newspaper will continue to be a snoozefest. Hey, let me know how that lawn and garden section is working for ya, okay?

Snoooooooooooze.

The Internet killed the newspaper star


This essay by Clay Shirky is the single most articulate, informed and intelligent examination of the evolutionary changes in the newspaper industry that I have yet read. It’s — actually — incredible.

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.

Wow! After reading this piece, anybody with a 10th grade education will understand exactly what impact the Internet has had on newspapers and that things must be done radically differently — and right now.

Except, of course, the bow ties won’t get it. They’ll fight against it, argue with it, deny it, ball it up and toss it in the trash, and fire any employees who have different ideas, fresh ways of doing things.

And the bow ties will then, quickly, fade away, just like yesterday’s news . . .

Newspaper Death March 3.15.09

Definition of a zombie newspaper: a skeleton staff operating in an organization that provides them little support, no room to make a complete transition to the Web and holds a death-grip on the paper instead of modernizing it. There are a few out there already. Candidates, anyone? (http://rejurno.com/)

Yeah, I got one I can think of, unless they start singing a new tune . . .

More news from the land of the shambling undead:

• The Washington Post is cutting pages and shrinking, shrinking, shrinking

• This is a GREAT article on how newspapers have to evolve, and not just change a few things to survive in the short-term.

• According to poynteronline.org, Pew Research found that 33% of readers would miss their local paper a lot if it folded; 25% would miss the paper “some”; 16%, “not much”; and 26%, “not at all.”

• How is the 9,000-circ Norwalk Reflector is doing without AP? Just fine, says publisher Andy Prutsok. There’s been no reaction from readers, he tells Josh Benton. “It’s a bigger deal to us than it is to them. Our readers couldn’t care less if we carry the same news that they can get off the evening news.”

Are you listening, Times-Dispatch? The key to your future is local news, as I predicted in a previous post.

But do you think the bow ties will have the guts to keep the paper alive by evolving, or will they just zombify and close down . . . and run away with their bonuses?

Here’s the Norwalk story.

Until next time . . .

Newspapers: Still knock-knock-knockin’ on Heaven’s door


Turn on the life support! The papers are still dying, no one knows what to do, the dinosaurs are still tying their bow ties too tight and having spasms because they might lose their executive bonuses!

Crack the whip, fire somebody and raise the subscription rates! Here’s a round-up of the latest news all about the onrushing death of newspapers:

• The McClatchy Co. is cutting 15% of its workforce — 1600 jobs — in an effort to survive.

“Newspapers are dead, ‘Wired’ editor says”

• The New York Times sold off 21 floors in its own building for a cash flow of $225 mill. They’re now renting those floors back because it’s ultimately cheaper.

• There’s still no buyer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It’s being denied, but there are real hints that print operations will be closing, well, right around the corner.

• Tennessee’s four largest dailies, in an effort, probably, to cut jobs and still maintain a certain level of journalism, are now sharing content as of last week.

• Gannett’s Coloradoan is moving its printing to Denver and slashing 48 jobs.

• “Days of ignorance are descending rapidly. The newspaper in its current form is becoming extinct. The editor of Wired said as much last week. It will happen, but there will be this dead zone between the newspapers deaths and the development of online reporting where there is a huge demand for information. Lets just hope the void is filled somehow.”
Conor Gallagher SF News Media Examiner (full story here)

• Closer to home, Richmond’s Media General is shifting two of their North Carolina papers from a five-day a week schedule to only two days a week.

Time has listed their picks for the top 10 most endangered newspapers in the country:

1. The Philadelphia Daily News
2. The Minneapolis Star Tribune
3. The Miami Herald
4. The Detroit News
5. The Boston Globe
6. The San Francisco Chronicle
7. The Chicago Sun-Times
8. The New York Daily News
9. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
10. The Cleveland Plain Dealer

That’s all the news that’s fit to print . . . online . . . ’cause the suits certainly won’t print it in the Times-Dispatch . . .

The Arrogance of Newsday: Trying to Control the Internet

“We plan to end the distribution of free Web content.”

That’s a direct quote from Tom Rutledge, CEO of Cablevision, which owns Newsday, the newspaper that covers Long Island, NY.

Here’s the whole story. It’s obvious that he and the powers-that-jerk-themselves-off high in the ivory towers of Cablevision have no concept of what the Internet is, or how users regard “content providers.”

Not highly.

As a friend of mine Twittered today, “Four years in new media taught me that people expect free online content. I predict Newsday will be sadly disappointed.”

Deservedly so.
You think any of them will ever get it?