More newspapers HOT on the trail of the dodo


Another newspaper goes bankrupt? It must be Tuesday.

Yesterday, two metro newspapers ceased daily publication. Read “Detroit’s Daily Papers Are Now Not So Daily” from the New York Times for all the pertinent facts; but this post from Gawker boils it down:

PRINT IS DEAD
Detroit Newspaper Stop Delivery At Absolute Worst Time
By Ryan Tate, 2:44 AM on Tue Mar 31 2009, 1,608 views

Detroit’s two newspapers apparently needed confirmation that no longer delivering their paper most days was a terrible idea. They got it: GM’s CEO was fired the first day they stopped delivering.

Whoops.

But the nespapers’ [sic] plan to deliver the news online, in the manner of the future, worked, right? Let’s ask the Times:

The computers delivering the e-editions could not keep up on Monday morning, and many people were unable to load them…

“We had an overwhelming — literally overwhelming — number of people trying to get onto the e-edition site this morning…” said Jonathan Wolman, editor and publisher of The News…

Oh, my. Well, what about those printed old-timey newspapers available at stores and so forth?

“I don’t have time to stop at the store,” said [Nancy Nester, 51]. “That’s why I have home delivery… There was this feeling of emptiness.”

Well, that’s an achievement: Making a resident of Detroit somehow feel more hopeless and empty inside. Also: Making Detroit officially the most depressing town in America. (For now.)

Michigan, Michigan, what is happening in Michigan? Last week it was announced :

Ann Arbor News To Close In July, Will Be Replaced By Website

And just today, a few hundred miles away, the second major metro daily in Chicago, the Sun-Times, has announced it will be joining the Chicago Tribune in blissful bankruptcy, till executive bonuses us do part. Here’s a report from Chicago’s CBS affiliate that explains it all.

Tip of the iceberg, fellow true believers.

Hey, do you have cats? I do — five of ’em. And one of them HATES to use kitty litter, so I’ve been stockpiling old issues of the Times-Dispatch (yes, there is at least ONE good use for the RTD) and shredding them so whichever cat it is will use the paper box and not the floor. Today, completely by happenstance — coincidence, one might say, but I’m not sure there’s any such a thing as coincidence — I slid the Commentary section of the Sunday, August 3, 2008 RTD out of the middle of the pile and poised my scissors —

And stopped upon sight of the headline below the fold:

Reports of Newspapers’ Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

The author, Randy Siegel, wrote this piece originally for Advertising Age in June 2008, and the RTD reprinted it two months later. Both Siegel, “president of Parade Publications and publisher of Parade magazine,” and the Times-Dispatch/Media General have a vested interest in convincing the public that what we’re seeing all around us isn’t really happening: they want to hold on for as long as possible and squeeze every dime they can out of the American consumer without sacrificing their executive bonuses.

So the dinosaurs lie to us, a 21st century audience, with articles such as this, using vocabulary meant to be insulting, but really indicating the hidden fear behind their bravado: the fear that their industry will soon be extinct. They quote Mark Twain because all they know is the past. Analysts of the newspaper industry are reduced to “prognosticators;” critics are “pundits;” doomsayers, proving more and more accurate every week, are mere “wags.”

I believe I’m a prognostipundiwag.

The interesting thing is that the editorial is less about newspapers themselves than it is about the newspaper companies, and how they must change to survive. Of course, Siegel, a newsosaur, wants to charge for content (keep dreaming, bud!) and pretty much keep things the way they are; completely in denial that change — controlled change, designed and strategized to keep the media companies in complete control of the news and their products and, consequently, your hard-earned cash — is not what is truly needed. That’s not real change at all. That’s just financial juggling.

Evolution is necessary for Media General, the Times-Dispatch, and every metropolitan newspaper company in America to stay alive: evolutionary change that realizes the media is no longer in control of the news as long as it’s on the Internet, because, bottom line, the users control the Internet.

That’s me, and that’s you.

It ain’t them.

You can’t read the article online unless you subscribe to AdAge. But if you want to read it, come over to my house. It’s at the bottom of the litter box, caressing my kitty’s sensitive ass. She’s a wag, too.

Print versus Online? No Contest yet…

This excellent blog post, written by Alan Mutter, a former newspaper exec and currently Managing Partner of Tapit Partners, explains why most newspapers can’t just shut down their operations overnight and switch over to online-only.

It’s all about revenue — big surprise, right? — and it ties in nicely with my conclusions in “The Death of the Times-Dispatch,” specifically this part:

So here’s the thing: here’s why they’re even trying to keep the RTD going, despite its inevitable funeral, despite that it’s dead already and they keep kicking the corpse around: because they have to. As bad as the situation is, the paper is still bringing in revenue — just not a profit. Online advertising is nowhere near replacing the revenue that print advertising brings in. Sure, they’ll keep reducing the staff as circulation drops lower and lower; they’ll redesign the look not to make a better product, but to cut page count, and thereby newsprint costs. They’ll save money where they can, but revenue will continue to fall . . . because the core product, the newspaper, has been replaced by news on television and the Internet.

That’s why the purchase of Richmond.com was considered a sound investment: a massive increase of page views and potentially an increase of ad revenue.

And the bow ties know the RTD will eventually be forced to cease publication, probably sooner than later — hence the new commandment from on high, introduced last month to the sales staffs, of Web-First. Starting at that last-minute November meeting, with an imperative to begin in January 2009, all sales efforts are to push online advertising first, and newspaper advertising second.

Online is now priority one. I repeat: sales emphasis is on the Web first, print second.

That has to tell you something.

Make sure you go back to Newsosaur for Part Two.