Is there a thread for the rapid death of the newspaper industry?

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These US cities that have one or two papers at most are screwed if the paper's shite.

and to be honest, most of them are pretty bad, and not many are better than mediocre. i worked at a mid-sized corporate-owned daily for a few years, and even though i felt like i did some good work there, and i had lots of friends who also did (several of whom are still plugging away at it), it was an uphill battle against a great corporate complacency. as the only daily in town, the paper had no real incentive to be better than it had to be to attract advertising -- and as the biggest print vehicle in that part of the state, it didn't have to be very good. i found it hugely frustrating, which is why i jumped ship for an alt-weekly after a few years. (ironically but predictably, the alt-weekly is now owned by the same corporate chain that owns the daily. but i left before that happened, and so far the corporate chain has mostly left the alt-weekly alone.)

paper plans (tipsy mothra), Monday, 23 March 2009 23:01 (5 years ago) Permalink

(that's why i have mixed feelings about the rolling collapse of the daily paper -- it's hard for me to get too worked up about, since so many of them have been weak for so long. but otoh, i know that at all of these places there are some good and smart reporters and editors doing what they can in unfriendly circumstances.)

paper plans (tipsy mothra), Monday, 23 March 2009 23:06 (5 years ago) Permalink

I was wondering how newpapers benefit from airing podcasts? I listen to a couple of The Guardian's and they're fine (Football Weekly is great). They contain no advertising content, so where are they making their buck? (apart from giving the paper some extra exposure if they're any good i guess).

sam500, Tuesday, 24 March 2009 05:44 (5 years ago) Permalink

I guess they're nebulous "brand-building" exercises. I know someone fairly high up at the Guardian - she told me its website and related initiatives don't make money and they never have, and that everyone at the Guardian is running around like headless chickens without a clue what to do next.

Zelda Zonk, Tuesday, 24 March 2009 08:25 (5 years ago) Permalink

Their website is definitely one of the better ones as well.

sam500, Tuesday, 24 March 2009 09:22 (5 years ago) Permalink

but they make me just as angry in the end so, honestly, fuck them

...

and i'm not advocating 'no journalistic model at all' there btw

Right. So what are you advocating? A legion of bloggers setting the world to right from their bedrooms armed with nothing more than the weight of their own ill-formed, unedited opinion? Some kind of magic information fairy?

Serious question. You can't dismiss all non-broadcast news-publishing organisations (note how desperately I'm trying to avoid the word "newspaper" itself) -- which, with comments such as "fuck them", you're doing, no? -- on an otherwise very intelligent and well-balanced thread and not offer some suggestion as to what you'd have instead. Text and pictures might be easy enough to come across, but meaningful text? Pictures that tell you something? Who's going to provide them once the surviving newspaper websites have been reduced to two work-experiencers and an RSS feed from the BBC?

Have a read of Ian Jack on Comment is Free:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/mar/21/local-newspapers-under-threat

I think this hits the nail on the head, even if it is a bit misty-eyed and over-romanticised. And I'm guessing you and I will agree on the comment Other than the people who work for them, who could really care if the Daily Star and the Sunday People vanished tomorrow?

a tiny, faltering megaphone (grimly fiendish), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 09:43 (5 years ago) Permalink

(that's why i have mixed feelings about the rolling collapse of the daily paper -- it's hard for me to get too worked up about, since so many of them have been weak for so long. but otoh, i know that at all of these places there are some good and smart reporters and editors doing what they can in unfriendly circumstances

Yes. Absolutely. Blueski, this is exactly it: there's a metric tonne of shit out there but to dismiss everything is spectacularly reductive.

And Tipsy: I'd refer you to the Ian Jack piece I linked above. It won't make you feel any better, but it offers an interesting take on the same argument.

a tiny, faltering megaphone (grimly fiendish), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 09:48 (5 years ago) Permalink

Magic information fairy sounds good I'll go with that cheers.

Hard House SugBanton (blueski), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 10:02 (5 years ago) Permalink

I mean do you think I'm being spectacularly reductive by never buying a newspaper or spending much time on any of their websites other than when duped into reading some of the Guardian shit linked here? If so fine. Wires are being crossed here, but it's not worth arguing about really.

Hard House SugBanton (blueski), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 10:09 (5 years ago) Permalink

Yes, because unless you are the only person in the world, and you are right about everything -- which, with the greatest respect in the world, I doubt is true of any of us -- then you can't really expect the rest of society to fall into line with you.

You might not look at newspaper websites but a staggering amount of other people do. So unless you're popping up on this thread just to say "lol dicks talking about journalism" -- which doesn't seem to be the case! -- then, umm: what do you think should be done?

I'm really trying to find out what you think here and all I'm getting is gnomic two-line responses at best. You don't strike me as someone who avoids the news. So: where do you go to get it?

a tiny, faltering megaphone (grimly fiendish), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 11:00 (5 years ago) Permalink

To be honest "avoids the news" isn't all that far off, as bad as that sounds. How else to describe a situation where you never read a paper (unless you're alone in a pub/cafe etc. which is not all that often, or on a bus for a few minutes. I've never been a paper buyer on a regular basis tho) and more recently don't have a TV to catch the news semi-intentionally (I am missing Newsnight a little but otherwise doesn't feel like a great loss). Rarely listen to news radio either. All of which just leaves, yes, the internet and just a handful of news sites i'm forever meaning to expand the range of...so I guess I do expect news for free. I can see how this might be cause for concern but don't feel too bad about disregarding old media entirely because it clearly isn't required in my life (and if that's true for me it can and will be true for many thousands). I'd offer you constructive solutions but don't really have them yet.

Hard House SugBanton (blueski), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 11:23 (5 years ago) Permalink

Here's my best guess at what the future will look like: most major newsgathering will get consolidated down to just Reuters, AP and one other - they will sell packages to the surviving newspapers, which will all be freesheet or online only, with the exception of one or two high-end "quality" dailies. Newspapers will supplement these news agency packages with local reporting, provided by some combination of traditional reporting/"Web 2.0"/advertising-driven content. Original investigative reporting, if it survives, will survive on TV and in weekly magazines. Some countries, like France, may set up new government-subsidised newspapers or newgathering organisations.

Zelda Zonk, Tuesday, 24 March 2009 11:25 (5 years ago) Permalink

It strikes me that TV news is being somewhat sidelined in this debate when in fact the huge growth of 24hr rolling news over the past few years is surely a massive factor in all this?

Matt DC, Tuesday, 24 March 2009 11:52 (5 years ago) Permalink

rolling tv news, non-pro blogs, etc don't do

- informed opinion
- investigatory journalism

FREE DOM AND ETHAN (special guest stars mark bronson), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 11:58 (5 years ago) Permalink

Yeah I'd say the advent of CNN etc was one of the factors dooming newspapers - after all, decline in readership began in the eighties, before the Internet. But the main factor remains advertising, and the impossibility of "monetising" newspaper websites.

Zelda Zonk, Tuesday, 24 March 2009 12:06 (5 years ago) Permalink

were it not immediately distressing, this is a fascinating historical question, the interplay of long- and short-term ish, all kinds of factors, with the recession and ad slump as this sorta unexpected accelerator. "or is it?" will be the question. i think i'm firmly in the "this was inevitable" camp.

wrt british papers and the question of quality, i do reckon it's been very high in the two-odd decades i've been reading them. better, anyway, than in the other era i know well, the 1920s and '30s. i don't think the quality of the writing has much to do with the survival of the format.

FREE DOM AND ETHAN (special guest stars mark bronson), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 12:12 (5 years ago) Permalink

a more optimistic view from steven johnson.

i think he's got a point but he's incredibly blasé about investigative reporting when there's maybe two alternative models in the usa (center for public integrity and propublica) and none in the uk (especially with a post-hutton bbc). i've got no faith in tv news keeping this alive when they've got their own revenue problems.

joe, Tuesday, 24 March 2009 12:22 (5 years ago) Permalink

Toynbee's tuppence

seems to be no real sympathy from the commenters

Hard House SugBanton (blueski), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 16:05 (5 years ago) Permalink

There never is. I think most people don't realise that the vast majority of news comes from newspapers. It's like a river: it starts small with local newspapers, builds into dailies and ends up as the hose of the internet. But when it's all choked off upstream, everything that depends on it is fucked as well.

otoh this is some idealistic shit, tbh. A lot of local newspapers have been little more than money-making aw-look-a-baby-was-born shite for a long time.

stet, Tuesday, 24 March 2009 17:25 (5 years ago) Permalink

my local newspaper (the cambeidge evening news) is pretty dire. otoh it's where alan rusbridger more like rubbishger learn how to be a journalist. (and peter bradshaw, probably not coincidentally learnt to be... well, whatever he is.) so this is maybe an important part of the media ecology being killed off.

FREE DOM AND ETHAN (special guest stars mark bronson), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 17:47 (5 years ago) Permalink

The bottom line is that any model of journalism that hinges on (1) printing stuff on paper or (2) want ads is eventually going to die, and while it will be sad that this will soon be going away, and while it may be a disaster in some respects in the short-term insofar as investigative journalism is concerned, we need to continue to work to find a model of journalism that can be supported in the modern era, and dreaming that this problem might go away if we turned off the Internet or shut down Craigslist or ... isn't going to actually solve the problem.

Also, did anyone post this article about the Austin Chronicle? Pretty interesting, I thought:

http://tinyurl.com/d4z4al

Your heartbeat soun like sasquatch feet (polyphonic), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 17:48 (5 years ago) Permalink

any model of journalism that hinges on (1) printing stuff on paper or (2) want ads is eventually going to die,

so OTM. let's not confuse form with content people.

Roberto Mussolini (Shakey Mo Collier), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 17:57 (5 years ago) Permalink

The Pittsburgh post-gazette cold called this morning touting for a subscription. I can get it weekdays for free in school, she persevered and said why not take it on sunday only 'for the coupons'. The local news is fine but the national and international is light dusting of AP and NYT articles. Possibly a more sustainable model is for a national newspaper, the NYT, which a locally produced local section produced by the rump of local journalists left. Italy is more or less like this although in some areas the local section is a local paper sold as a bundle deal.

Prince of Persia (Ed), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 18:05 (5 years ago) Permalink

cant imagine any big papers would be willing to give up the ability to endorse

rip dom passantino 3/5/09 never forget (max), Tuesday, 24 March 2009 19:42 (5 years ago) Permalink

Newspapers need competition otherwise they go to shit: it's always cheaper to do press release rehashing than proper investigative stuff. That's (one of) the problems with UK local papers and US city ones, which makes me sceptical of the whole non-profit or local-section ideas.

stet, Wednesday, 25 March 2009 00:12 (5 years ago) Permalink

so OTM. let's not confuse form with content people

I don't think anyone on this thread is. The Clay Shirky quote cited upthread says it all: "Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism."

But as Stet points out: where does that journalism come from when all the newsrooms are gone?

Blueski's comment:

(I) don't feel too bad about disregarding old media entirely because it clearly isn't required in my life (and if that's true for me it can and will be true for many thousands)

nails it: there was a time when a newspaper really was "required" by anyone who wanted to have even the vaguest idea about what was going on. Those days are long, long gone. But -- tragically -- this next bit:

I'd offer you constructive solutions but don't really have them yet

is as applicable to the entire fucking industry as it is to, er, one ILX0r. At the moment there's an abundance of content but that is going to disappear very fucking quickly, as Zelda Zonk suggests.

dreaming that this problem might go away if we turned off the Internet or shut down Craigslist or ... isn't going to actually solve the problem

Yes. Sadly, there's been an awful lot of that kind of moaning in newsrooms worldwide for the past decade; as you say, it totally missed the point.

The only thing that can happen now is for (certain) newspapers and broadcasters to stop living in denial and start working together -- yes! Together! -- to work out how the fuck journalism survives.

a tiny, faltering megaphone (grimly fiendish), Wednesday, 25 March 2009 10:41 (5 years ago) Permalink

What the Internet has generally done in other information industries is massively consolidate until you end up with monopolies or duopolies. In theory, you could have dozens of competing search engines (and you did in the early days); in practice, there's Google. There's YouTube, there's Facebook, there's Wikipedia etc.: just one or two main providers for each segment. I can only imagine news content will go the same way in the end - there will be just two or three main content providers who will feed the news to newspapers/websites. The newspaper/website's job will no longer be to provide the news, but to shape it and add the local colour.

Zelda Zonk, Wednesday, 25 March 2009 11:01 (5 years ago) Permalink

running a newspaper isn't exactly like those things. you do it partly for political influence, or for... well, who knows what satisfies a conrad black or a rupert murdoch, but they aren't regular silicon valley-type guys. newspapers often lose money, after all.

FREE DOM AND ETHAN (special guest stars mark bronson), Wednesday, 25 March 2009 11:11 (5 years ago) Permalink

Not local papers - they're pretty strictly profit-generating machines.

The newspaper/website's job will no longer be to provide the news, but to shape it and add the local colour.

I see it the other way around, mostly. The model of the "website that you visit", once integral to the way we conceived the web, is slipping. You hear people talk about so-and-so's "Twitter page" and it's a sure sign that they don't really use Twitter, or get it. I don't think people will visit a local newspaper's website to get the locally coloured news in the future.

The Guardian launching Open Platform is an interesting development in providing syndicated content with some kind of commercial underpinning (it's not fully open as it "requires partners to carry its advertising as part of its terms and conditions").

Alba, Wednesday, 25 March 2009 11:16 (5 years ago) Permalink

The business model of the newspaper is probably even now more robust than the business model of YouTube/Twitter/Facebook but everyone concerned seems to be hoping the issue of monetising them just goes away as well.

Matt DC, Wednesday, 25 March 2009 11:33 (5 years ago) Permalink

Twitter introduces text ads

Alba, Wednesday, 25 March 2009 11:34 (5 years ago) Permalink

xpost
I agree, that's an interesting development. And yeah, maybe we won't be visiting websites, maybe news will be delivered in other ways. But I think the massive consolidation will nonetheless happen and you'll end up with very few agencies actually providing the news, however they provide it.

Zelda Zonk, Wednesday, 25 March 2009 11:39 (5 years ago) Permalink

The business model of the newspaper is probably even now more robust than the business model of YouTube/Twitter/Facebook but everyone concerned seems to be hoping the issue of monetising them just goes away as well.

Google makes a lot of money, doesn't it? And yet not so long ago people were scratching their heads as to how a search engine could be a viable business model. I guess the answer is: be the only one, have a captive audience, benefit from economies of scale. And that's going to be the answer for a lot of these. The brand that becomes "the only one" globally will eventually make moeny whatever it does.

Zelda Zonk, Wednesday, 25 March 2009 11:48 (5 years ago) Permalink

One thing I'm keen on is filtered news and increased customisation of content deliverance. It's not the best example but let's say I wanted to 'killfile' all headline mention of a certain celebrity or subject from a feed or website. Could be interesting - difficult to implement because there is obviously much overlap between stories and subjects but this is where the power of online news really lies - more of an exchange between provider and reader (not just thru 'having your say' and whatnot).

Hard House SugBanton (blueski), Wednesday, 25 March 2009 12:17 (5 years ago) Permalink

wonder if political reporting/comment will go the same way as financial news: would not be surprised, but how it'll play out idk.

FREE DOM AND ETHAN (special guest stars mark bronson), Wednesday, 25 March 2009 12:38 (5 years ago) Permalink

The politics blogosphere (hate that word, but it can be useful) might work against that IMO.

zero learnt from nero (Neil S), Wednesday, 25 March 2009 12:42 (5 years ago) Permalink

i think the key players, ie the ones with real connections, in the 'sphere are ppl who earn their irl wages as hacks. if that goes tits up i don't see them providing content for nish-all.

FREE DOM AND ETHAN (special guest stars mark bronson), Wednesday, 25 March 2009 13:02 (5 years ago) Permalink

There's YouTube, there's Facebook, there's Wikipedia etc.: just one or two main providers for each segment. I can only imagine news content will go the same way in the end - there will be just two or three main content providers who will feed the news to newspapers/websites.

This isn't quite right, I don't think: those sites aren't providers in the same way that news organisations are -- each of them gets their content given *to* them from hundreds of millions of little local one-man operations who feed content *up* to them.

It's possible that something similar could happen to news, but that would be a complete disaster, for the same reason that this would:

It's not the best example but let's say I wanted to 'killfile' all headline mention of a certain celebrity or subject from a feed or website. Could be interesting - difficult to implement because there is obviously much overlap between stories and subjects but this is where the power of online news really lies - more of an exchange between provider and reader

The real power of newspapers, and the ability of their journalists to demand answers, comes from the attention they can command, and the fact that everybody gets the same splash. Whether you're just buying it for the crossword, or the sports, or the job listings, you see the same p1 story. So that means if it's some sort of scandal uncovered in an esoteric subject, it's going to be shoved in front of you whether or not you're interested in it. This in turn forces the subjects of that splash to respond, and so the accountability thing rolls on.

If there are only three big outlets, or if everyone is filtering out stories about dull-subject-x, then lots of things can be quietly swept into the darkness. It's this lack of unifying attention that worries me most about net news, far more than the money thing.

stet, Wednesday, 25 March 2009 15:02 (5 years ago) Permalink

Stet I don't think anyone would be 'banning' the really important stuff in practice tho. No-one buys newspapers JUST for the sport or celeb gossip generally. It may be the thing they like about it most but surely the additional stuff sweetens the deal. I'm advocating a theoretically more democratic process when it comes to deciding what news is most important and I have faith that social and political issues would be better served by this process in the long-run (as much as I have faith in society). I don't believe it can be worse than e.g. the tabloids making celeb news front page because they know it will jerk knees and more effectively, pandering to the lowest common denominator or whatever. Too many people bemoan this approach on a daily basis for it to be something to just accept as 'reflecting the public interest'.

But granted there's a good chance a more user-defined online edition of many papers would only result in more sex and death.

Hard House SugBanton (blueski), Wednesday, 25 March 2009 15:17 (5 years ago) Permalink

Oh I think I see what you mean now -- do you mean where people collaborate on choosing the news, something like Digg without all the Diggness? That could definitely work.

I was fearing something like those old sites where you can personally filter out all the stuff you don't care about. I'd never see another sport or environmental story again, despite actually caring a bit about the latter.

stet, Wednesday, 25 March 2009 16:04 (5 years ago) Permalink

well i'd like that filter thing too. but i'm not really thinking about it for newspapers because i don't read newspaper sites that often as it is, more BBC and supposedly more impartial channels.

Hard House SugBanton (blueski), Wednesday, 25 March 2009 16:09 (5 years ago) Permalink

Page 39 of my local newspaper Hamilton Advertiser and I found the headline Scumbags Rob Pensioner, 73

Would you allow that headline at the Herald, grimly?

Pfunkboy in blood drenched rabbit suit jamming in the woods (Herman G. Neuname), Friday, 27 March 2009 15:08 (5 years ago) Permalink

Umm. What do you think?

a tiny, faltering megaphone (grimly fiendish), Friday, 27 March 2009 16:32 (5 years ago) Permalink

think again!

One of the suspects is described as aged 30, 5ft 8ins and thin.

He spoke with an English accent and was wearing a blue jacket and light blue trousers.

joe, Friday, 27 March 2009 16:46 (5 years ago) Permalink

Also, did anyone post this article about the Austin Chronicle? Pretty interesting, I thought:

http://tinyurl.com/d4z4al

― Your heartbeat soun like sasquatch feet (polyphonic), Tuesday, March 24, 2009 1:48 PM (3 days ago) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink

good read but i couldn't help but get some immature lols out of this:

South by Southwest now has three vibrant legs — music, film and Web — that come together to create a stool that is the envy of every other American city.

the worst breed of fong (some dude), Friday, 27 March 2009 16:53 (5 years ago) Permalink

So you're suggesting Grimly has a reason to not publish it? ;)
xp

Pfunkboy in blood drenched rabbit suit jamming in the woods (Herman G. Neuname), Friday, 27 March 2009 17:01 (5 years ago) Permalink

3 weeks pass...

can't see how mergers are going to help, they'll just mean more journalists redundant, worse quality papers and even less reason for readers to cough up for the same recycled stuff off the wires and press releases that they can read everywhere else.

sly bailey's missing the point if she thinks "news aggregators" are the problem. google news links to your site, so it's bringing in hits and making your adspace more valuable. there's more of a problem with rss, so why not embed ads in the feed mid way through the story or whatever? <<<< does not constitute an entire digital media strategy btw.

otoh as an opportunistic effort to extend local monopolies at a time when some companies are likely to go under it will probably work well. by the time anyone sees any audited figures of how well or badly it is going for the big local news groups - which have had 20 per cent profit margins for years before this sudden period of pleading poverty - they will have got what they want.

joe, Friday, 17 April 2009 18:16 (5 years ago) Permalink

depressing tale #3495:

speaking to a friend last night who works as the web editor for a regional newspaper in the north-west. one of their reporters has recently been producing articles critical of the local nhs hospital, exposing corruption, mismanagement etc. in response, the hospital has set up a new PR position in a bid to get positive stories out there. this position pays 10k more per year than the reporter earns. she's the only person the hospital approached to take the job. she took it.

NI, Sunday, 19 April 2009 16:05 (5 years ago) Permalink


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