Published: September 2, 2010 at 11:28 AM
Good discussion here by TPI readers. I'm not sure it hits the mark for why newspapers are seeing reader and revenue declines, though. From a print journalist with more than a decade in the business, let me take a stab at this discussion.
First, if Michael Eisner can make the Tribune Co. profitable again, more power to him. I think he had a mixed record at Disney, doing some good things and some not so good things. As far as traditional newspapers go, like any media outlet, content is king. Therefore, were editors to focus on delivering high quality content to readers on the platforms they expect, both readers and revenue would return.
Why isn't it happening now?
Newspaper companies rely heavily on consultants to shape the direction of the content that's placed inside their pages. These "experts," however, don't have a clue what readers really want to see. So newspapers -- just like their TV competition -- have spent more time and money chasing fluffy feel-good stories and celebrity junk than concentrating on keeping our citizens informed. It's certainly cheaper to cover celebrity or crime news, but it provides little to no value for readers. That's why newspapers (with one or two exceptions) and TV stations (both local and national) have lost credibility with readers (and viewers) and have watched a steady decline in their business fortunes. The internet may have played a small role in this decline, but not much. Content is king in this business – not how it’s delivered.
Is there still a demand for quality journalism in 2010? Absolutely! How can I tell? Smart businessmen are still making fortunes delivering provocative, must-read, must watch/listen to content. Just two examples:
(1) Twenty or so years ago, radio was dying and no one knew how to revive the oldest electronic mass communications medium. However, one clever guy had an idea: What if I build a show around commentating on today's news? I think there's a market for this. He was right, and Rush Limbaugh -- love him or hate him – found millions of listeners and made hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, blame Rush for the tide of news/talk radio stations that have covered our land.
(2) About the same time Limbaugh got his start, another enterprising individual saw the need to deliver high-quality business news in real time. Long considered too stuffy and boring for a general audience, Michael Bloomberg saw a golden opportunity to deliver high-quality business news content to news outlets that were, at best, not delivering the compelling content that added value to readers’ understanding of the companies they worked for or invested in. Bloomberg News made the current mayor of New York City a billionaire, and added value to every newspaper, radio and TV station that subscribed to its content feeds by delivering context behind the daily business headlines.
Are newspapers dead? I sure don't think so. I think they're just waiting for business leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit to rethink how to deliver the most compelling content to their readers.