Posts Tagged ‘Newspapers’

If newspapers die, will we lose anything?

March 23, 2016

My friend and former editor Anne Tanner worries about the future of journalism, and of newspapers in particular, as I do.  She e-mailed me a link to an article in Britain’s Prospect Magazine about the future of newspapers, from which I pull the excerpt below.

So far, the online news world has had a slightly shabby reputation.  On the one hand there are endless feeds simply repeating or re-tweeting the same basic information; the spread of lazy list-based journalism; and the parasite websites, picking the dirty bits out of the teeth of the major news corporations.  On the other hand there is the reactive underworld of almost incoherent anger, the moon-faced, flabby-fingered trolls who reduce all public argument to puerile sexual abuse.

newspaper-2Yet as more and more of us turn to our laptops, the news is getting better.  When I am researching I like to “read sideways”—that is, find a story or a footnote, trace it down to its origin, and keep going from there.  This sideways reading, made possible by hyperlinks, is the essence of the best of what is on the web.

On websites such as Buzzfeed, there is delight as well as disappointment.  The disappointment is that although there are in-depth essays and some foreign coverage, it’s still a long way from the regular, reliable foreign news service that the average news junkie would expect from the average serious newspaper.  The delight is about the ingenuity and creativity of its staff—if you haven’t seen Kelly Oakes’s “If newspaper headlines were scientifically accurate” you are missing something special.

It’s not only possible to become a really well-informed and engaged person by reading the news—it’s getting easier all the time. But relying on a single, under-funded, pressurized editorial team and a dampish wodge of flattened spruce arriving on your doormat every day is no longer the best way to go about it.  You just have to be more proactive and spend a bit more time to get what you need

Source: Prospect Magazine

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Newspaper revenue falling off a cliff

September 12, 2012

The chart and article below are from the American Enterprise Institute’s public policy blog.

The blue line in the chart above displays total annual print newspaper advertising revenue (for the categories national, retail and classified) based on actual annual data from 1950 to 2011, and estimated annual revenue for 2012 using quarterly data through the second quarter of this year, from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA).  The advertising revenues have been adjusted for inflation, and appear in the chart as millions of constant 2012 dollars.  Estimated print advertising revenues of $19.0 billion in 2012 will be the lowest annual amount spent on print newspaper advertising since the NAA started tracking ad revenue in 1950.

The decline in print newspaper advertising to a 62-year low is amazing by itself, but the sharp decline in recent years is pretty stunning.  This year’s ad revenues of $19 billion will be less than half of the $46 billion spent just five years ago in 2007, and a little more than one-third of the $56.5 billion spent in 2004.

Here’s another perspective: It took 50 years to go from about $20 billion in annual newspaper print ad revenue in 1950 (adjusted for inflation) to $63.5 billion in 2000, and then only 12 years to go from $63.5 billion back to less than $20 billion in 2012.

Even when online advertising is added to the print ads (see red line in chart), the combined total spending for print and online advertising this year will still only be about $22.4 billion, less than the $22.47 billion spent on print advertising in 1953.

via AEIdeas.

I was fortunate to be able to retire from newspaper reporting in 1998.  Otherwise I’d be in the same position as the auto workers or steel workers a few decades ago.  My local newspaper and former employer, the Democrat and Chronicle here in Rochester, N.Y., is gradually being hollowed out, as resources are shifted to the Internet and specialty publications.  Good reporting is being done, but by a staff that is being stretched thinner and thinner.   The problem is that you can get certain types of information over the Internet free and instantaneously that you would have to pay for and wait to get from newspapers—sports scores, stock prices, weather reports, movie schedules, classified advertising.

I still subscribe, though.  I recently suspended my subscription out of irritation with the D&C subscription service, but accepted their offer for renewal after a few weeks of trying to get along without a daily newspaper.  American print newspapers historically have been important to binding together geographic communities and giving them an identity.  I wonder if on-line publications can fill the same role.  I spend more time each day on-line than I do reading my local newspaper, but my information about Rochester comes mainly from the D&C and City newspaper, the city’s alternative weekly.

Hat tip to Rod Dreher.

The world’s best-designed newspaper

May 9, 2011

The Society for Newspaper Design has named Portugal’s “i” newspaper as the world’s best-designed newspaper.

To understand why, click on SND for an in-depth look at a typical issue.

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For the love of newspapers

April 20, 2011

My friend Anne Tanner sent me a link to an article about the new publisher of the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis.  The Star-Tribune was once one of the nation’s great newspapers, but has fallen on hard times.  In the past 15 years, it has gone through three owners and one bankruptcy.

Michael Klingensmith, the new publisher, spent his entire previous career with Time Inc. and was one of its three top executives before he took early retirement.  He is a native of the Minneapolis area, and he took the job because he cares about Minneapolis and its newspaper.

The article is a good portrait of the kind of businessman strives to make a profit in order to accomplish a goal, as against the kind of businessperson whose aim is to maximize profit for its own sake by any means necessary.  For the past 30 or so years, the newspaper business has been dominated by the second kind, who milked newspaper profit for themselves and their stockholders rather than reinvesting in the business.  I think the continuing viability of the so-called “alternative” press is because it is run by people who love what they’re doing more than they love money.

Many good things are being done in the new Internet media, but I don’t see any of them as a substitute for newspaper journalism, either in depth of coverage or giving a community an identity.

Click on A Second Act for Michael Klingensmith and the Star Tribune to read the New York Times article.

Hot type and roaring presses

January 22, 2011

One of the satisfactions of growing older is the knowledge of all the things that I have seen that nobody will ever see again.

The old-time newspaper composing room is one, as I was reminded when my friend David Damico, an expert on graphic design and the history of typography, e-mailed me links to these videos.  They are a documentary of the last night that the New York Times was produced with Linotype machines and hot type.

[Update 9/27/2020 New link replaces original two]

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Stars, cows, dogs and newspapers

April 16, 2010

When I reported on business for the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle in the 1980s and 199os, there was a business management philosophy which held that all lines of businesses could be classified in one of four ways:

(1) Stars, with high profitability and high growth

(2) Cows, with high profitability and low, zero or negative growth

(3) Dogs, with low, zero or negative profitability and low, zero or negative growth

(4) Question marks, with low, zero or negative profitability, but high growth

The job of a manager was to (1) feed the stars, (2) milk the cows, (3) shoot the dogs and (4) answer the questions.

Back then the owners of the nation’s great newspapers treated them as cash cows. Newspaper circulation did not keep up with population growth, but newspaper companies typically had profits exceeding 20 percent, greater than oil companies. Profits were not typically put back into the newspaper to improve the product. Instead, newspapers shrank their circulation areas, published fewer editions, allowed news staffs to shrink and sought to maintain profits by cutting costs and staff.

Now the newspaper industry is in crisis. The Tribune Co. is reorganizing under bankruptcy, but at this point it appears it will continue publishing the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and other properties. Other famous newspapers have gone to less-than-daily publication, replaced print editions with Internet-only presence or gone out of business entirely.

I would like to believe that this need not have happened if the big newspaper chains had put professionalism above profits. Unfortunately the facts don’t seem to support this belief.

The McClatchy Co., the third-largest U.S. newspaper chain, which bought Knight-Ridder newspapers in 2005, has done just what I want.  They have set an example of journalistic excellence, but financially they are down with Gannett Co. Inc. and all the others. The newspaper chains that are doing best, or least bad, are the ones that have diversified away from print journalism.

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