Saturday, January 07, 2006

Local newspapers

"The boss walks into your office and shuts the door. Sits down. Looks you solemnly in the eye. 'We're buying a bunch of newspapers from Knight Ridder,' he says. Tilts back in his chair. 'We know there's something to be done with them, but we don't know what. Your new job is to figure that out. Which functions can go, which stay, what must be expanded, where the new revenue is. We - well, you - will remake the local newspaper for this century.'"

Thus opens Jon Fine's January 9, 2005, "MediaCentric" column in BusinessWeek.

I read Fine's column, "The Daily Paper of Tomorrow," one day after sitting in a presentation by Bernie Mann, owner and publisher of Our State magazine. Bernie made a strong case about his magazine's phenomenal circulation gains, and he couldn't resist (rightfully, I think) comparing it to daily newspapers in North Carolina, which are, of course, losing circulation almost every day.

Back to Fine's column. It seems virtually everything a local or regional newspaper does, he says - with the exception of local news - is done better by someone

Classifieds? Craigslist is free.

Sports? Since TV is moving more games into primetime, many of the big games finish too late to be covered in the morning papers. Might as well check ESPN or CNN, online or on-air.

Local advertising? Google and Yahoo! target better and produce measurable results.

The (Greensboro) News & Record for the last year has carried on a noble experiment in local blogging, wondering if the paper of tomorrow isn't more a citizens' broadsheet. One of the best things I've read on this topic is Lex Alexander's manifesto, posted just over a year ago.

Oddly enough, as down as I am on newspapers' future, I'd love the job described in Fine's opening paragraph. If only I thought someone would care what I think...


Anonymous Rick Hall said...

Mark, the obituary for the wall scratching was written when ink was discovered, for the newspaper when Marconi transmitted his first scratchy words, for the radio when some very smart cats, from GE I think, invented the TV tube, for the TV when Al Gore came along and gave us the internet.

Thankfully even the wall art remains if you travel to the right neighborhoods.

True The New York Times has had an issue or two lately...believe me I know as a former employee and current stockholder, but they continue to sell advertising in the Billions with a B...and will for some time is my guess.

I know you write this entry with lament, because you love newspapers...and all printed words as I keep the entrys coming I always learn something. Now if you'll excuse me I have some books to buy.

10:21 AM  

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