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North American newspaper business


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#1 mat

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Posted 10 March 2009 - 10:26 PM

The month given to Seattle PI by the owners (Hearst) is nearing an end - nicely written, but sad, article on the nuances in advance of official notice.

Clues indicate P-I closure is near
Online domain name renewed; cleanup bins coming

By DAN RICHMAN
P-I REPORTER

Despite The Hearst Corp.'s statement Tuesday morning that it hasn't decided whether to sell or shut down the Seattle P-I, clues emerged later in the day suggesting that Hearst plans to close the 146-year-old paper shortly and will continue operating a Web site.

Staff members learned Tuesday afternoon that boxes and bins are scheduled to be delivered to the newsroom later this week -- some for materials to be taken home, others for notes that require shredding.

Employees were told to file promptly to be reimbursed for their expenses. And they were told they can retain their cell phone numbers if they wish.

Hearst said in January that it would put the paper up for sale for 60 days, closing it if no buyer emerged but possibly maintaining the P-I Web site. On Tuesday, another clue emerged as to Hearst's intentions: The company renewed the domain name "SeattlePI.com" through March 25, 2010, with registrar Network Solutions. It would have expired later this month.


Let it be known - when a company (and this seems to be true of media companies especially) is given a month to find a buyer, what it really means is the owners have been trying to sell quietly, and failed.

#2 yodsaker

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 09:37 AM

The Rocky Montain News closed after 150 years, the NYT and LAT are in trouble and many others as well. If CanWest goes down a whole string of them will disappear across Canada.
I think we are seeing the end of the dailies although some would argue they are long past their editorial glory days and have become lifestyle sheets to fill space between the ads.
I don't think the next generation is going to read them, at least in their present form. My daughter is a bright 15-year old who has never picked up the T-C in her life and her friends seem the same. They see it as undynamic, stodgy and old.

#3 martini

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 10:50 AM

Interesting that you just posted this.
I had just read this:
http://www.time.com/...ml?iid=tsmodule

#4 mat

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 10:45 PM

There is so much online (ironic?) about the demise of newspapers, but the relevance of this, and the impact, is becoming clearer as communities 'suddenly' realize what it might mean.

NYT: At least Denver, Seattle and Tucson still have daily papers. But now, some economists and newspaper executives say it is only a matter of time — and probably not much time at that — before some major American city is left with no prominent local newspaper at all.

“In 2009 and 2010, all the two-newspaper markets will become one-newspaper markets, and you will start to see one-newspaper markets become no-newspaper markets,” said Mike Simonton, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, who analyzes the industry.


while we watch the paradigm shift in news publication...

For more than two centuries, newspapers have been the indispensable source of public information and a check on the abuses of government and other powerful interests. And they still reach a vast and growing audience. Daily print circulation has dropped from a peak of 62 million two decades ago to around 49 million, and online readership has risen faster, to almost 75 million Americans and 3.7 billion page views in January, according to Nielsen Online.

But no one yet has unlocked the puzzle of supporting a large newsroom purely on digital revenue, a fact that may presage an era of news organizations that are smaller, weaker and less able to fulfill their traditional function as the nation’s watchdog.



#5 Rob Randall

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Posted 11 March 2009 - 11:00 PM

Another thing to keep in mind is the role of newspapers as the paper of record of a city. For professional and amateur historians alike we are fortunate to have a nearly unbroken database of the daily events of our city dating back 150 years in a single source.

True, current individual news stories are digitally archived forever but it is difficult to get a snapshot of a particular day or week.

#6 aastra

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 10:25 AM

For more than two centuries, newspapers have been the indispensable source of public information and a check on the abuses of government and other powerful interests.


On occasion, yep. But they've also been the tool of misinformation and a vehicle for abuses by government and other powerful interests, too.

#7 jklymak

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 11:09 AM

I'm considerably older than Yodsaker's daughter, but have not subscribed to a daily in my adult life. Radio/internet beats them for breaking news, a good weekly beats them for entertainment, cultural, and often municipal news, and thoughtful magazines beat them for in-depth analysis and investigative reporting.

I do appreciate the Sunday NYT, but primarily for the week in review and book review sections.

Perhaps with the end of dailies in Victoria, Monday Magazine or Victoria News could expand and do a better job of covering local stories by snagging a few of the best daily reporters, hopefully paying for it by snagging some of the advertisers.

#8 pseudotsuga

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 08:39 PM

less newspapers = less demand for BC pulp & paper. The mills are already shutting down.

#9 Sue Woods

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 01:08 AM

less newspapers = less demand for BC pulp & paper. The mills are already shutting down.


There are some really good local reporters (TV/Press) in Victoria who dig up original stories - but with the internet we really don't need all the satelite stories ("rip and read") which are yesterday's news by the time they hit our streets. I've noticed an increasing reliance on content generated by outside sources from other jurisdictions unrelated to our community. So duplication is a waste on resources, I agree.

#10 yodsaker

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 04:05 PM

On occasion, yep. But they've also been the tool of misinformation and a vehicle for abuses by government and other powerful interests, too.


Can't remember who said it but, "Freedom of the press belongs to the person who owns it."
Sounds like Mark Twain or Ambrose Bierce.

#11 yodsaker

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Posted 13 March 2009 - 04:09 PM

There are some really good local reporters (TV/Press) in Victoria who dig up original stories - but with the internet we really don't need all the satelite stories ("rip and read") which are yesterday's news by the time they hit our streets. I've noticed an increasing reliance on content generated by outside sources from other jurisdictions unrelated to our community. So duplication is a waste on resources, I agree.


You know how slow papers are when you see stories like the Big 3's begging or Obama's latest major stuff buried deep inside the T-C and reduced to 4-5 column inches from AP. The papers know we've already seen it and heard about it up the yingyang via the net or TV.

#12 Jacques Cadé

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 11:31 AM

There's a good summary of the current predicament of newspapers in the Globe and Mail today: Is democracy written in disappearing ink?

The nub of the story is that political accountability will decline if newspapers disappear.

They have the time, money and the institutional framework — reporters, contacts, editors and libel lawyers — that allow them to continue to take on major investigative projects. So far online players haven't come close to matching those kinds of resources ....
"It means that more things will happen in the dark," said Paul Starr, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. "Certainly the Web made certain things more available than they have ever been before, at a lower cost. But availability is not the same as exposure. I don't think there's enough of a protection of democratic accountability."
The link between accountability and reach lies at the heart of the newspaper debate. Although online content can be easily accessed and shared, its audience is highly fragmented: It lacks the "mass" element of mass media, making it harder for single stories to generate the impact they might in a city paper.
Several recent studies have borne out this link. One, co-written by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor James Snyder and David Stromberg of Stockholm University, found that congressional representatives who are less covered by the local press, mainly papers, aren't as responsive to their communities: They are less likely to stand witness in congressional hearings or to vote against their parties.
More importantly, they found that federal spending is reduced in areas where there is less coverage of the local member of congress.


I'm inclined to agree. Take the TC's recent series on shoddy aboriginal housing: after it ran, Gordon Campbell declared that he was going to plow new funding into housing to solve the crisis. A great online source like The Tyee, by comparison, can hammer away at a similar problem month after month with little or no political impact, because it doesn't reach a mass audience.

One irony of the Globe analysis is that you can read it online without paying. A sidebar to the main story mentions that "most media observers believe that the newspaper industry made a grievous mistake when it decided to eliminate the 'pay wall' and allow readers access to content for free. No one is quite sure how to put the genie back in the bottle without losing a big share of its audience, which has become addicted to free news."

Newspapers should force everyone to go cold turkey. Since advertisers have little faith that online ads work anyway, dailies should dump the freeloaders and make their sites subscription-only. (Of course, an online subscription would be cheaper than the delivered print version.) Then we would see how well Google News, blogs, and forums like VV can fare on their own.

#13 D.L.

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 11:45 AM

good points. paying for things can be good

#14 mat

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 01:25 PM

The main quote in Jaque's post is 'the genie is out of the bag' - online users expect news to be free, as both the Globe and Mail and NYT learned very quickly the paid versions of their content did not work.

So what would happen if, in the unlikely case, that all traditional subscription news papers worldwide decided to charge for online access? Then the likes of the TYEE would get the attention, and the subsequent notice from politicians.

There has always been free, advertiser supported, news - Black Press is able to provide both a printed paper, and online news without a subscription model (not wonderful, nor with deep investigative reporting) but at least it's there.

We pay for TV through cable subscriptions, and in Canada some of that revenue goes to a pool fund for programming. We may rile at paying more for internet access, but maybe some of that money should go to supporting online news - along with 'right's funding for music etc. (the only problem I see with that is we pay way over the top for high speed internet in Canada compared to the US and Europe)

#15 AnonAnnie2

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 02:01 PM

Westcoaster.ca is a independent pure online news site.
Every journalist/paper in Canada reads this little West Coast online publication.
The staff/publisher are paid from advertising dollars.
It works and serves its readers well.
It can be done.

#16 Jacques Cadé

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 04:59 PM

There certainly are models for free online news, but that doesn't mean the dailies should follow them.

The Tyee hangs on by a thread, relying largely on union money, which is another reason why Campbell largely ignores what it reports. It would be interesting to know if the Westcoaster has done any serious investigative work; at the very least, of the 20 stories on its front page today, 12 have been lifted directly from Black Press papers or the Canadian Press wire. (I wonder: reprinted with their permission, or not?) Neither is a shining example of online news that is both courageous AND financially successful.

Far as Black Press itself is concerned, I strongly suspect it's putting material online for free mainly because everyone else is. It too may eventually decide that the pitiful revenue from online ads hardly justifies the expense of hosting and webmastering: looking at vicnews.com right now, there is only one ad on the entire page that isn't for a Black Press-related website.

Believe me, I have plenty of gripes with the current ownership and management of many newspapers. I want online news to succeed. But I fear that we will have to endure a dark age of largely unreliable drivel online before real news organizations establish themselves.

#17 jklymak

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 05:40 PM

I think the mistake is not that newspapers make their material available for free, it is that they don't charge their advertisers top dollar.

OK I stole that opinion from: http://www.theatlant.../new-york-times which is a very apropos article about exactly this subject.

#18 mat

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 05:54 PM

In reply to Jaques - and the problems with creating good journalism out of revenue poor online media, check this out on Global Post.

#19 Caramia

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 07:48 PM

I wish I could remember where I read an article advocating the merger of newspapers and universities. The article argued that the symbiosis would contribute good research and funding from the university side with the layout and delivery of the newspaper editors and production staff - both online and in print. No longer would all those papers we produce in university fall down the ivory well, never to be read by anyone but a grad student. Imagine the Times Colonist paired with UVic, or the New York Times pairing with Harvard.
:D
Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one's mistakes.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900), The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

#20 Ms. B. Havin

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Posted 14 March 2009 - 10:26 PM

^ Perhaps you're thinking of Bob Massie's “BREAKING NEWS”: Why the New York Times and Harvard Should Merge? When I read this article last month, I first thought it was a great idea, but on third thought, it seems too cozy somehow...

There's an interesting piece in Business Week, The Online Experiments That Could Help Newspapers, for those who are interested. (This article specifically addresses the problem of advertising.)

Jim Brady (ex Washington-Post editor) also argues that digital has to pick up the slack (re advertising & revenues) and that print-only is dead (see Ex-WaPo Editor Jim Brady to News Sites: Experiment More, Now). As for that genie (re. whether or not newspapers "should have" forced readers to pay for content), Brady has this to say:

Brady: I was there when this all started, and I can tell you that the second-guessing on not charging misses some key facts: 1) I don't remember this for sure, but I'm relatively positive we didn't have the technology in-house to charge people for content when we launched washingtonpost.com in 1996. 2) Almost no one was willing to enter credit card information in 1996, so adoption rates on charging probably would have been low. 3) If half the papers had charged, the other half probably would have gone free for competitive advantage, so the idea -- as I've heard it posited -- that "we all should have charged" ignores the basic fact that media organizations would never have agreed to act unilaterally. And as long as any good sites were free, the pressure would have been on all of us to pull down the pay walls.

So let's all stop beating that dead horse or that evaporated genie. It's a-gone, folks.

Brady has a couple of interesting things to add re. having resources (of a big newspaper, like Wash-Po, vs smaller outfits - bottom line?, the smaller outfits can do it, too), and he extols the virtues of the geeks and techies.

Which is also the point made by another article, this time from The Guardian, Bring on the techies: How Silicon Valley can help save newspapers.

Bottom line: if anyone is pining for "the good old days," they're like that French aristocrat, the Comte de Frou Frou, in Black Adder's Nob and Nobility, contemplating the sausage served at Mrs. Miggins', the one that looks like a horse's willy, as he whines about wanting to have the good old days back...



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