On Midday today, host Mike Edgerly will be discussing the future of newspapers with Rick Edmonds, a former reporter, editor and publisher who is now a researcher for the Poynter Institute, and Ken Doctor, former managing editor of the Pioneer Press.
We all know the simple version of the story. The web is displacing newspapers as a mass medium, newspapers therefore are doomed. Various offshoots of that narrative tend to blame the content - because the "MSM" is too liberal/conservative, they've alienated their readers who are now turning to the vast cornucopia of perspectives available on the Internet. Or something like that.
But in reality, newspapers don't have a content problem, they have a business problem.
It's important to distinguish newspapers as an advertising vehicle and newspaper journalism. Demand for the latter is higher than it's ever been, but it's the advertising - the print advertising - that has always paid the bills (and still does). As I've noted on this blog before, a good chunk of the journalism you're reading online is subsidized by those ads. Fewer readers = fewer ads = fewer reporters = fewer readers, and on we go.
The paradox should be familiar to media-watchers by now: Absent a new revenue model for newspapers, most of the newspaper journalism we read online goes away. No such thing as a free ride.
When you compare a printed paper to the web as a means of transmitting information, the printed paper is impractical to the point of being absurd. But, for the sake of discussion, let's put practicality aside for a moment. Are there things that the printed newspaper does that technology can't displace? And are those things valuable enough to allow newspapers to continue as a viable commodity?(6 Comments)
Remember when President Obama ordered federal agencies to shave $100 million from their budgets? Well, The Wall Street Journal reports they did it with $2 million extra on top.
With the budget deficit soaring toward $2 trillion, the Department of Justice has figured out how to play its part: double-sided photocopying.
There are other acts of national sacrifice. The Forest Service will no longer repaint its new, white vehicles green immediately upon purchase. The Army will start packing more soldiers onto R&R flights. The Navy will delete unused email accounts.
The Journal, it seems, could barely hide its contempt for the initiative, calling it a “savings shocker” in the headline and calling out “Front-and-Back Copies, Other Wonders” in the subhead.
That is 0.006% of the estimated federal deficit.
Still, a penny saved is a penny earned, right?
Update: It seems the Minnesota Senate is getting into the cost-cutting act as well. The AP says the Senate is cutting $2.2 million from its budget by spending “less on everything from employees to Kleenex.”(9 Comments)