Bad news, good news

For a proposal I’m writing, I want to compile key stats that show the state of the news business (at least the incumbents, plus a view of demand). Here’s what I have. Do you have other stats that reveal the state?

Bad news…

• Newspaper stocks fell an average of 83.3% in 2008—twice the fall of the S&P 500—wiping out $64.5 billion in market value, according to Alan Mutter’s Newsosaur blog.

• Since 1994—and the release of the commercial web browser—newspaper audience penetration has fallen a third, from 23% to 16%. In that time, circulation fell 14% (59 million to 50 million, according to the Newspaper Association of America) while population rose 20%.

• Viewership for network evening news continues to decline, to 23.1 million in 2007, according to Nielsen. The median age of network evening news viewers is 61 in 2008, according to Magna Global USA.

• Since 1994, newspaper print advertising revenue fell on an inflation-adjusted basis by 10% (from $34,109 million in 1994 dollars to $42,209 million in 2007 dollars, says NAA).

• Since 1994, the number of newspapers in America fell from 1,548 to 1,422, according to NAA.

• In 2008 alone, 15,586 newspaper jobs were lost, according to the Papercuts blog.

• In 2008, the Pew Research Center found that the internet surpassed newspapers as a primary source of news for Americans (following TV). For young people, 18 to 29, the internet will soon surpass TV, at nearly double the rate for newspapers.

• 54% of Americans do not trust news media, according to a Harris survey. A Sacred Heart University survey says only 20% of Americans believe or trust most news media.

• Jeffrey Cole of the University of Southern California Annenberg School’s Center for the Digital Future found in a 2007 survey that young people 12 to 25 will “never read a newspaper.” Never.

• In 2008, the American Society of Newspaper Editors took “paper” out of its name.

Good news…

• But newspaper online site audience has long since surpassed print circulation, reaching 69 million unique users in fall 2008, according to NAA.

• And the total online news audience is about 100 million—more than half total U.S. internet users—according to ComScore.

  • http://twitter.com/moon paul

    Over four hundred people have been brutally murdered by F- 16′s over the past week and all I read in the papers is Israeli PR

    • Brett

      Its crap that we dont hear the real news.Even local news is a joke.Is there a place to go to get the real storys.

  • http://pitchengine.com Jason Kintzler

    While those numbers are glaring, I can’t help but think it’s for lack innovation that many newspapers are suffering. For what it’s worth – here’s my take: http://bit.ly/1YIk

  • http://amomentwith.typepad.com/blog/ Easycure

    How many innocent Israelis have been bombed by Hamas (a terrorist organization) over the years? More than 400. Also, if somebody threatened your country’s sovereignty, what are you gonna do? (Your pacifist answer is: “nothing”, right?)

  • http://amomentwith.typepad.com/blog/ Easycure

    When have newspapers been relevant anyway?

  • http://www.thewayoftheweb.net Dan Thornton

    The problem with the Good News is that newspapers can’t translate an equal online readership into the same revenue as in print.

    Which means either some much needed innovation in monetizing the audience, or reaching a far, far larger audience online in print, whilst also keeping costs down.

    Advertising/Display/Direct revenue has to be the area which most needs an overhaul – but the pressure on advertising teams makes journalists look like they’ve got an easy life!

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    They don’t need the same revenue because they won’t have the same cost structure (i.e., paper, presses, trucks).

  • http://mindymcadams.com/tojou/ Mindy McAdams

    Really depressing stuff, Jeff. The real question lies outside the stats, though — what can be done to ensure that the public has access to the information it needs, free of government control?

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Let’s please not turn this into an Israeli-Palestinian thread. It’s off topic. both sides have had a say. I’ll kill further comments on the topic as off-topic.

  • http://editor.blogspot.com Howard Weaver

    I can’t speak for “the newspaper industry,” but I can report on the state of affairs at my former employer, McClatchy.

    What these individualized statistics and measurements fail to show is that companies like McClatchy are already far down the road to transformation. (I write from memory and approximately; I am not a spokesman for the company).

    In 2000, about 97% of McClatchy’s revenues came from daily newspapers. Today it’s less than 70%, with the remainder coming mainly from online and other digital operations, niche print and targeted marketing. While print advertising revenues are falling (at least partly due to economic conditions) online ad revenue at McClatchy continues to grow by double digits, even in recession.

    In the larger cities where surveys are available, McClatchy’s total audience reach (print plus unduplicated online) often exceeds 70% of adults 18 and older each week. It’s likely higher in smaller markets, where the print component remains somewhat stronger. Indeed, the total audience for information produced in McClatchy newsrooms has never been larger. The company’s sales forces are being retrained and compensation structures changed to optimize their ability to sell that portfolio of audience reach, not just ads in daily papers.

    Meanwhile, the company’s cost structure has been radically altered, reduced by more than $350 million in the past two years alone. Much of that has come from staff reduction, but a large and growing percentage represents efficiencies like out-sourced production work, accounting and billing, and even printing. This process will continue as technology continues to make further efficiencies available.

    The company also enjoys productive relations with third parties, like CareerBuilder (of which it is a part owner), Classified Ventures (likewise), Yahoo (a strategic cross-selling and ad serving partner), aggregators like DayLife and Outside.In, and many others. These can work both to reduce operating costs and extend revenue opportunities into new realms.

    In short, statistics about falling daily newspaper circulation and the like are by themselves of little value in projecting the future. You should use care in over-interpreting these.

    You also should not ignore the fact that the economic collapse that has ruined many businesses has also hurt news company performance and obscured much of the progress outlined above. When conditions improve, even marginally, you will see dramatic reflection in the capacity of companies like McClatchy to move forward toward their historic mission: public service journalism.

    • Stan Williams

      McClatchey presents a perfect example of gross mismanagement. In 1999 its shares traded at $39. Now they are 39 cents. In 2005, when any sentient person knew that metro newspapers were in their death throws, McClatchey borrowed $1.6 billion and bought out the Pulitzers. Even though most of their smaller papers are (and were) doing well, the debt load is pulling the company under. Meanwhile, the woman who engineered this disastrous deal continues to run the near bankrupt company pulling down millions of dollars a year in salary. The company’s prospects and problems have nothing to do with innovation, but everything to do with management stupidity, and the fact that failure is rewarded over and over again in the boardrooms of American capitalism. No one is held accountable, except the lower level employees who suffer the consequences.

      • http://racinepost.com pete

        Actually, Stan, Lee bought Pulitzer while McClatchey gorged on Knight-Ridder. Result is the same for both.

  • invitedmedia

    i’ll make this brief and only comment on the subject- it’s a carbon copy of what ‘they’ did in syria w/ hezzbollah.

    look how that turned out.

  • http://www.yelvington.com/ yelvington

    I have to differ with Dan Thornton. There is no equivalency in the online readership.

    If there were, we might actually see equivalency in revenue.

    The unique-user number is inflated BS calculated from counting cookies from a wandering global audience. It’s primarily useful for spreading fog at senior management meetings and issuing chest-beating and ultimately misleading press releases about how newspapers are extending their audience reach online.

    It should never be compared to in-market commercially relevant print readership data.

    The true number of in-market users who consume pages with enough frequency to be affected by an advertising campaign is distressingly low.

    At the core, it’s not an advertising problem. Local businesses still need to reach potential local customers, and they’re willing (although certainly not eager) to pay for results.

    It’s primarily a failure to attract and retain a commercially relevant audience that’s breaking the newspaper business model.

    That points the arrow back at the people who create the content. The 20th century content model isn’t working any more, regardless of whether it’s in print or beamed directly into your cerebral cortex by a modified laser beam.

    If I were looking for good news, I’d be looking at the transition that many companies are making from single-product strategy to a portfolio/aggregation strategy. I’d be looking at the newspapers that are beginning to figure out behavioral targeting in a network context. I’d be looking for new newsrooms that are beginning to really grasp the breadth of their roles outside the simple 24×7 breaking-news concept.

    I’d be looking for great examples of facilitating and leading productive conversations. I’d be looking for great examples of online resources and local-life tools built around actual needs (as opposed to technologies or existing info resources).

    • http://smalltownnewspaper.blogspot.com/ Mike

      “If I were looking for good news, I’d be looking at the transition that many companies are making from single-product strategy to a portfolio/aggregation strategy.”

      Is that sentence in English?

  • http://www.livestation.com Matteo Berlucchi

    On http://www.livestation.com, the online global broadcast service for international news networks (BBC, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg, etc), the average session length it’s a staggering 78 minutes of live TV news watching. We went from 0 to 1,000,000 minutes/day in just 4 months. Watching TV news online is definitely taking off.

  • http://www.jeffbeckham.com/ Jeff Beckham

    http://www.bivingsreport.com/2008/the-use-of-the-internet-by-americas-largest-newspapers-2008-edition/

    The Bivings Group found that 58 percent of daily newspapers offered some form of user-generated content in 2008. That was more than double the number from 2007 (24 percent). Also, the number of papers who opened up stories to user comments up to 75 percent in 2008 from 33 percent in 2007.

  • http://www.danerwin.com Dan Erwin

    No surprises in the shift from paper and the evening news to internet. It’s the ongoing loss of investigative journalism that worries me. I see far too many political decisions that seem based solely on the state of one’s glands. Although I can get trusted commentary built upon investigative journalism from the web, I find that I have to be even more scrupulous about my critiquing of information. Although that may be the result of the change from paper to internet, it’s still problematic for me–and others of my generation and the “boomers.” Obviously I’m stymied by the revenue issues facing journalism. I see no silver bullet.

  • http://hypergene.net/wemedia chris willis

    jeff, i’m doing some similar research. online advertising was improving in 2007 but 2008 has been worrisome.

    the global economic crisis and greater local competition had conspired to create the first drop in online ad revenues ever reported in Q2.

    In Q3, it drifted a few notches lower. I doubt Q4 will be different.

    More: http://blog.clickz.com/081230-164610.html

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  • John

    Why is printed reader ship down? One aspect besides the internet is the fact that papers are restructuring and the printed product is being delivered late to the door steps. This is the nuts and bolts of the industry…The readers come first…This was C.K. and Eleanore McClatchy’s goal and was part of the company’s mission statement (up until a several months ago). Nothing was mentioned about Newspapers over buying and buying bad debt (Knight Ridder) then “reducing” staff to try to make payments on loans. The staffs at the McClatchy papers have been “reduced”, over worked, demoralized and left with a sense of dread, printing “outsourced”, deliveries changed and subscribing customers left in the dust. Before the staff reduction at the Modesto Bee, the paper was guaranteed to be delivered by 6:00 a.m. Now readers are lucky to get delivery before 10:00. Newspapers are also becoming visibly biased: i.e. the latest presidential campaign was heavily Obama biased although the publishers will flatly deny this. Now they want a Gov’t. bail out…How can a paper be unbiased with it’s hand in the Gov’t’s. pocket? This seems to be the trend of the future for news papers.

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  • toivo

    “They don’t need the same revenue because they won’t have the same cost structure (i.e., paper, presses, trucks).”

    New business models, new expenses. They need money\profit in order to invest for the new features. They need money to pay for the coders.

  • toivo

    boring alternative reality: one wordpress to rule them all

  • jane

    “Much of that has come from staff reduction, but a [large and growing percentage represents efficiencies like “out-sourced” production work, accounting and billing, and even printing.]….”

    Really, Howard? Don’t you realize that when you outsource work you are also reducing your staff in the process? You act like there were no jobs lost due to outsourcing! Wish that were true!

  • http://mediacafe.blogspot.com/ jeff mignon
  • John

    I second that Jane…The underpaid lackeys in India can’t even get the ads right. Damn…they need to keep a few people on at the McClatchy papers to correct the outsourced pages…and deliver the missed copies that the subscribers call customer service…IN INDIA…about. The McClatchy papers haven been dissected, bisected, vivisected and disconnected to a point where MNI is a ghost of it’s former self. I used to be proud to work here, running this fine press…http://cancelthebee.blogspot.com/2009/01/last-hours-of-modesto-bee-printing.html (137 jobs gone!)

  • http://www.thewayoftheweb.net Dan Thornton

    Hi Jeff – totally agree that the costs are difference for online publications – but I think a lot of reluctance to embrace the possibilities online comes from the huge gap in revenue – which strikes fear into the hearts of many!

    Obviously changes in structure are needed to efficiently produce an online model which can exist and profit from online revenues, but it’s such a huge leap, many people are going to be tempted to wait and wait until they are forced into moving online, rather than jumping in earlier and reaping the benefits!

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  • http://www.attentionmax.com Max Kalehoff

    Jeff,
    Your Good News data are superficial, i.e.:

    • But newspaper online site audience has long since surpassed print circulation, reaching 69 million unique users in fall 2008, according to NAA.

    • And the total online news audience is about 100 million—more than half total U.S. internet users—according to ComScore.

    The fact is that all of those are “unique” visitor estimates, meaning that if one person in the comScore panel visits a site for one second and then bounces, that person becomes part of the overall glowing good-news metric. I’m not saying unique visitors are a bad metric, but they can be misleading without additional data to provide context. I would be interested in average time spent on the sites, per all those unique visitors. I’d also like to know total minutes spent on the newspaper sites. I’d also like to know the propensity of those newspaper visitors (who spend any time on those sites) to actually buy and convert from an advertising standpoint. (Even a basic correlation of visitors to e-commerce spending, as one directional proxy.)

    Net: without further context, the unique visitor numbers are about as meaningful as estimated circulation figures. You need more metrics for the good news. I’m sure comScore would help you out with the above as a one-off to publish.

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  • http://andynonymous.blogspot.com AndyJ

    Jeff:
    Like most industries that the internet has disrupted, newspapers and soon TV have lost their reason for being. They do not focus on the why of their existence but instead offer defenses of their actions by claiming to be professional. This last election cycle, extended as it was, showed the group mindset, the dependence on AP and Reuters and the complete lack of local content… IOW our newspapers have let us down. We now have alternatives and choose them. People buy newspapers for news. I still buy for my local display ads (yes-they are news of my community).

    I do not want the Associated Press with a local headline writer. I don’t want bland group mindset editorials. I want more quality. Unfortunately, all we get is more quantity with ever diminishing quality. Any business that does not care about the quality of its products does not deserve to remain in existence. Make bad donuts, coffee, newspaper, car, or computers and the public moves along… Creating monopolies in local areas left them fat and lazy. The internet now gives us divergent points of view and sources of information-for free-. Why buy the NYTimes when the WaPost or LATimes will be essentially the same paper-?

    While we’re at it-Why are the Murdoch papers and TV news not doing as badly-? Perhaps there is a proprietor who cares-? Maybe its because there is a contrarian who goes in another direction when the herd runs towards a cliff-? Why do I pay over $300/year for the WSJ-?

    Give us real news reporting. The reporter scandals of the last dozen years and the solid wall defense of one political party and united attacks against the other do not give credence to anything other than the idea that owners and reporters and editors don’t care. They are playing politics and using the Press Pass for entry to a select group. Watching the WH of the past 20 years selectively punish reporters and organizations shows how compromised our reporting has become…. Why are there so few reports on union corruption, union organizing activities, union political contributions-? Mexico has had more police and military killed in 2008 than we have in Iraq and Afghanistan during the last five years but we get only passing tales, Why? And the list goes on… Some stories are not reported and others over reported with one voice.

    When the newspaper owners don’t care-WHY should we the buyers-?

  • Denny, Alaska

    Here in my (admittedly limited) newspaper market of south-central Alaska–Anchorage Daily News–the declining readership has more to do with an askew editorial stance than anything like “declining ad revenues,” as the rag likes to repeat, endlessly. I suspect (‘though have no figures to point to) that newspapers being editorially out-of-step with their readership is happening in many markets across the U.S., and has more to do with their collective death spiral than anything else.

  • http://www.theringleader.blogspot.com AJ Lynch

    Jeff:

    Nice summary you put together.

    Re the “unique visitors” data, I am probably counted twice because I access newsites from my home and work computer. So “unique visitors” is surely overstated.

    Re actual print copy subscribers, I live in the Philly suburbs and I could not count the number of people whose newspapers lie in their driveway for days. That suggests the “readers” are being overstated by Phila Media Corp. I bet this happens in other markets as well.

  • annette rogers

    i no longer trust news reporting from papers or networks on their website, tv, or in print. glaring bias from nyt, nbc, and lat, for example, have turned news into propaganda for a political point of view rather than for an honest coverage of events. i prefer websites like instapundit or kausfiles which are clear about their own perspective and point to others for additional views. i trust their transparency rather than the manipulation of the “working press” which is no longer working as a fourth estate for public benefit, but for their own gratification. they’re just like the thieves of wall street and high finance, turning a public trust into personal aggrandizement in a club atmosphere.

    work hard, jeff, to clarify and adjust this situation. i’ve followed you for years and i admire your efforts.

  • moptop

    I actually like newspapers, as a concept. What I can’t stand is that their editors seem to uniformly think like poster number one, and shove their opinions down the news pages, omitting contrary information. Instead of giving us facts, they try to tell us what to think. They color their “news” stories, like poster number one, with leftard rhetoric. Once I realized I had a choice, I stopped buying them. Even though I will buy a NYT on the occasional rainy Sunday, because I am an old man, whose first job was folding newspapers, stuffing them into a cloth bag with a shoulder strap, and riding my bike around the neighborhood after school, throwing them at porches; it stays with you.

  • moptop

    BTW, while the casual reader may not care or even notice the bias in newspapers, it is the dedicated readers, the engaged readers, that are being driven away by self indulgent, vanity operations like the LAT and NYT.

  • bobby b

    “When have newspapers been relevant anyway?”
    – - – - -

    Starting from the earliest time of written communication and continuing today with no discernable endpoint so far.

    You’d know this if you read more.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . I am an old man, whose first job was folding newspapers, stuffing them into a cloth bag with a shoulder strap, and riding my bike around the neighborhood after school, throwing them at porches; it stays with you.”
    – - – - -

    If the “it” to which you refer is the strong urge to violently fling newspapers away from you at regular intervals, then, yeah, “it” stayed with me, too. I used to aim AT something back when I was biking and delivering (late Cretaceous Period, I think), whereas now I merely try to miss other people and window glass. I have noticed that motivation has increased my range drastically.

  • http://evilpundit.mee.nu/ Evil Pundit

    The ‘Bad News’ is all good news.

    Newspapers have outlived their usefulness. The bias and incompetence of most journalists has rendered their output worthless (except as propaganda for their favoured causes).

    If I want facts, news or opinion, I’ll go to the Internet. If I want to line a my cat’s litterbox, I’ll use Kitty Litter. Both are superior to newspapers in the only functions they have.

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  • TheDopeFromHope

    I don’t see why numerous newspaper jobs lost, declining readership, fewer newspapers, etc. qualifies as “bad news.” Most Americans no longer trust the news media, nor should they. Refusing to buy a bad product is being a good consumer. If newspaper want the trust of the reader, it’s easy to see how that can be gained.

  • Danno

    Newspapers lost half their audience as political bias moved from the editorial page to the news pages. I see nothing to stop the current trend of consumers seeking news from sources who have similar political and social ideologies.

  • Jim Durbin

    The problem is clear- newspapers have fundamentally failed to understand the business they are in.

    Newspapers think they are news publishers. For reasons of ego and mythology, they assume that their business model is publishing news. It is not. Their business is publishing ads. Their biggest asset is their sales staff and the current belief that buying ads from a newspaper makes a business money.

    The “news”, the cartoons, the editorials, and even the letters to the editor are all bait. Talk to any publisher, or any reporter, will tell you they are ink-stained wretched in a noble pursuit. Failure to understand their real business works if there are no alternatives for advertisers. Now there are, and newspapers are forced to outsource their revenue generation to careerbuilder, instead of owning the space.

  • Barbara Phillips Long

    Annette –

    Do instapundit or kausfiles cover news at the municipal level or cover your local school district? How do you get news about the community where you live?

    How many stories about the school district budget or the latest land development plan voted on by municipal officials betray some liberal or conservative political bias by the reporter or editor?

    The bias I see in the national media is that it is biased in favor of coverage of urban areas and biased against coverage of rural areas.

  • Mike G

    “Over four hundred people have been brutally murdered by F- 16’s over the past week and all I read in the papers is Israeli PR”

    As long as this is going to be left up as the first comment in this thread, let’s ask Paul what happened in the week before.

  • John

    Jeff, the Bad news is that the American Economy can hardly take anymore layoffs. The unemployment rate is at a point where individual states can’t afford to pay out unemployment. McClatchy’s addition to the situation ahs exacerbated the situation and it is ironic that Career Builders had to lay off employees…BTW Career Builder isn’t worth the pixels to display it. I haven’t even found a decent lead for ANY type job there. All your unique visitors have dropped the paid subscriptions because they can’t afford it and would rather put groceries on the table than fill up their dens with old, biased irrelevant printed news. As far as printed news…Once I was laid off from the press room at the Modesto Bee, I didn’t even look for a job in printing…it is a dying trade. Perhaps I can get a degree in business and become an overpaid CEO.

  • vigilant

    Evil Pundit (Jan 3, 2009, 4:20 pm) comes closest to reality in my opinion, but the discourse is confounded e.g. blending terms and concepts related to journalism, advertising, reader/viewer verification, on-line versus reading, age preferences for news/reading, etc.

    I suggest a few core issues for reflection and discussion:

    What is the value and purpose of advertising? Is it to raise revenue OR connect a real client with a needed product? It has too long simply “covered space” e.g. ads even on restroom stalls and shopping carts, purchase receipts, etc.

    Shouldn’t cost of advertising be primarily paid by the purchaser of a product or service when they buy either?

    What is the value and purpose of journalism? Most people appreciate and often enjoy a well written and reasoned article (paper OR on-line), even if written by the “opposition.” Are readers willing to pay for “journalism” in any form?

    What information does society need to educate the populace to make informed decisions, especially in a representative democracy like the USA? Should this information be provided “free” or for a cost? How can “bias” be minimized?

    Many times I find the comments section to be as informative and thoughtful as an original article being commented on.

    This is one CLEAR advantage for on-line readers – the ability to respond to an author and to find others views both pro and con.

    I use a STRONG ad-blocker on web pages, so I don’t have to put up with UNWANTED “PUSH” advertising.

    However, I often use search engines, particularly on Amazon, if I WANT to purchase something (PULL advertising).

    In the end, I think technology will resolve advertising issues because users will find appropriate suppliers/distributors in the most efficiently way possible due to electronic technology.

    Advertising as done in the past may be a dinosaur, except for visual advertising as done in magazines or commercial literature.

    More difficult is how to determine the “value” of intellectual information. It may take a long time, or never.

  • bc

    The problem the newspapers have is;
    Instapundit-news consolidator/linker
    Fabiusmaximus-economic analysis and philosophy
    Spengler-world affairs analysis
    Drudge-consolidator/linker

    and many others…all free and excellent content providers.

  • moptop

    I agree with bc. I have always thought that the model they should aim for is to fill the pages with hard news, let the chips fall where they may, and outsource the editing function to bloggers and web sites like Lucianne. If the content is there, the links will come.

    I agree with part of the comment about local coverage. However, how many times are you going to fling the newspaper in disgust over the national coverage on the front page, which is ancient news in internet time, and which you already know the other side of the story from sites like National Review. The assumption on the part of the news editor is that the average reader has no idea that they are having information withheld from them, but this is just not true anymore. It used to be that you could get the alternative news from Rush, but now you can get it anywhere.

    Newspapers are fast becoming as popular as self published novels, and for the same reason. Self indulgence just doesn’t sell.

    I have this fantasy that newspapers would simply report facts, and ask questions of politicians to which they did not already know the answers they wanted to hear. Things like that. Instead, it seems that the whole mission of the news media is to game elections in particular ways.

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  • Bill Johnson

    Paul, whassa matter, your pithy war comments get punk’d on any forum where they are actually dicussing the subject? I’m thinkin’ that the Gaza situation is not what was being discussed here.

    Take your Ritalin, maybe you can stay on task for a few moments…

  • john

    Uh, Paul you forgot about all the rockets fired at Israel over the lat few years. Kinda like a mosquito…finally get tired of the annoyance and SWAT that sucker. Maybe this will (somehow) stimulate the U.S. economy. Sorry this was O.T. but Paul started it.

  • red

    —Over four hundred people have been brutally murdered by F- 16’s over the past week and all I read in the papers is Israeli PR

    Odd, I see it just the opposite. My local station just featured a “Palestinian Family” (there is no country of “Palestine” waiting for the residents of Gaza to leave behind terrorism and become a non-failed state)

    Also, there is a magical morphing of the victims referred to in the first post that I quote. Israel was quite effective in targeting Hamas fighters and rocket launchers.

    So I would say instead “Over three hundred terrorist thugs in Gaza have been killed and some unfortunate civilian victims – and still the terrorist thugs are launching rockets into Israel — and still the truth isn’t being portrayed in the lefty media”

  • John

    O.K. back to the topic on hand and the Bad news and not so bad news. Perhaps I don’t have the “big picture” view of the industry, but perhaps the big picture folks need to take a look at the little picture-nuts and blots- of the industry. Here is how I see it, from a simple pressman’s view. The bad news is that the papers didn’t have to go in this direction. Sure they are going to lose readers to the internet, but if they were committed to their once loyal subscribers and delivered a timely, unbiased paper to their door steps BEFORE people left for work, I really think they could hold readership. If they held on to these readers perhaps their children would pick up the paper and read it also (like my kids did) thus increasing readership. Now I have the Executive Editor of the Modesto Bee personally calling me and pleading for me to re-subscribe (at a rate less that my former employee discount). If they hadn’t lost sight of the vision of providing news instead of keeping the stockholders happy and coming up with these grandiose ideas of getting bigger by buying debt laden corporations and telling everybody don’t worry it’ll be all right, these papers would still be strong. Instead they grasp at straws and have massive layoffs in order to save a few bucks and claim their “restructuring” is giving the company a stronger foothold in the stagnant economy. B.S. when you buyout/layoff employees it only makes the economy worse and you lose subscribers (former employees) who tell their friends and contacts about the rotten way they have been treated, then those people, I’d say about 50% are subscribers; cancel their subscriptions and as the printed readership dwindles so does the credibility of the advertising getting to the reading public. The advertisers look at better ways to advertise and the papers lose advertising. How many readers does one laid off employee influence? From personal experience I know of at least 32 subscribers that have canceled because of my personal contact with them. They are shocked to know that layoffs at their local paper numbered in the hundreds and are even more irritated that they never read it in the paper (because it was on D-3 or some place where most folks don’t look). I told them to not cancel, but to call customer service and complain about the quality of the printed product, late delivery times etc., but they told me it was just easier to cancel “because the paper is liberal/biased and there aren’t that many pages in the printed edition anymore”. This is first hand experience. How many “second level” readers are affected by these “first level” cancellations? Who knows? Get rid of the dead wood, fire the CEO’s-without any severance package- that caused this mess and get back to business. Reporting UNBIASED news and information and cater to the subscribing customer. Let them talk to a LOCAL customer service rep. instead of Hadji in India. (no offense to all the Hadji’s out there).

  • Tom

    If I visit a site from work, then in the afternoon from the computer in the living room, and make one more visit before bed from the computer in the bedroom then how many unique visitors am I?

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  • http://www.thewayoftheweb.net Dan Thornton

    @yelvington (cross-commented on your blog)

    Hi, and apologies for not responding sooner – I’ve celebrated the New Year by feeling increasingly unwell!

    To set the record straight a bit, I definitely did not claim that Unique User figures should be treated as an equivalent to print readership data, although I realise I should have made that clearer in my comment on Jeff’s blog.

    And I’d agree that aggregation, behavioral targeting and productive conversations are definitely signs of effective transition.

    However, and with the greatest respect to my colleagues in research, I would say that the appropriate online measurements are a more effective tool for seeing how people really interact and respond to content than print readership data.

    Any online measurement is susceptible to an amount of inaccuracy due to people deleting cookies, using proxy servers, using different computers at work and at home, etc.

    But offline measurement is susceptible to assumptions based on delivery/sales, and the simple fact that most people will claim they act in a different way to what they actually do! Surveys, for example, are often as much as measurement of how people would like to act/be perceived as much as what they’ve actually done.

    The only real way to measure what a person does is to be able to monitor them without them being consciously aware of it – something that’s happened in ‘retail science’, and something which can be done online with a reasonable amount of accuracy, but much less offline.

    Lastly, I’d agree that local business need, and will pay to reach local customers – however, I’d want to make sure that there was a caveat that this might not be traditional display advertising on, or offline – more businesses are discovering having their own website, blog, or alternative method can be productive, and although this really is still in the early stages, it’s going to accelerate pretty quickly!

    Catching up on the later comments – personally I can’t see any content providing me with a reason to pay for a print product which degrades, gets lost, doesn’t allow interaction etc, when I can access relevant content quickly and easily online at home, on the train, and at work with the very latest updates.

    However, editorial staff can create value which will ensure I visit their sites if they’re able to convey the best information, with additional context, insight, and in ways which are engaging…

  • J.D.

    The printed paper makes a good fire started anyway.

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  • Lisa

    Jeff — I noticed you don’t have much data on the state of broadcast news. Given that 70% of Americans rely on TV for national/international news (so says Pew), that seems to be a big omission in your data.

    Keep up the good work.

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