Getting past newspapers’ past

Dean Singleton’s memo decreeing his strategy for Medianews is unbelievable. I swear it could have been written – hell, I read it and wrote memos arguing against memos exactly like it – in 1996. It’s as if nothing has been learned since then. I was also depressed reading Howard Kurtz’ eulogy to print but not for the same reason it depressed Howie – that is, because papers are dying. What bothered me was that, not unlike Singleton’s forward-to-the-past exercise in self-delusion, it kept all the old assumptions about news and media intact.

If we haven’t learned anything else, isn’t it that the change that has overtaken newspapers (and TV) is radical and complete? Haven’t we at least learned to throw out the old assumptions?

Apparently not.

So let’s try….

* Newspapers are no longer magnets that will draw people in. Newspapers must go to where the people are. Repeat after me: “If the news is that important, it will find me.” Think distributed.

* Newspapers online are still selling scarcity to advertisers: just so many banners presented to just so many eyeballs. Google instead sells performance and that is what motivated it to create AdSense and to get more and more targeted and efficient and relevant ads all around the web. Think abundance.

* Newspapers are inefficient. I spoke with an editor the other day who broke down the 300-person newsroom of yore and conceded that only 50 of those people created journalism. I would add that when working with a much larger network in a new news ecosystem, the news organization can be even smaller and still see as much news reported. That’s what no one ever talks about when whining about how to support news: the other side of the P&L. Think efficiency.

* Newspapers are no longer monopolies. They have new competition. That’s why they can’t set the price for content or ads anymore. The market will. Get used to it. Think like capitalists.

* Newspapers are no longer factories. Not of paper, not of content. The new news organization will add value by organizing news, enabling it to be made elsewhere, helping it to be made better and bigger in a larger ecosystem. Think collaborative.

* Newspapers are stale. The minute – minute – they say anything, what they say can – if they’re lucky – become part of the conversation and then that knowledge is a commodity. The value to the old product disappears. It’s not the product that’s valuable. Think process.

* Newspapers aren’t conversations. And conversations are the new distribution. If you can’t be searched and linked – if you close up behind a wall – you won’t be found. Think open.

* Newspapers can no longer be about control. They have to be about enabling the community to share its own knowledge and succeed doing so. Think platform.

* Newspapers aren’t paper. That’s what’s killing them. Think digital.

Think. Just think.

  • http://epicfu.com Zadi

    Exactly. :)

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  • http://www.permissiontechnology.com Dave Hendricks

    Jeff:

    I don’t think that I read the same memo from Dean Singleton that you did. What it appears that Dean is saying is that MediaNews Group needs to innovate in distribution and monetization. He says:

    “First, we continue to do an injustice to our print subscribers and create perceptions that our content has no value by putting all of our print content online for free”. There is truth to that. He owes it to his employees to run the paper as a business. Free does not scale. You don’t make up for it in volume, especially with $.12 cpm banner ads.

    Look at DowJones/WSJ – they are successfully monetizing their content via subscription. Why can’t other newspapers – if they offer unique, valubale content – do the same thing.

    If a reader isn’t willing to – at the minimum – register to view premium journalistic content, why should Dean care about that reader? That reader has NO VALUE. They can’t be targeted for better ads and they can’t be sold premium products or sent emails that might be monetized via promotion.

    1996 was the time to get real estate, it was called the internet land rush. Giving away stuff for free no longer makes sense.

    If it does, how about giving all of us a free Kindle version of ‘What Would Google Do’. Until you are willing to give me a free copy of your latest book, I agree with Dean Singleton.

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

      He’s trying to pump up the print product. He’s trying to control news that can’t be controlled. He’s wishing that what his papers produce is worth paying for. This isn’t about what readers “should” do. It’s about the marketplace.

      WWGD is free online.

      And the WSJ? Can’t you come up with another example (besides the FT)? Of course, you can’t. That’s the point.

      • http://www.permissiontechnology.com Dave Hendricks

        Thanks for providing a forum for this conversation and interacting.

        There are tons of analogs to the WSJ, thanks for the softball.

        Cable TV and Satellite Radio are whole categories that get people to pay for what they used to get for free. Clear Channel is going out of business for the same reason that newspapers are.

        Who is buying those stupid HDTV rabbit ears?

        Bottled Water. Oxygen Bars. Firewood. All paid products that used to be free. It’s just how you package them.

        I couldn’t find WWGD for free, where is? Would love to read it. for free.

        Give Singleton a break. He’s trying to make a go of it. You want him to tank? I don’t. He’s not all right, but he is trying to monetize.

        What’s your solution? Brill? Kindle? All Blogs? It’s a serious question. It’s easy to criticize, as we all know (and do).

        dave

      • John

        Sorry Jeff, you’re the one who is thinking outmoded now.
        When every paper treats content as if it’s valuable again – and they all will, trust me – people like you won’t be able to just leech off it anymore and proclaim “see, it needs to be free. It’s the new thinking! It must be free and open to all!”
        Jeff – seriously, are you kidding me? Do you think pizza makers would make more money if they gave pizzas away for free? Do you think computer makers would make money if they gave them away for free?
        Why the hell do you think newspapers should give away their product for free then?
        And Jeff, here’s the thing: we newspapers DON’T CARE if you go away as a freebie reader. Fine, GO AWAY! Seriously, go away. If you don’t want to pay for it and never will, then fine, walk away. We wouldn’t have gotten any money out of you anyway then.
        But enough people will realize that newspapers kick all you bloggers’ asses when it comes to quality news and content, and enough of them will pay for it to support it again.
        If you don’t want to be one of them Jeff, fine, Go away. Be just another guy who doesn’t read and know what’s going on in his community.
        Your life.

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

          You’re making an emotional, not an economic debate. Charging online reduces the value of what is held behind a wall, away from audience, ads, and search discovery. The Times didn’t kill Times Select as a cause but as a decision about revenue. Let’s talk facts, not emotions about kicking asses.

        • J

          I hate reading news online. Much prefer the paper. And a coffee. Huge value. Hugely enjoyable. I find online reading stressful, and you have that slight sense of not quite being in control.

          There is still a huge, huge demand for papers and they’ll continue to sell.

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

          I like horses, too.

        • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

          “Charging online reduces the value of what is held behind a wall, away from audience, ads, and search discovery.”

          Search traffic is only valuable if you can monetize it. Unless the people who come to you from search click on your ads, contribute to increased CPM or buy something on your site, they’re pointless, irrelevant, and actually just a drain on your resources.

          So search discovery, as you put it, is a canard. It’s not valuable to a publisher in and of itself. It may allow you to attract higher CPMs, or more click-through, but it’s not a “good” on its own. Sometimes, Jeff, you talk like it is – and in that, you’re wrong.

          The same is true of “audience” in general. If I have a million people come to my site and not one of them actually clicks on an ad, or they are the kind of traffic that draws very low CPMs, they’re pointless. They’ll cost me more than they make me, or, if they’re profitable as a group at all, deliver much less revenue than I need to create good quality, differentiated content.

          So actually, there are two questions here. First, will people pay for content online? The answer to that is clearly “yes”, because some successful businesses have used that model. But I think that everyone agrees that model won’t work for everyone. A lot of people are going to have to rely on ad revenue.

          So, the second question is “how do you get the kind of traffic to your site which maximises potential for ad revenue?” And the answer to that may not be “attract the biggest audience”, but “attract the highest-spending audience” (which will raise your CPMs) or “attact the audience most-likely to click on PPC ads”.

      • http://www.permissiontechnology.com Dave Hendricks

        thanks for the link Jeff…I really tried to find it first. (grin)

        For those who are not able to find the free browsable copy of WWGD: http://browseinside.harpercollins.com/index.aspx?isbn13=9780061709715

        When are you releasing the free copy for the kindle?

      • Michael Bazeley

        When newspapers are done telling their free readers to bugger off, there won’t be enough readers to matter. Just because a newspaper declares their content as having X value doesn’t mean consumers will agree. Consumers will always run to the best deal, and when a newspaper starts charging for content, someone else will step into the breach and offer the same, or better, content for free or significantly cheaper. As Jeff said, the free market sets the rules.

      • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

        Michael: “When newspapers are done telling their free readers to bugger off, there won’t be enough readers to matter.”

        What you seem to miss, though, is that “free” readers aren’t free to the web site. Traffic which doesn’t generate revenue is an expense, not an asset.

        Unless you monetize your readers, you might as well not have them.

      • Seriously

        Correction: WWGD is NOT free online.

        Free means no legal restriction relative to people’s freedom to use, redistribute and/or produce modified versions.

        WWGD is NOT free online.

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

          One could read it for free. I discuss this in the book and on this blog and in every appearance and confess to my hypocrisy. I took the advance. I’d love to dangle a check that size under your nose and see you not take it. No, on second thought, I think I’ll just keep it.

        • John

          TimesSelect had 227,000 paying subscribers when the plug was pulled. Look it up. I’d hardly call that a failure, especially when that was just to access only a few columnists.
          People like Jeff Jarvis are worried about their irrelevance again, not that he’s all that relevant much now, when newspapers figure out how to make money online.
          And like I said before, those of you who just want to read twits and blogs and opinions all day instead of well-reported, fact-checked stories written by real journalists, have at it.
          Your life.

      • Michael Bazeley

        Actually, free is a misnomer. News web sites are no more “free” than commercial local news stations or the “free” weekly paper I pick up. They are already subsidized and monetizing their readers by advertising. So this idea that news orgs are “giving” away their content is false. The business model may not be working in some cases. But there is an advertising business model, and it does work for many content sites.

    • Jannie

      Hi Jeff,
      Can you point me to where WWGD is free online?
      Tks,
      J

    • Andy Freeman

      > Why can’t other newspapers – if they offer unique, valubale content – do the same thing.

      They can. However, the number of news”papers” that actually offer unique and valuable content is much smaller than the number of newspapers.

      Pick up a newspaper and divide it into three piles, advertising, commodity news (available from many sources), and unique. Note that that’s the order by pile size. (Also note that unique is mostly sports and societyl.)

      If you can make money delivering advertising, more power to you. You’re not going to make money on commodity news.

      That leaves unique.

      In some cases, the value of the unique is high enough that enough people will register and subscribe. In other cases, you’ll have to make do with advertising.

      > If a reader isn’t willing to – at the minimum – register to view premium journalistic content, why should Dean care about that reader? That reader has NO VALUE.

      There’s no law saying that a newspaper has to care about anyone, but it’s simply wrong to say that “won’t register” users have no value.

      All news isn’t equal.

      I don’t “register” with TV stations, but they’re pretty sure that I have value. HBO, on the other hand, has a different biz model which works because they have different content.

      Registration is a cost-to-users. (So is some advertising.) Users pay what something is worth to them.

      > They can’t be targeted for better ads and they can’t be sold premium products or sent emails that might be monetized via promotion.

      Actually, only the latter is true. Ad targetting doesn’t require registration and neither does selling premium products.

      Not knowing that ad-targetting doesn’t depend on registration is a technology error. However, not knowing that you can sell premium products to unregistered users suggests a serious lack of biz knowledge. (Every buyer of premium products starts out as an unknown.)

    • J

      I think newspapers should charge, for sure. A great deal of media produced by journalists has huge, HUGE, value – and requires a lot of money, sweat, toil to produce it.

      Whether that will work as a business model, I don’t know.

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

        There’s the ultimate expression of that argument: They should charge. Dunno know whether it’s a business model, but they just should. Damnit.

      • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

        Jeff, much as it obviously riles you, getting people to pay for content remains an option. It won’t be an option for every publisher, of course. Just as in the past you got free sheets, contract publishing, and various mixes of ad/per-copy revenue, so some publications will go paid-for, some will be entirely free, some will probably be sponsored by a single company, and so on.

        There is no one true way forward.

  • http://medianation.blogspot.com Dan Kennedy

    I spoke with an editor the other day who broke down the 300-person newsroom of yore and conceded that only 50 of those people created journalism.

    Jeff, I realize this isn’t quite what you’re saying, but isn’t it axiomatic that 20 percent of the people will do 80 percent of the work? If you have a 50-person newsroom, aren’t 10 people going to do most of the work?

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

      No, it’s really about functions that aren’t needed post-internet: print production, national news, listings, etc.

  • Paul Smalera

    Sorry to toot my own horn, but after reading that memo, specifically the proposed Local.com site–oy. “Local.com” already exists, thanks to innovation and incubation, two things newspapers companies are currently paying the price for neglecting. It’s called Yelp and I covered it relative to the newspaper industry here: http://www.thebigmoney.com/articles/0s-1s-and-s/2009/05/04/rebel-yelp

  • Tom

    I’m not sure why anybody even looks at what Dean Singleton is doing. This is the guy that doesn’t use a computer, who has his sister (yes, his sister is his secretary) print out e-mails for him, who just cut online staff in El Paso and Denver, who says print is the steak and online is the salt and pepper.

    He clearly is so completely out of touch, it is obvious where he is taking MediaNews Group – to extinction.

  • http://egmnblog.wordpress.com/ Kerri Wachter

    Show me the money. I agree with a lot of what you say, Jeff. But how do we make money off of organizing, enabling and creating news “conversations”?

  • http://onmilwaukee.com Sherman

    Web 2.0, the all-encompassing term that stands for enhancing creativity, communications, information sharing, collaboration and functionality on the Web, is dead.

    And, in case you’ve missed the last 10 years of your life, printed newspapers also are dying.

    Clarification. Web 2.0, the term, is dead. Because, if a Web site isn’t about creativity, relationships, content sharing and collaboration, it’s a dinosaur. And, newspapers are about as far from these forms of interactivity that you’ll find.

    I’m not alone in calling newspapers dead, so I realize that I’m not breaking ground here. And, full disclosure, I read a printed newspaper regularly. But I mainly use the dead tree version to hunt for advertisers that should, in my humble opinion, be working with OnMilwaukee.com or, at the very least, spending their money in places that are more accountable. Most everything else (from box scores to movie listing to investigative content) in a daily paper can be better found and consumed elsewhere, specifically online.

    Time magazine recently offered ideas on how to “save” newspapers. It’s been years since I read Time, and while their story didn’t offer any major insight it did continue the death beat drums for printed papers. Read it for yourself here.

    The story also led to Jon Stewart’s proposal to put some kind of narcotic on newsprint to get readers addicted. Instead of ink rubbing off on your fingers, he said, it would be traces of a drug you would ingest. Creative, indeed, and obviously sarcasm. This is how far newsprint has fallen.

    Yet, it’s still hard to convince people that newspapers will die completely. I do think they will eventually. Probably in 20-30 years, if not a bit sooner.

    Consider this, we’re only 10 years into the Relationship Media era and look at how much your media consumption habits have changed. Leap forward 20 years and it’s almost scary what the future holds.

    Every thing today is about making information easier to share. When media companies do this, revenue and readership expand. Newspaper companies are finally figuring this out as they build out, invest and expand their online products and properties.

    Seth Godin hit the nail on the head with a recent post titled, “When newspapers are gone, what will you miss?” His conclusion? Nothing. I agree.

  • Matt

    I think you’ve got it exactly right. Now if only the rest of the world would just catch up…

    • http://www.permissiontechnology.com Dave Hendricks

      How do you pay people who create content if you don’t find some way to charge for it?

  • invitedmedia

    the problem with this whole approach is it’s just a “strategy”.

    the internet keeps moving/morphing on a daily basis while singleton/rupert/hearst decide on issues as mundane as whether to work with or without plastic logic.

    who the heck even heard of twitter 18 months ago? (i’d have said 6 months ago because the “general” public just picked up on it, but mr. jarvis’s readers are abit further along the curve.)

    facebook played second fiddle to myspace about 2 1/2 years ago, didn’t it?

    “what the heck is a “flip” camera?” might have been heard in 2007.

    where will the internet be when mr. singleton actually launches something?

    one thing for certain, it won’t sit still like these guys want it to.

  • Foobarista

    The Real Strategy is emerging: give the newspapers a Federal bailout. This innovative idea is being “socialized” already with lots of articles talking about how society will cease to exist without newspapers, etc.

    Maybe that’s why Obama was yukking it up with various journos this weekend. They’ll soon be his employees. They’re already his sycophants.

    Newspapers can then count on lots of ads touting the newest iron from Obama Motors, which won’t be allowed to have ads anywhere else.

  • palmer brown

    I can appreciate Dean and MNG taking an action and I can even see some (very little) potential in their plans. However, pursuing a plan of preservation rather than opportunity and growth has proven too many times to be a failed practice.

    What newspapers have to realize is that their past (35 or so years) was solely news. People also subscribed/purchased the newspaper for classifieds, advertising, entertainment, etc. Those non-news drivers have shifted away from the newspapers and they left holding a bag commodity news or human interest stories that the public is largely apathetic towards.

    Right now we’re talking about websites and readers coming in. MY CRYSTAL BALL: Within three years websites as we know and identify them today will be a thing of the past and largely irrelevant. The Internet of 2012 will be service and device driven (eg Twitter, iPhone Apps, etc.). “Let me look up their website” will be a thing of the past.

    Newspapers can be successful in a shift from today’s infomediary platform to tomorrows intermediary services with proper and creative planning. The focus will have to be local and forming partnerships with strong leading edge companies (not Yahoo, see: Yahoo Consortium) like Google. I am very interested in seeing what comes out of the NYT/Google discussions and really expect a Google type Consortium with the Yahoo partners on the outside looking in.

    @Dave Hendricks said: “There is truth to that. He owes it to his employees to run the paper as a business. Free does not scale. You don’t make up for it in volume, especially with $.12 cpm banner ads.”

    Dave, if my sales reps/managers were only returning an eCpm of $.12 there would be a lot of people looking for work… myself included. That is a serious sales problem, not a problem with the display ad model. I will put any of my AE’s to the challenge to develop an effective online campaign that will deliver greater results and ROI than print and have absolute confidence they will win. $10+/000 total inventory eCPM’s are realistic in 40 and smaller market DMA’s are realistic.

    • palmer brown

      Should read: What newspapers have to realize is that their past (35 or so years) was NOT solely news.

      • http://www.permissiontechnology.com Dave Hendricks

        I heart you Palmer Brown for joining the conversation. It’s not only about news, it’s about the things that have FINANCED the news.

        Craigslist has not been brought into this, but surely they are to ‘blame’ for the situation, just as the rest of the perfect storm of credit crunch, unemployment, real estate crash. The local car dealers’ ads have evaporated. No home sales ads. No classifieds.

        Jeff thinks I disagree with him that Newspapers are doomed. I don’t. Delivering half a block of wood is totally doomed. I agree with him. Delivering News (ie ‘Oprah on Twitter’) via paper in my driveway is doomed.

        But Journalism needs to be supported and can’t be doomed. The ads in this tabloid, daily format supported the coverage of local and national politics, etc. Still does. They still support the digital operations that are giving away valuable news as we type.

        What is replacing that community architecture? I do not think it is the ‘blog’. What is this blog supporting other than our inane ramblings?

        dave

  • http://slipr.com Christopher Mims

    Some day, probably when there are about 1/10th as many professional journalists as there are now, the bloodletting will stop. Not because somebody figured out some brilliant new business model, but because that’s about how many journalists are required to adequately cover the news in an era when the internet has made local delivery of news on dead trees entirely redundant.

    There will be winners — the New York Times, in whatever form it still exists, will have many more readers than it ever did in print. Mostly there will be losers. And the people who are left standing will be the ones who were doing the least hand-wringing during the decline. (Because they were too busy sharpening their skills and learning how to survive online.)

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  • symptomatic

    It is not news anymore to say that journalism does not equal newspapers or that newspapers do not equal journalism. But this is the mistake Kurtz makes when he conflates the two: “‘Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism,’ Shirky argues. That is way too glib.”

    Shirky isn’t being glib. Too subtle for Kurtz, maybe, but not glib. He’s simply making the point that information, industry (in the working-your-sources sense), and intuition are no longer the exclusive province of an artifact made from wood pulp.

    The idea that journalism is a thing made of paper is as inane as the idea that news is something that must make your hands dirty while you eat your breakfast.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/brianzim Brian Zimmerman

    TOTALLY agree Jeff & totally agree to what year does Dean Singleton think it is? Here is FEB-2000 boilerplate of Cox Interactive Media (which mind you was HUGE experiment of a “private” large media co) & this was 9 yrs ago (since disbanded) & what they did “then” is what Dean wants to do “now.”

    Cox Interactive Media (CIMedia) has built a network of locally-focused city web sites across the country with the goal of serving residents and advertisers in each of the communities they serve. CIMedia (www.cimedia.com) was founded in 1996, is a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises, Inc., and is headquartered in Atlanta. The network consists of 57 sites across the country including two specialty sites, BlackFamilies.com and GreatOutdoors.com. A leading media company, Cox Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) includes Cox Newspapers, Inc. (newspapers, direct mail marketing, book publishing), Cox Broadcasting, Inc. (TV, spot sales, television production, research and publicly traded Cox Radio, Inc [NYSE: CXR]), publicly traded Cox Communications, Inc. [NYSE: COX] (cable distribution, programming, telephone and high-speed Internet access services) in addition to CIMedia. CEI is also the world’s largest operator of automobile auctions through Manheim Auctions, providing financial services, government auctions, online services and price guides.

    • http://www.iberkshires.com Tammy Daniels

      As a Medianews refugee, all I can say is Singleton’s ramblings rarely become reality. A few years ago, the watchword was “video” and “synergy.” More Web, we were told; blogging’s the thing; videooo. What happened? A lot of nothing. These directives filter down to the local newspaper groups, where they are touted as the new, new thing – and then slowly strangled in their sleep.

      Originality is neither encouraged nor tolerated at MediaNews; the cookie-cutter mentality reigns supreme. It’s too busy trying to make everything look the same in its regional groups by sharing to save costs – ad sales, layout, reporters, photographers, Web sites – that it doesn’t have the flexibility to respond to technological and social changes.

      Last year (last year!!!) the local newspapers got the option to run updated news on their sites during the day (among the first articles posted – a funeral notice. How ironic, and ridiculous). Maybe its other groups are further ahead than that, maybe they even have better content that people might actually pay more for. I seriously doubt it.

      And as for forcing people to pay for news – go ahead and try it. But don’t be surprised when they migrate to television, radio and news sites like mine that are free. We’re betting on local, targeted advertising and classifieds, and building relationships with other media. And we’re doing it with a handful of people.

      • http://www.federalnewsradio.com/indepth Francis Rose

        Tammy,
        Your site is a survivor. Everything on the site is pertinent to my life, if I lived in your coverage area. You understand what the big boys don’t–congrats on getting it.
        Francis Rose
        Federal News Radio
        Washington DC

  • http://twitter.com/themediaisdying Paul Armstrong

    Nailed it Jeff. I also think there’s a fundamental shift in the way people (in and out of the media) regard newspapers psychologically that is affecting this shift. Thanks for bringing the points together here.

  • http://surveys.cvent.com Sherrie Mersdorf

    All I read in that memo was: blah blah blah, I don’t want you as a reader. I’m part of that “younger generation” Dean kept referring to, and if he doesn’t want me as a reader – I’m not going to be a reader… I have never purchased a newspaper in my entire life. The only paper I ever read consistently was our college newspaper because it gave me something to do in class (I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a Blackberry or an iPhone in college — which was just last year).

    Not everyone will follow his silly model that is “sooooooooooooo over.” I’ll just go someplace else. Or possibly no where. If I don’t go searching for it, I’ll still get all the news I need – probably more than I need or could possibly want. With Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and… everyone is just repeating and sharing anyway. Only one person needs to find the news and it will spread, with or without the news media’s help – that’s exactly what you’ve been saying all along anyway.

    It must be hard watching something slip away from you and not know what to do about it. Yet there are tons of people giving suggestions – viable suggestions – that are being ignored. Maybe what the “newspaper industry” needs is someone so completely removed from what they used to stand for to fix this problem. Maybe they should randomly pick a new name out of the dictionary as well to shed all that old thinking.

    • John

      Sorry Jeff, you’re the one who is thinking outmoded now.
      When every paper treats content as if it’s valuable again – and they all will, trust me – people like you won’t be able to just leech off it anymore and proclaim “see, it needs to be free. It’s the new thinking! It must be free and open to all!”
      Jeff – seriously, are you kidding me? Do you think pizza makers would make more money if they gave pizzas away for free? Do you think computer makers would make money if they gave them away for free?
      Why the hell do you think newspapers should give away their product for free then?
      And Jeff, here’s the thing: we newspapers DON’T CARE if you go away as a freebie reader. Fine, GO AWAY! Seriously, go away. If you don’t want to pay for it and never will, then fine, walk away. We wouldn’t have gotten any money out of you anyway then.
      But enough people will realize that newspapers kick all you bloggers’ asses when it comes to quality news and content, and enough of them will pay for it to support it again.
      If you don’t want to be one of them Jeff, fine, Go away. Be just another guy who doesn’t read and know what’s going on in his community.
      Your life.

    • John

      Sherry: buh-bye. Go play a video game or tweet what you just had for lunch or whatever it is your generation is so good at and think is so interesting.
      Be just another ignorant dumbass who doesn’t read.
      Your loss, your life.

      • http://thepeskyfly.blogspot.com autoegocrat

        Wow. Angsty much? Methinks it is you who has failed to read.

        “If I don’t go searching for it, I’ll still get all the news I need – probably more than I need or could possibly want.”

      • http://surveys.cvent.com Sherrie Mersdorf

        John – the problem with that thinking is, the people are still buying news papers are going to get old, they’re going to die. It sucks, but it’s life. Then what are you going to do? I’m certainly not going to start buying newspapers because I age a few decades. Taking that attitude is just putting off the problem…

    • http://www.alaskatravelgram.com Scott McMurren

      Honestly, Sherrie, your comments, along with Jeff’s, ring true. I love the phrase “If the news is that important, it will find me.” Heck, I’ve worked at newspapers since I was 11 years old. So I’ve been a news consumer, a news creator and a news distributor. Today–in my quest to get the word out about an important issue, cause or “story”, I am s-o-o-o in the hunt to put that news right where my prospective consumer will find it.Tweet-tweet, FB, iTunes, whatever. It’s my responsibility as a communicator.
      Singleton’s memo? Hmmm. Sounds like a make-work project. I know some of the people there–and they are very smart. And I imagine that the template will change more than once. It’s hardly a manifesto at this point. But at this point, honestly, it seems like he’s trying to re-write the employee handbook, giving new job titles to everyone until the next big round of cuts comes down. Hmmm.
      I was on the phone for awhile with the editor of our local paper. Great guy. He says the paper needs to be “nimble” to survive. OK. The fact is they still have great people churning out great content almost every day. But the print edition is being decimated. They’re demanding more while providing less to readers. So–from a value proposition the print edition is going down. The online edition hasn’t caught up with readers yet. It’s not as interactive as some mid-level news aggregator sites. I guess it’s fair to say the trends are playing out. I hope my friends can hang on and make it work. But it will require some new thinking, that’s for sure. To start, they should re-read Jarvis’s piece and stop listening to well-meaning, wooly-minded folks who maintain that newspapers are basically sound…”unfairly” caught between the recession and the increasing price of newsprint. Fail.

  • Dan

    How much are local papers charging for a single copy these days?
    Let’s say it’s a buck. Doesn’t it cost more than a buck to actually manufacture that paper, I mean the physical version? Perhaps I’m mistaken, but the people setting up the page to fit the paper, the building, the air conditioning, the electricity, press machine costs, the up keep, the depreciation, the paper, the ink, the trucking it around, the delivery people? Doesn’t all that cost more than a buck per paper? I read somewhere the Sunday edition costs about $8 to manufacture. So my question is what why the talk about the newspaper has value because people are charged for it? Obviously the income comes from the ads, not the buck people pay for the paper. Newspapers actually lose money on the sale of every paper. So why all this talk about it being free online and this is a problem. Seems like it’s actually a better deal for the newspaper company if I DO read their content online. It saves them from losing money on every printed version they ship out the door. Am I wrong about the costs?

    • James d.

      Let’s say the average paper charges $1.50 for the Sunday edition (it ranges greatly, and maybe the average is higher). But for the moment, let’s say that.
      The manufacturing cost is 533% higher than the price.
      Let’s say that paper goes online, though. The advertising revenue generally drops 90% — or, to put it another way, print advertising revenue is still 900% higher than online at many papers.
      Even if the percentages even out, of course, you’re talking about a tremendous decline in gross revenue as well as employees — and probably not just those whose job functions are eliminated.
      So, there is a real money factor there.
      Do most papers sell inefficiently, or not so much sell as maintain client lists? Absolutely.
      Can they find a way to make more revenue online? Possibly — there are lots of good ideas being tried outside of big media. But sometimes, I feel (and may be very wrong) Jeff argues persuasively that newspapers won’t make more online no matter what they do.

      If that’s true, the real question is, who can make real profit online besides Google while doing nothing more than creating a process for conversations and information? MySpace, YouTube and Facebook haven’t (so far). And those are the winners of the Internet so far, and the best at creating inclusive social networks.

      I guess what I’m saying is, we may eventually find out that the Web (or whatever we’re calling it) is just the world’s biggest nonprofit — unless you sell the access, backbone or select products.

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  • http://thedigitel.com Ken Hawkins

    All excellent points that we also saw. There’s a real shift going on that newspapers just haven’t fully realized yet. Rather than continuing a futile attempt at education, we sought to create what a new newspaper would be: a blend of geographic-specific blog, aggregation, and traditional newspaper. Keep what works, kick what doesn’t.

    This is what we cam up with TheDigitel.com

  • mackinro

    I don’t know how the papers can survive without charging for online access. Unfortunately, for the papers who have to-date, never charged and switch to the pay-model – they will see a decline in their page hits.

    Prior to my paper going online, I was a regular subscriber. Lying down reading the paper (cat getting in the way of course). When the paper launched their online site, I was shocked I could read the paper for FREE. It also solved my cat issue.

    Since then, I’ll buy the paper maybe once every 2 months. I would have been happy to pay for online access. Even at half the rate, the paper would be in better shape then they are today.

    It is mostly my parents who are avid readers of the paper but my generation and even more so, my kids can do just about everything online. When I bring the paper home from the coffee shop, they look at me like I’m ET. We talked about this MediaNews article last night and both kids were pretty blunt. If the paper starts charging for what was previously free, they’ll just find another source.

    The papers are bewteen the proverbial rock and a hard-place. Some will make it but others have already mopped themselves into a corner.

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  • J

    “If the news is that important, it will find me.”

    I find that a strangely depressing phrase. It sorts of emphasisis the passive. A lot of people love reading, not waiting for something to read.

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  • http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com SocraticGadfly

    To refute some of Jarvis’ nonsense:

    The “50 of 300” that produce content in the newsroom only includes writers, but not copy editors, proofreaders, fact checkers, among others. So, if you want drivel, or perhaps libel, fine, get rid of all the other 250. Blogs don’t get sued not so much because blogging is considered opinion but because most of them aren’t financially worth suing.

    Google sells making money, not “performance,” just like any other big biz.

    Per the “Dell sucks” line from Jeff Jarvis’ “What Would Google Do” ass-kissing of Page and Brin, “Jeff Jarvis sucks.”

    “Think like capitalists”? God, if this isn’t stupid. Since, until a decade ago, newspapers had the highest profit margin of about any business in the country, they’ve long been thinking like capitalists. Sure, they need to think like capitalists in new ways, but that’s entirely different.

    As for thinking like capitalists, if Jarvis weren’t:
    A. A university prof;
    B. Probably paid for his jet-setting to Davos, etc.;
    C. Possibly paid for “What Would Google Do”; he wouldn’t be writing this blog.

    What effing bullshit.

    Newspapers can’t be about control? That’s why you’ve had alt-weeklies, minority/ethnic weeklies, etc. for decades. The seven-day daily, outside official chattering classes (of whom Jarvis is simply part of the online equivalent) have long not been about control.

  • http://crazyinsuburbia.blogspot.com Soccer Mom

    Somehow news providers (I won’t call them newspapers) need to make money. By the way, I’m a community-based blogger, and I sure rely on content provided by local newsnewspapers for my own posts. I also still subscribe to hard copies of two newspapers. For my online reading purposes, I want the freedom to be able to pop around between different news sites, and pick a story here or there to read. If there was a way to sign up for a general registry, where I’d give over my credit card information (in a safe way), and where I’d get charged 10 cents to read a story, I could go for that. I might wind up paying more per day than I do now. But to have to sign up for each and every newspaper that has content I might want to read would be very annoying. I think it would drive customers away. It would be cumbersome. To have to come up with a user name and password for each publication. Since I also use newspaper and magazine websites for research, I probably browse through dozens of publications per day. Aggregators like Huffington Posts or social media sites like Twitter also increase people’s expectations of gaining access to content on a multitude of sites quickly and easily.

    I do believe that readers more than ever read news content produced by professional journalists. They want professionally produced content.

    But, as one media observer wrote, it’s less about the publication these days and more about the individual content .

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