Blinders? Check.

The always witless World Association of Newspapers really does it this time. In their desire to defend print — over updating and preserving journalism — they came out with a new ad campaign that says:

Picture 22

Which says: We will continue to give you a one-way product that doesn’t listen to you and lets you do just one thing: turn the damned page.

Another ad makes fun of dumb things people say and adds this quote from the Economist: “Newspapers are an endangered species.” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Yes, that’s a good one. Newspaper companies? Health as can be.


  • It’s ironic that they quote The Economist, too, as that’s one of the newspapers which is bucking the trend of falling revenue thanks to a great strategy of commitment to online coupled to commitment to high-quality content no matter what medium it goes out in.

    The Economist is investing in quality journalism and using online (and print) to deliver it, rather than complaining about online while cutting journalistic resources. That’s a lesson a few of WAN’s members could do with learning.

  • Walter Abbott

    Seems I recall another famous one-way product from years gone by. “And that’s the way it is, Wednesday…”

  • I failed to finish their ad entitled “the Good News”, a Google logo spoof accompanied by a 500+ word tome.

    @Ian: It is good to see the Economist doing so well, though I think they are struggling with the web in their own right. Only recently have they given away the print edition for free on the web. Though there is some interplay between print edition and web-only content on their site, there is still a strong division and print edition retains its prodigal son status. They have added commenting on story pages, but the comments appear on a separate page, not beneath the article text. Emails to the editors appear on the site, but they are not given the same status on the website as the letters to the editor, nor do they appear in the print edition. I would imagine that like most media companies, there’s also a divide between the print and online staff as the future of digital is shaking out.

    That being said, the Economist is probably my favorite paper, and I’ve been a subscriber for years. Beyond web, their print circulation is growing with much of that growth occurring in North America. They do skew much older (and much more affluent), and that demographic is still comfortable with print. But I think this is a minor factor. I think the bigger reasons they’re growing are a great brand image and unique, dense, well-crafted content. The Economist’s brand is esoteric, rational, elite, and it carries a prestige that few other publications can match. The content is unique, (mostly) well-argued, and backed by simple presentations of primary source data. Beyond the quality of the content is its density, and some articles have to be read and re-read (in addition to careful study of the graphics) to be understood. It’s a major effort to finish any single issue, and I think that density of information and the concentrated reading required will continue to prop up demand for a print edition.

    That being said, very few other print publications have the demographics, the content quality, and the brand that make the Economist viable.

  • Did you see the latest Readership Institute Study?

    Newspapers still reach a hell of a lot of people. There are still a lot of people who love newspapers.

    The problem with newspapers isn’t that people who work at them and run them don’t get the Internet. The problem is newspapers don’t do a very good job of telling people why they have advantages over other media for both reading and advertising. The problem is marketing.

    For newspapers.

    Now, the web, that’s a different story. Newspapers, in general, suck at the web, and that’s a huge problem going forward.

    But you’re conflating in this post newspapers and news web sites. The newspaper isn’t a great product for conversational journalism, but that isn’t the kind of journalism that newspaper readers (and newspaper readers still far outnumber web news consumers) are looking for.

    One of the mistakes newspapers have been making is a failure to differentiate products. Newspapers should try harder to be newspapers, and news organizations that want to run web sites should work harder at making webcentric news sites, instead of just dumping the same old journalism into the digital world.

    This is a great ad. My only complaint would be they’re probably not running it on billboards across town. Newspapers don’t do much marketing beyond their own product, and right now that’s a bigger mistake than ever.

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  • tdc

    i swear, since the 80’s, every time i see the phrase “endangered species” i think of gilda and her famous line… “who’d want to save them?”

  • tdc

    never mind

  • Josh

    C’mon Jeff, you’re expecting too much from an organization who’s own website is communicating their “Hot off the Press” information in an “e-newsletter” format dated January, 2008!

    Does anyone else see a parallel to the band playing on the deck of the Titanic?

  • The ad says: “We will continue to give you [what we’ve always given you]”… since they really have no choice… In this case, “Doing the right thing might just be too hard…” Yes, it is clear that “Newspapers are an endangered species.” But, we have to ask the question: “What can they do?” which is a very, very different question than “What should they do?” or even “What is good for journalism?”

    The reality is that the newspaper industry today is still structured along geographic lines which reflect the imperatives of the old “ink on paper” physical goods business. Internally, each newspaper has a capital and expense structure that reflects not only the need to own and operate presses, trucks, sales departments, etc. but the debt that has accumulated through mergers and acquisitions. Their ownership is generally public and the public market is unforgiving when companies attempt radical restructuring — no matter how rational or right.

    It may not matter if we can “prove” that a paper-less paper can generate higher margins than a print-based paper, that journalism would be better served by being freed from its shackles to the printing press or that the life of paper-based newspapers is limited. We may be seeing an industry that is so rooted in the economic realities of its past that it simply can’t change — no matter how much it might want to. It may be that knowing how to do it better may be irrelevant — if you are already in the business. I may be that only upstarts are free enough from ties to the past that they can afford to build the businesses that will carry journalism forward.

    Jeff, you say you’re working on a project to define business models for the new journalism. Well, it might make sense to also put a good bit of effort into thinking about the business process for shutting down the old newspaper business… How much will it cost and who is going to pay for it?

    bob wyman

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