Philly’s second prize

It’s a damned shame – but not a surprise – that the company that publishes the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News just filed for bankruptcy, joining Tribune, Journal Register, and more surely to follow. There’s a reason I picked Philadelphia as the poster child in my New Business Models for News Summit: destiny. Brian Tierney and his fellow investors took over the Philly papers with the best of intentions but running them under the old economics of newspapers and hedavy debt was doomed to failure; the recession only accelerated that ride down the slope. We need completely new models for news, not old models adjusted by increments. But bankruptcy can be an opportunity to make drastic moves (as I suggested with the LA Times) and it is also an opportunity for a new player to ender the market with new methods.

LATER: But Forbes reports that even while sliding down the slippery slope, he took a big raise.

  • barry blyn

    philadelphia, detroit and even now, murdoch may be under pressure with the ny post. the newspaper as we know it, ending shortly…

  • “We need completely new models for news, not old models adjusted by increments”: does it mean you don’t believe in a process of smooth and progressive transition to the new models for existing (and surviving…) newspapers?

    • Exactly the question I’ve been asking myself. I think I realize now that I’d been assuming the possibility of orderly transition. But now I think there will be destruction: things will die and vacuums will be filled. Destruction is clearly harder to deal with; it causes more pain. But perhaps it was inevitable in that the incumbents – who had 15 years since the release of the commercial browser to plan for their tarnsition – instead tried to preserve themselves. I should have seen that coming; how often do incumbents disrupt themselves?

  • Rob

    Unfortunately, drastic change, if it comes at all, may come too late to save most (many?) newspaper jobs, meaning good journalists end up retraining to push paperclips because greedy, intransigent media owners have resisted drastic change for decades.

    They continue to resist, despite the evidence it is necessity. I’m not sure why, but they’re killing themselves by refusing to adopt new techniques. Here’s one simple example that I found disheartening (as a 20-year daily newspaper vet).

    Canada’s biggest circulation daily, the Toronto Star (, ran a fascinating story this past weekend about the outlaw biker gang, the Hells Angels, going to court in Canada to seek return of trademarked nick knacks that have been seized in years of police raids. The Death Head logo of the Angels is registered with the U.S. Patent office. Fascinating story, I thought, which I saw in the printed paper that I get delivered at home on the weekend. I rushed online, thinking the Star, which has been relatively foresighted in adopting online strategies, would have value-added content online.

    To my horror, I discovered they had no (that’s none, zero) external links with the story when there’s a fascinating wealth of material online that could enhance it.

    After about 10 minutes of surfing and digging, I found the Patent Office page with the Death Head trademark (which makes for fun and fascinating reading). I also found online several statements of claim in past Hells Angels lawsuits against entrepreneurs who dared to use the Death Head without permission.

    The stuff is fun to read, fascinating and would have ratcheted up the value of the Star’s coverage immeasurably. But they were apparently too afraid, or too lazy, or too stupid, to link to it.

    So I did.

    I wrote an entry on my crime blog ( about the Angels story in the Star, with all the external links.

    God help the link-fearing MSM (of which I am an employee – crime writer at the Kingston Whig-Standard, Kingston, Ontario, Canada,

    • I could see a world where the readers add such value as you did – and get rewarded for it if the paper sold ads on your blog because you’re a part of its network, eh?

  • Berend

    Small typo: hedavy debt -> heavy debt. :) Enjoy!

  • Free is Emperor

    Well it means that most cities will end up with one paid and one free newspaper. Paid for older readers and free for younger readers.

    It’s going to be the Inquirer and Metro in Phillly.

  • Rob

    Great concept – big media companies paying contributors, maybe indirectly, to aggregate external web content, like amassing armies of online sidebar writers (not unlike the old fashioned newspaper practice of using freelancers to cover regional or far flung events). It’s hard to imagine big media taking this risk, or even grasping the concept for starters.

    FYI, I still love the Toronto Star but it maddens and saddens me to see major media organizations with such rich history and strong brand identity stumbling in these epochal times. (Torstar, the Toronto Star’s parent company, laid off 60 staff at three large dailies in Ontario this week).