A newspaper publisher lies

Just for the record and what it’s worth, in his speech arguing that newspapers are OK – really, they are – Louisville Courier-Journal publisher Arnold Garson lies about me. He says:

Jeff Jarvis is another consultant who has been very widely quoted about the pending death of newspapers. He has written such articles as “Hitting the coffin nail on the head for newspapers,” and “Why newspapers are . . .” ‚ I can’t say the word in polite company, but it starts with an F. He also is the author of the book, What Would Google Do? a fawning look at a company that has built a business model that is dependent, in part, on content taken from newspapers. But the key thing you need to know about Mr. Jarvis is that he does consulting work for new-media companies that compete directly with newspapers, and, thus has a vested interest in the economic decline of newspapers. The worse we do, the better he does.

In fact, the only companies that have paid me recently to consult or speak are newspaper and magazine companies here, in Germany, and in the U.K. I list all my clients on my disclosures page. I am a partner at Daylife and its largest clients are all mainstream news companies; the better they do, the better Daylife does. I will also work this summer on the New Business Models for News Project at CUNY to try to flesh out more revenue and business models for journalism; that is funded by the Knight, McCormick, and MacArther foundations.

Garson did not bother to research or check his facts and instead chose to libel me just because we disagree and I dare to criticize newspapers’ stewardship of journalism. Who does he think he is – a blogger?

I think Garson is also wrong about Google taking content rather than sending audience to him, but I’ll spare us the lecture on the link economy vs. the content economy.

And I think he’s wrong about newspapers. His first big defense of the state of their business is that they’re better off than car dealers and Realtors. That sure as hell ain’t saying much. And, of course, every time a dealer and an agent goes out of business, newspapers lose more business. But nevermind. The sand down here looks just fine. What newspapers need is not a defense but an offense.

  • It’s still convenient when you’re out at a restaurant (iPhoneless) and you want to figure out what events are going on around town to be able to grab the newspaper.

    BUT, I don’t like the online stories that only tell half the story so then you have to pick up a newspaper…I forget by the time I’m around the newspaper to look for the article, and most likely I’d have already researched another story online where I could find the information.

    Still, I love to read the newspaper and our weekly papers here. I think they just need to cover and hype up more local events and people rather than covering the big national stories that you can read anywhere.

  • Tim

    This would be funny just as long as the people listening didn’t buy any of it.

  • Mike Manitoba

    Wow, Jeff, Jesus has nothing on you.

  • What brutal, sad irony. My frustration with the medium I grew up with and loved (newspapers) has transformed to anger as they willfully ignore facts, make fallacious arguments extolling their own virtues and feigning their own persecution at the hands of new media. Stop blaming others for your shortcomings and start embracing the technologies available to you so that you can expand and become more relevant, instead of irrelevant. Arg, print media, ARG.

  • I couldn’t find patch.com on your “disclosures page”. What’s up with that?

    • I do not work for Patch and have not been paid by them. I’ve met with them and will again this week and so they asked to say that I’d advised them and I said fine. Because I’m also involved with The Local at The Times via CUNY and have also advised friend Debbie Gallant, I chose not to sign on for compensation of any sort at this point. If I do, I’ll say so. But good catch in any case.

  • Robert Levine

    He’s not being fair, and shame on him. But, Jeff, if you were more forthcoming about the business problems of online media, you wouldn’t get tagged as being so biased. Where are you when Gawker and Wired.com lay off employees? You’re advising young people to work for new media startups (for pennies on the dollar)! Where are you when HuffPo takes an entire article from a Chicago alt-weekly, in _clear_ violation of fair-use law? You’re talking about the value of citizen journalism! Where are you when Holtzbrinck tries to unload the Facebook imitation StudiVZ? You’re preaching the value of social networking!

    But, hey, when the Wall Street Journal put out a memo you don’t like, wow, you really come alive! Way to get enraged.

    • Just spoke with Gawker last night. They’re doing wonderfully, since you ask. Wired.com? Read other posts that say that the magazine stayed preeminent and so when they had to lay off, they targeted those damned online people. The HuffPo episode was one case and they fired the intern; care to draw and quarter the person as well now? Holtzbrick is having problems in its US print division, as I understand the story there.

      Rob, it’s time for you to get your own blog. You have more than the average dose of bile. You’ll fit in.

      • Robert Levine

        Gawker is doing fine BECAUSE they’ve laid off a bunch of people! Wired laid off online people _because_ the .com was losing money. (They prioritized the magazine because of, um, revenue.) HuffPo two weeks ago took a Billboard article IN FULL, so it wasn’t a one-time thing. (They apologized . . .and blamed it on a junior employee!) Holtzbrinck may be hurting in the U.S., but it is actively trying to unload Studi – which you know.

        I’ve thought about a blog – and thanks. But I’m not sure I should give away what I can sell.

        • Well, in that case, your, uh, generosity of late has been, well, frightening.

  • Is that a Gannett newspaper in Louisville? Just wondering. I was laid off from a Gannett newspaper in December 2008. Gannett has been tightening its belt and surviving aggressively, a bit like polar bears mating with grizzlies for better survival chances. What does it say about news that I’m following this thread & commenting from my 10-year-old daughter’s handheld Nintendo DSi game device, not from any phone. This morning I got my headlines not from the newspaper but via Twitter on the handy DSi.

  • Sorry, Jeff – I was a consultant for far too long to fall for this particular twist of logic . Companies spend money on consultants when they are convinced (often by their consultants) that they have problems. Big problems. Problems that they need to solve or their very existence is threatened.

    The fact that you get paid by newspapers and mainstream news companies doesn’t mean you’re not an online evangelist. Your incentive is, as Robert Levine has so eloquently pointed out, to highlight the problems of old media and minimize the problems of online media, so that your clients feel the need to change.

    Change within their clients are the consultants’ lifeblood, far moreso than revenue or profit.

    • Oh, newspapers aren’t in trouble and don’t need to change and the only reason they’re doing so is because a blowhard such as myself is telling them to and if I just shut up everything would be OK. Of course. Nevermind.

      • OK, I deserved that.

        I’m not saying you’re wrong – newspapers are definitely in trouble. My feeling is that their problem lies with the timeliness of their news (once per day updates in a real-time world), rather than a complex array of financial, organizational and cultural problems, but that’s not here nor there.

        What I’m saying is that your claims about being un-biased on this topic don’t ring true to me. Garson’s claim (“he does consulting work for new-media companies that compete directly with newspapers, and, thus has a vested interest in the economic decline of newspapers. The worse we do, the better he does”) seems more on the mark.

        There’s no need to be un-biased in this situation. Biased is both acceptable and expected. I (and Robert) are saying embrace it, don’t run from it.

        • I wasn’t trying to zing you but to answer you and your perfectly legitimate question. So it’s not a matter of deserving anything.

          But I still say your are wrong on the fact. I do NOT consult for new-media companies that benefit at the expense of newspapers. It’s simply false. He lied about me.

          Bias? I have plenty of bias. I’m a blogger. And a consultant. And a professor. I have opinions. Nothing wrong with that. And my opinions are often directed against the monopolist newspaper publishers and editors who did nothing to bring journalism into the new age. But that is why I help where I can. And that is why it’s fine for Garson to disagree with me. But it’s not fine for him to lie about me. Especially not as he rides his high horse against lowly bloggers. He’s worse than the worst blogger, I’d say.

        • Hmm, so maybe it’s just a matter of interpretation. I read his comment to be that you benefit at the decline of newspapers, not that the new-media companies do.

          It’s fair to say that you benefit at the decline of newspapers, as I said above (declining firms need more consultants to save them from decline). The new-media companies benefit on their own merits, not the decline of others (although their success comes from many of the same events that are killings newspapers)

          Could this be the first blog-comments conversation that actually resolves a point? Wow…someone alert the (new) media!

        • please forgive the blogus interruptus…

          if what you say is true, here’s a newspaper that should have called mr. jarvis months ago (click my id)

        • One more time: I earn a fraction of what I used to when I worked for a newspaper company. I chose to teach to help students reinvent and rescue journalism. If you knew what I made as a professor vs. what I made as a newspaper industry executive, you’d know that it’s not money that motivates me and my work in journalism. Enough.

      • Mike Manitoba

        In this sense, “nevermind” should be two words.

      • Andy Freeman

        > What I’m saying is that your claims about being un-biased on this topic don’t ring true to me.

        Jarvis doesn’t claim to be unbiased.

        To recap – when Jarvis points out that a “Jarvis is biased” argument is based on falsehoods, the defense of that argument is yet another falsehood.

        Given that, it’s no big surprise that the biases that he’s accused of aren’t the biases that he actually has.

        For example, one of Jarvis’ biases is that he wants journalists to make money. He expresses this bias by telling them to stop doing things that don’t make money and start doing things that do.

        For some reason, that approach offends people so much that they lie about Jarvis’ bias. They seem to think that they should be paid to do things that other people are unwilling to pay them to do.

    • J

      What I will say about Jeff’s blog – despite him winding me up something cronic and me wanting to throw stuff at the screen – is that hte level of debate is top drawer. Excellent reading at times.

  • Just 3 questions:

    Are you saying that the penetration numbers, especially with young people are lies?

    Do you argue that “Do Not Call” didn’t hurt newspapers?

    Do you argue with his point that not one person is employed full time in internet journalism in Louisville?

  • I just sent this e-mail:


    Not only was your research poor related to Jeff Jarvis, it was poor related to the Kansas City Kansan.

    As the person who transformed The Kansan to online only, I happen to know a bit about the publication.

    The historical facts are, KCK suffered a serious decline in fortunes in the 1980s when the middle class fled Wyandotte County for trendier suburbs. Currently, Wyandotte has no middle class to speak of. It’s a very poor county. Secondly, prior ownership made a serious mistake in relocating the Kansan out of KCK and into another area of Wyandotte County, selling it’s downtown office. This created a lot of hard feelings in the community and tarnished the brand significantly. Third, once the paper’s fortunes began to decline, successive absentee owners milked it for profits rather than invest in fixing its editorial problems.

    The Kansas City Star has had zero impact on the fortunes of the Kansan. It has no meaningful competitive presence in KCK and never has.

    As a journalists, I would think it would be important for you to get your fact straight before drawing conclusions from assumptions.

  • I love the irony here, that the whole point of WWGD? is to get beyond that mindset of zero sum scarcity. To me those remarks just demonstrate exactly the kind of binary thinking that will ruin any business these days.

    E.g. why would someone fawn over a company “that has built a business model that is dependent, in part, on content taken from newspapers,” when your larger strategy supposedly involves having a “vested interest in the economic decline of newspapers”?

    What would Google do after sucking their alleged meal ticket dry?

  • I love the discussion as a perfect example of old media v. new media. I am in a german journalist organisation and we try to convince old school journalists not to be frightened of the possibilities of the net.
    I would be less confused if people, would adress in their first sentence the one, they are talking to like @Jeff Jarvis. It would help a lot to follow the discussion.

  • Alex

    Re: sparing us the lecture on the link economy vs. the content economy.

    The content economy — if we were only to limit it to newspapers (and not the many other commercial enterprises that create and sell content) — involves the sales (not free giveaways) of 40-50 million newspapers every day, with annual paid advertising north of $30 billion, employing somewhere around 300,000 men and women in the US. The link economy, not so much. Some of the best-known link economy citizens have been lucky that there are universities that need teachers, conferences that need speakers, and book publishers that need hot titles, because their own self-publishing efforts — while influential — do not constitute an economy that one can live on, let alone 300,000 people and their families.

    • Oh, OK, why don’t you invest your life’s savings in NYTimesCo and McClatchy stock. Great buys.

      • Alex

        I wish you had given me that advice three months ago! I’d be 65% richer today, if I had invested my life savings in NYTimes stock 90 days ago. My point isn’t what speculators on Wall Street think. It is simply that we are all speaking of the “content economy” in the past tense, when in fact it remains a huge driver of the real economy today while the “link economy” provides infinitely fewer jobs. Even someone like yourself — as articulate and driven as anyone I know of in this business — has to teach and write books in order to make a living. The link economy is not an economy; it’s a method of participating in a community. But it puts very little food on the table for content creators.

  • Eric Gauvin


    You must not be paying attention if you don’t know why I (and others) don’t like you. It’s because you represent the internet as a breeding ground for BS artists and twisted, over-hyped crap.

    That said, here’s an interesting book you should read to continue your cause:


  • hi,
    “please forgive the blogus interruptus…

    if what you say is true, here’s a newspaper that should have called mr. jarvis months ago (click my id)” :(

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