Nobody can be a newspaper

Dirk Liedtke tweeted about a Newspaper Association of America ad defending newspapers (of course), which I didn’t see because I’m reading the New York Times on Kindle and iPhone and Mac these days (so much for the success of print). He linked to the text here and it includes all the expected protestations about how newspapers are just fine – really, they are, really – and how there are wondrous innovations in print advertising (shape and polybag ads, post-it notes, “we prints,” shingle spadeas, scented ads, taste-it ads, glow-in-the-dark, belly bands and temporary tattoos!) Fine. It’s no surprise that a trade association would defend its trade, though I still wish they’d update and defend the value of news over the value of print.

But this line in the NAA’s ad stood out:

No amount of effort from local bloggers, non-profit news entities or TV news sources could match the depth and breadth of newspaper-produced content.

“No amount of effort.” No, it’s impossible: no one could do what a newspaper does except a newspaper. Don’t even try, people. It’s hopeless. Really, give up, now. Leave it to us. We know best. How many times do I have to tell you to stop!

There, right there is the core problem with the newspaper industry. Its leaders should be seeing the potential in collaborating with those bloggers, nonprofit news entities and TV news to create and curate news in new and expansive and more efficient (and profitable) ways. Instead, they want to do it all – and own and control it all – themselves. They don’t see and thus can’t exploit the new economics of the Google age. Instead, they defend their ways.

No amount of protest against change will stop it.

  • I agree, industries in denial are in for a rude awakening
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  • Like symphony orchestras, the old guard of newspapers is stuck in a demographic death spiral where a self-reinforcing worldview ensures an ever-shrinking market.

    Of course, there’s an Arab expression for every situation. For this one, they’d scoop up a handful of sand and say ” the harder you squeeze it, the faster it runs through your fingers.

  • And in other news –

    “The Huffington Post blog has poached The Washington Post investigations editor Lawrence Roberts to head up its newly established investigative initiative.”

  • I for one am so very tired of flaying this dead media horse of a conversation. Can’t we all just say newspaper leadership is clumsy, stupid and clueless, and move on from there? Leave ’em to perish on their own strangled vines? Jeez…

    • OK, but this one was irresistible, wasn’t it?

  • That’s not what I’m learning in my media convergence class.

  • John

    I had an idea this AM …. It seems there’s an interesting connection between the newspapers, automakers and the internet.

    Both newspapers and automakers grew by offering us more and more and better and better choices in order to gain market share, which they did.

    Then they started selling their goods on the web and had to organize all their choices – the newspaper was atomized into breaking news, ads, op-eds, the array of vehicle model choices and features became overwhelming but all neatly organized into neat little bins as required by the underlying database nature of the network.

    Now we can examine each of these choices and pick just the ones we want … or build a better choice since we no longer need to build the entire newspaper or in another extreme, NASA doesn’t need to be the only one launching satellites.

  • invitedmedia

    “no one could do what a newspaper does except a newspaper”

    the examples given are about various print ads and not news so my response would be “who’d want to?” (which happens to be the same response emily litella gave when asked about saving the ‘endangered feces’)

  • I feel you, SpaceyG, but I’m actually getting paid to watch this slow, horrible train wreck. Anybody who’s participating in this “for fun” needs a checkup from the neck up!

  • Tex Lovera

    “No amount of effort from local bloggers, non-profit news entities or TV news sources could match the depth and breadth of newspaper-produced content.”

    One blogger acting alone? Unlikely.

    Many bloggers, sites, etc. acting like a “web” of information? They already are.

    What the newspapers are sellin’, I ain’t buyin’.

  • I thought you were making a joke on their behalf quoting: “shape and polybag ads, post-it notes, “we prints,” shingle spadeas, scented ads, taste-it ads, glow-in-the-dark, belly bands and temporary tattoos.”
    But they are really saying that. Maybe this ad isn’t meant to be taken serious. It can’t be…

  • Andy Freeman

    > No amount of effort from local bloggers, non-profit news entities or TV news sources could match the depth and breadth of newspaper-produced content.

    Oh really?

    Take your local newspaper. Divide it into three piles, advertisements, commodity news, reprinted from somewhere else, and content that the newspaper actually produced. Notice which pile is smallest and that it’s dominated by sports and society.

    The quote compares what newspapers claim to do with what other folks actually do. Things look very different if we compare what newspapers actually do with what other folks actually do.

    • Dave

      Exactly, and with how badly most newspapers have slashed their newsrooms their ability to produce content is greatly diminished.

  • You are well spoken and very astute. This is the first time I’ve seen your blog and I love it. This article made me laugh as did Sean Wood’s comment. There are some in the newpaper industry who are beginning to see the wisdom in collaboration, but for those who don’t, they’re going to perish, it’s only a matter of time.

  • No amount of effort will ever convince me it is a good idea to smudge my fingers with newsprint instead of leisurely scrolling on my iPhone.

  • Only a newspaper publisher believes ads or that “what a newspaper does” is worth a hill of beans.

  • Love the “No amount of effort” line – just priceless.

    Reminds me:

    No one likes change. Change just doesn’t care…

  • Pingback: What’s the solution? « Life is what you make it()

  • I wonder how the trade association can explain away graphs like that in:

  • Dead wrong. In many urban areas the combined output of local bloggers is far greater than that of the commercial media in the area.

  • Jim Knopf

    I am wondering about this part of Mr. Jarvis posting:

    <quote wish they’d update and defend the value of news over the value of print.

    As a journalist and long time media employee I second this wish! It illustrates an interesting problem: The discussion is not about media but about product. And the products editorial staffs produce are news, not papers. OK, news are produces to fit the media that transport them, but that is just a question of style.

    And another thing, before anybody starts the bashing: I am well aware that modern journalism is often not worth a penny, not matter what medium. But for the sake of argument lets assume that journalism has to do with quality, originality, whit, investigation, news, seriousness – in short, that it is worth the money.

    Basics first: What are news? Are we talking about the same product when mentioning bloggers and journalists in the same context? What is pure information (as a manual for say a car, what is opinion, what is simple manipulation? What is considered as news in the internet age? I don’t think that news in the internet are any different from news on paper, on TV, on the radio or on a cave wall. But other might think otherwise.

    Aside from that and to me even more interesting: Is the majority of people actually willing and able to collect and judge the “news” without help? And please, “able” does not necessarily allude to being mentally able but also to aspects like “Do they have the time and/or the technology etc.?”.

    The editorial stuff not only creates products like news, opions etc., but also provides services to its customers. Of course, both products and services have to be made for the medium that transports them, otherwise both will be a failure.

    I am waiting for someone who is able to listen and to talk with all the various sources and voices that can be found on the internet. [Obviously, I am not waiting for Google News!] Someone, who is able to distill the news and opinions and features out of it that I want and need to know about. A journalist who goes out and utilizes the internet simply as a new way to investigate about what people think or want or need – and I don’t mean googling! And who is man or woman enough to start into a dialog with his sources and customers.

  • I saw this “ad” in the print edition of the Post yesterday and haven’t stopped thinking about it since then. What you can’t tell, from just the text link here, is that the thing reads like a chastising memo from God. It’s a half page ad, laid out like a huge piece of John Sturm’s letterhead, basically insisting that everything else you read about how newspapers are dying is FALSE and what he’s saying is TRUE because he’s the CEO. There’s a lot of BOLD TEXT, as if putting it in bold makes it truer or something. He also signed it, as if that, too, makes it final and binding or something.

    I am one of the billions of people who “reads” the paper every day–I have a subscription to the Post. I glance at the above the fold headlines on the front page, the last page of the Metro section to see the forecast, and my horoscope. Rarely do I read more than that; the only reason I even saw this ad was because my husband knew it would set me off and pointed it out to me.

    I just don’t understand what he/the NAA thought there was to be gained by running such a defensive ad. What, if a CEO pronounces that citizen journalism can never match newspaper-produced content, that will suddenly make it true? Please. The tone and the format of the ad were such that any actual information he presented was lost, and the whole thing just came off as laughable.

  • You’re absolutely right in suggesting that newspapers need to find ways to partner with bloggers and adapt to social media. Sturm’s advertorial was outrageous. My last blog post attacks his “facts,” which have no attribution. You can check it out here: