Posts about print

Tough love for media

Here in a bit more friendly video format is the keynote I gave to the Munich Media Days (in English) a week ago, which I linked to earlier. I decided to be blunt and tough and tell them I was worried about the protectionist talk I’ve been hearing from Germany and that they need to have hard discussions about the change that will waft over there from here. Carta also put up a transcript.

Jeff Jarvis: “Google is not an enemy, Google is a model” from Carta on Vimeo.


Though by the reputation given me by others, I’m supposed to be disagreeable, twice today, I’ve disappointed big, old media people by not disagreeing enough.

Business Week wanted a debate over the fate of print with me supposed to take the side that print is doomed while Chris Tolles of Topix was supposed to argue that it isn’t. But it turns out that we agreed too much and so they took out my first lines (though I put them back). Chris says that digital will lead the way. I agree:

Whether or not print dies, its business model will. Physical wares—newspapers, books, magazines, discs—will no longer be the primary or most profitable means of delivering and interacting with media: news, fact, entertainment, or education. It’s not that print is bad. It’s that digital is better.

And this morning, I appeared on the CBS Morning Show in a segment with Andi Silverman, author of Mama Knows Breast, about a dustup caused when Facebook took down photos of women breastfeeding. The producers were looking for disagreement, but they knew going in that we wouldn’t be arguing. Andi defended breastfeeding as hardly indecent and I said we have to stop paying attention just to complainers or we’ll end up in a media world in which anything that could offend will be banned – and most everything can offend someone.

Watch CBS Videos Online

You’d think these would be happy endings to discussions: agreement found, consensus gained. But that doesn’t fit the format. I like this as a new form of contrariness: not being contrary and agreeing – nodding as the new act of subversion.

: LATER: Chris Tolles, too, added back in notes of agreement to his side of the debate. Group hug.

Whither Entertainment Weekly?

Rumors have had it for a few weeks that Entertainment Weekly might kill its print edition and go fully online. Now it’s an Official Rumor from the Official Monger: It’s in Gawker.

Now I suppose I could look at this as the death of my baby or as a continuation of my print jinx. But if it’s true, I’d see it as a necessary metamorphosis. And no, that’s not because I hate print.

But print weeklies are looking doomed without my hex. Newsweek is cutting staff and circulation. I got a Time this week and it was so thin I could have used its spine as a razor. U.S. News is essentially no longer. Business Week is struggling. TV Guide is walking dead. Even mighty People was down last year. Weekly is weakly.

I’ve said in recent years that if I launched EW today, it wouldn’t be as a magazine. Nor should it be as a collection of critics and features. In my book, I say: “One-size-fits-all won’t work anymore, but a system that helps us help each other find the best entertainment would be valuable. If I were to start Entertainment Weekly today, it would be that: a collaborative Google of taste. Today we have ways to make entertainment more of a social experience.” EW should be a system, not a magazine or even a site.

I’ve asked myself whether I’d be sad if EW no longer published a magazine. I do, as Gawker points out, take some pride in starting this x-hundred-million-a-year print brand. But I take my pulse and feel no palpitation. Print isn’t special.

I would feel sad if the brand and franchise died. If they did, it would be because they didn’t update – not today but years ago. Just as newspapers should have seen the impact of the internet coming on more than 13 years ago, so should EW and other magazines, especially a magazine about entertainment in an era of exploding art world and about taste in an era of democratized opinion. Nothing is forever.

: In the comments, Parenting founder Robin Wolaner adds:

Jeff, I have similar feelings about the inevitable demise of Parenting. As the founder, I would rather have people know what I created – a brand that made $20 MM in profits annually in its day. But the print parenting magazine publishers, including our alma mater, haven’t recognized how much better online information serves their audience, so the magazines have been doomed for a decade. It’s just a matter of the advertisers catching on to the artificial circulation levels.

Just what the world needed

Just saw the Esquire eInk cover. BFD. All it does is bring the blinking banner add to paper. What will they think of next? Radio ads that play when you open The New Yorker?

Newspapers: Find your essence

Moments after posting the news about the the Daily Mail doing without a TV critic (below), I read Lucas Grindley on another paper getting rid of its movie critic and NFL writer, among others, . . . because they are not local and newspapers, at their essence, must be local. Amen to that.

The managing editor for the Winston-Salem Journal was faced with the need to cut his budget. And when looking around the newsroom, he saw the same thing all of us do. Duplication of efforts. So the Journal’s film critic and NFL writer were laid off.

Local film critics for national movies are a vestige of different times. For most markets, there’s no local angle to Mission Impossible 3.

Reassign your reporter now, before it’s too late, to something that might attract new readers. I wonder what the Journal’s managing editor would have covered if he had reassigned that film critic a year ago.

Maybe you’re the film critic. Don’t wait around for this same fate. Convince your editor to use wire copy so you can cover something else. Because when it comes time for the editor to look around the room for cost savings, your beat needs to be local and indispensable.

Sports writers, listen up. If you’re not writing something more than the game story, then you’re next. An editor can get that same gamer from the wire.

Features writers, if what you’re covering is on the wire regularly, then your beat isn’t local enough. Food is a national topic. Travel is a national topic.

Business writers, you’re not immune either. Prominent media types are already advising newspapers to “outsource” all types of coverage.

Death by a thousand cuts. A slow death is happening as newspapers lose writers. Don’t let positions get cut because you didn’t have enough foresight to realize they were being wasted. Maybe circulation declines wouldn’t be so steep today if we’d ensured every beat in the room was local, and couldn’t be replaced by wire copy.

Now read the managing editor of the paper, Ken Otterbourg, writing on his blog about the cutbacks:

We were one of the smallest newspapers to have a full-time film critic, and we enjoyed that distinction. But there’s plenty of excellent film criticism out there that we can use for nationally released movies. We’ll still occasionally review movies with a local tie-in. By contrast, nobody else is covering the local board of education or the city council. It’s unique content. So in making our decisions, we were guided by our belief that what we can do best is cover Winston-Salem, Forsyth County and Northwest North Carolina. That’s where we think our future lies, being a metro paper with a strong community focus.

Here are a few posts where I’ve been pushing newspapers to boil themselves to their essence. But Lucas Grindley is right: This is about making shifts and investments now, before it’s too late.