Saturday, January 07, 2006

Some more newspaper stuff

From the poster Bubbler on the board, one of the best analogies I've seen regarding the newspaper business and where it goes from here...

This industry will never die, but it does remind me of railroads in the 1960s and 70s more so than the asinine buggy whip cliches the Chicken Little's parrot.

Faced with sea-to-sea interstate trucking competition (along with massive federal regulation) many railroads, who were used to dominating its industry in a manner where newspapers once dominated newsgathering, were turning profits they weren't used to. Many cut back with defrayed maintenance on their rolling stock, rail, etc, to save costs. Not dissimilar from cutting our news hole/setting deadlines to cut news as we do now.

What the railroads found out was that by not maintaining their physical plant, their performance dropped anyway and they lost business -- the Rock Island and Milwaukee Road found out most harshly when both went under (also due to an overabundance of lines in their midwestern bases).

What the railroad survivors realized was that they had niches that no transportation industry had and they exploited them, to the point where commercial rail today is as healthy as its ever been.

Newspapers have many of the same advantages in newsgathering, not to mention brand-name loyalty, to follow roughly the same model. But its going to take forward-thinking.

# # #

He's right. Forward-thinking is what it is going to take. In the end, the companies that are most willing to adapt will be the ones to survive. They're going to be the ones who realize that profit margin does not dictate success. They're going to be the ones who realize that readers don't neccessarily want short stories that don't jump. Most importantly, they're going to be the ones who finally understand how to make the print and online versions of the paper work together. Newspapers have to be more creative. It seems like they get caught in the mindset that it has been done this way and worked for X-number of years, so has to be done that way now and it will work. The ones that don't learn will fail, and it will be addition by subtraction.

I wonder if there is any coorelation to dropping circulation numbers since USA Today and the Gannetization of newspapers began. They like to say they're "respecting readers' busy schedules" by making stories shorter, but it seems to me more people would take the time to read the paper if stories were more meaningful and valuable.

Or maybe I'm completely off, and no one from my generation is ever going to read the newspaper.


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