Nobody Cares About Newspapers

Picture2When I asked my Twitter contacts recently how they felt about the inexorable decline of the newspaper industry, hardly any of ‘em seemed to care about the “Death of Newspapers.”

You can argue that the people who frequent the Twitterstream are bleeding edge, biased-toward-digital types of people.  But you’d be missing the point of this post:

For as much as people seem to wave-off the death of the newspaper, the majority of respondents to my anecdotal survey were very anxious about the fate of Journalism.

Everyone sees a need for unbiased, investigative journalism.  They just don’t care about the format.  And regardless of the format, they don’t seem to want to pay for it. 

Brighter minds than mine are wrestling with this challenge. 

My concluding thought for the day, as I proceed to my sunny deck to eat lunch with the NY TIMES folded under my arm, is that I certainly hope they figure it out.



Posted on: April 10, 2009 at 11:47 am By Todd Defren
50 Responses to “Nobody Cares About Newspapers”

 

Comments
  • Clint Armistead says:

    I am one of the many who sees a need for unbiased, investigative journalism but also doesn’t want to pay for it. And to the dying newspaper industry, I say, “All good things must come to an end.” And to add another cliche, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.”
    The age of e-Newspapers can actually be seen as a good thing. Old-time reporters might have to adjust the way they operate, but their professions are still intact. They can even get paid without me having to feed their paycheck. Or at least directly.
    With the decrease of tangible newspapers, we’ve seen an increase in effective, interactive online advertisements. Online news now depends entirely on it advertising, not subscription. Is that a bad thing? The News/info guys just move their business to a new medium and the PR/Ad guys get access to a whole new playing feel with seemingly limitless possibilities. Sure the consumer becomes more dependent on those pesky pop-ups, but a little stimulation in our economy might not be such a bad thing. I might not want to pay for the news, but if i see a cool ad for Snuggies while reading about the Somali pirates….

    • Cassie says:

      Working in the circulation office of my hometown newspaper, I see what is happening more and more. With online media, it is so easy as many of you have mentioned to get worldwide news online. But what about the feel-good stories about local events? They wouldn’t appear online. How often do you do something in your community worthwhile and then it appears online?

  • Danielle Straub says:

    I love getting my national and international news from online news sources (i.e. cnn.com and nytimes.com), but I still enjoy my printed newspaper for local news, opinions and classifieds. I hate having to pay for a print copy though. And in times like these, every penny counts! So I usually read my university’s twice-a-week publication, since it’s free. Unfortunately, most print newspaper readers do not have that luxury.

  • What I find interesting is that newspaper readership may be declining but so many clients still care about placement in publications to measure success. More people are still more likely to brag about a mention in the New York Times than a mention on a blog. Placement is still king. At least when it comes to senior management, newspapers still matter.

  • Jeff Grass says:

    Many people fail to really think about what a world without newspapers would look like. Those same people don’t really understand how valuable “real” journalism is – especially at the local government level.

    Most national news, etc. will still get covered thouroghly and newspaper Web sites will provide many journalists a medium to practice their craft. But I think we will see a major decline in stories/articles/reports on what is taking place at the local/ground-level of local politics and legislation.

    Suburban journals are dying even faster than major publications. Much of what they cover strictly pertains to local and segmented news. These publications offer PR pros valuable mediums to reach specific audiences. Most suburban journals don’t and may never have Web sites to counter this concern.

    We must remember that the concequences of the digital transition may be greater than we expect. There used to be a specific section for op-eds and commentary. Now, most news is being delivered in an op-ed fashion. Personally, I don’t desire to know everyone’s opinion on every topic – just give me the facts, etc.

    Still, I am an active member of the online community and enjoy the timeliness and instant gratification of online news, etc.

    Just some thoughts.

    -JGrass

  • The issue of what readers will pay for is much less of a concern than what advertisers will pay for. Subscriptions are not the primary source of revenue for most publications, it’s advertising. And online, advertising is worth roughly 1/10th of what it’s worth in print. Another way to look at that is that your time, your interest, your engagement spent online is valued only 10% of what it’s worth compared to reading a newspaper or watching TV. So the revenue lost due to a decline in print advertising is not being replaced online.

  • The internet has disintermediated http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disintermediation 100′s of industries or functions. Google and RSS feeds disintermediated the delivery of news function of the newspapers.

    The Kindle threatens to disintermediate the portable pleasure portion @tdefren refers to of ‘taking his New York Times out to his deck’. All that will be left is the nostalgic tactile feel of turning newspaper pages.

    @chrisbrogan highlighted the future of journalism. The remaining asset the newspapers own is the independent source of trusted journalism. I believe that to survive, they must reinvent themselves and nurture ‘authority’ and ‘trust’ and learn to deliver it in a Kindle/iPhone world.

  • Ari Herzog says:

    I will assume that the typical twitterer who responded to your query about the future of journalism was thinking the like of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other large newspapers, but not local papers and smaller presses. I’m sure even less were considering magazines and books.

    While the newspaper industry is surely changing, my take is it’s less to do with consumer demand and more to do with decreased printed advertising causing a shift to incorporate PPC and PPV ads either on a news website or within the RSS feed.

    But the local papers aren’t changing much. In fact, I can think of some locals that don’t even have a website yet the printed subscription rates are rising.

    People will pay for news, just like bookstores aren’t closing because people will pay for books and magazines.

  • JustinSMV says:

    I believe the Nelson from the Simpsons said it best “Haha your medium is dying” So True So True

  • Well, i’m a 30 year old chilean journalist trying to figure out how to get a regular job with this stupid crisis going on… and you talk about the death of the newspapers? I mean… IT’S TERRIBLE!!!! Of course people don’t want to pay for news, they want everything much more specialized and most of them have become news writers themselves, all thanks to the web 2.0 So what happens to serious professional journalism?? Nobody even believes in it anymore, because they know that because of the global media network, it’s all about the same crap: keeping the monetary system on track for al long as they can, because that’s exactly what traditional media are made for, a support channel to the economic system. So, keep on blogging, Internet is free… (sort of, not in Chine, he).

  • Doug Haslam says:

    I just realized I hadn’t commented here much since you and the SHIFT gang hired me last year.

    I share the anxiousness about the future of journalism as content over the delivery method.

    (aside: I don’t think print will go completely away anytime soon, and I don’t say that only because our client, The Christian Science Monitor, is unveiling a new weekly print edition while focusing daily and breaking news online).

    The challenge is, what will people pay for to sustain journalists? Will it be “premium” news? Will journalism realign into competing content aggregators (don;t say “portals”) sustained by advertising? Does journalism enter a public trust (a very touch y topic)?

    The next few years are going to be fascinating. I am, however, laying money on the Sunday paper sticking around.

  • In Seattle, we’re painfully aware of the death of newspapers. In the months leading up to the PI’s demise (well, in its print format anyway), I worried about the fate of journalism in our city. But the reality is that great journalism is alive and thriving. Many of the former Seattle PI reporters have launched news outlets. Hyperlocal blogs are thriving. And the new PI.com has smart reporters who are fighting with everything they have to give that news site a future.

    Some of those “brighter minds” you refer to are the people behind “No News is Bad News.” This group is actively pushing Seattle to discuss what happens in a “post-newspaper” world. If you’re interested, you can check out what they are up to at @nnbn.

  • I’m extremely interested in seeing how journalism survives as a medium. I’m hoping that it does maintain that edge that comes with unbiased and objective reporting.

    I think newspapers are failing more because of union constraints then lack of quality journalism. I hope these journalists will find a home in a new environment (and be fairly compensated for it).

  • You raise good points here, Todd, but I think too much of the ongoing “death of newspapers” discussion focuses on the wrong issue.

    We’re bemoaning the loss of a format and delivery mechanism. The real loss is in the editorial perspective. Every time I use Digg for my news, Yahoo! Pipes, or a similar aggregator, I’m essentially saying “show me more like this, more articles that align with my point of view.” In contrast, when you buy a newspaper, you’re buying the editors’ point(s) of view. Consider it curated content, but it’s content from a pragmatic angle, likely incorporating some dissent, to build a broader perspective than you might cultivate on your own.

    I’m not so worried about the death of a format; I’m more scared by the polarized landscape in a post-editorial board era.

  • Megan says:

    Interesting feedback, Todd. Was there any slant to the responses that you’d attribute to the responses all coming from tech-savvy Tweeple?

    A Boston radio station did a similar poll yesterday asking listeners if they thought that cities needed a local print paper and somewhat surprising, many called in to support print news. Among the reasons they mentioned for being wary of online-only journalism was the concern that quality of reporting would suffer if everything were to online (the assumption was that online newspapers would staff fewer writers).

    Though not as current as online news, I think the majority of people would miss print papers. Among other reasons, many people just like the feel of holding what they’re reading in their hands. That’s not to say that the print papers shouldn’t evolve — whether it’s cutting down on distribution or only printing a few days a week, they better do so quickly if they want to survive the next 5 years.

  • John Heaney says:

    What the current large papers fail to grasp in their strategy meetings is that their consumers of news want a change in their news delivery experience. The papers have a vested interest in delivering newsprint. Huge printing presses capable of churning out hundreds of thousands of copies each day. Problem is, we don’t want a pile of newsprint anymore. Will they get it before their demise, or will some new news delivery mechanism be created by someone not even on our radar screen? Whoever succeeds will do so because they redesign the entire news experience in a way that captures and delights their users. Don’t bet on the NY Times.
    More on Designing the News Experience at http://orange-envelopes.com/blog/2009/04/08/designing-the-news-experience/

  • JanSimpson says:

    Nice post. I guess the point is being missed here in my view. It is not about newspapers per se. Everyone would buy newspapers, I would love to have newspapers dropped on my driveway every morning before I turn on my laptop. The problem as @chrisbrogan point outs is the future of journalism.

    Journalism has sold out to the liberal nonsense, the Democratic hollywood scripted bs and they are the problem. Hate to use this example, but in the movie He Said/She Said it made fun of two opposing sides that actually meet in the middle to fall in love. But really what the story was portraying was two opposing sides can join together in a union or team to create a solution strategy to move forward for the best solution of all concern.

    If newspapers would figure this out – instead of beng the LA Times and keeping such important information on a campaign candidate – and slant the news – they would be just as welcomed albeit have to share in the profits, and maybe have guest bloggers – but everyone could live happily ever after – and the journalist may not feel like such liars – and could actually write what they feel. Look at @kbohls – Kirk Bohls who writes for the Austin Statesman – he is a damn good writer who writes from his passion of sports, no political or editorial bs gets in his way.

    Just my humble opinion.

    Nice post – keep up the good work.

    JanSimpson

  • Rich N says:

    Right on Todd. We still want great journalism, but full page ads aren’t going pay the bills anymore. It’s interesting seeing how AP is responding to the openness of the Web but trying to shut people off. What AP doesn’t realize is that people will find news other ways even without AP.

    However, look at what True/Slant is doing. The new, new journalism, perhaps? http://cli.gs/E3S6ve

  • C.C. Chapman says:

    Wow. We just finished recording the latest Media Hacks and talked about this EXACT topic. Kind of glad I read your post after the fact and you are dead on with what you are saying. (as usual)

  • Aaron Strout says:

    Todd – I just re-tweeted Brogan’s update but I think you’re onto something here. Don’t get me wrong, I actually do like the tactile feel and format of the Sunday Globe (especially the sports page) but not enough to specifically care about the future of newspapers.

    What I do care about is that outlets like the Christian Science Monitor, WSJ, NY Times and other newspapers/magazines continue to provide informative & unbiased news. And I may be unique but I’m willing to pay for it – with my eyeballs, or with my wallet.

    Best,
    Aaron | @aaronstrout

  • tporteous says:

    I love twitter & other forms of digital media – speed & openess is the draw for me BUT I also still love stepping away, sitting down & reading my paper – less headlines as I get that from other sources, but definately the local, arts and columns. I also still read books. Maybe pavlov dog syndrome, but turning paper pages is actually relaxing for me. It`s not just info gathering, it`s a moment in the day.

  • David says:

    Yep, I guess I’m a typical part of the problem. No interest in purchasing a newspaper every morning, but happy to subscribe to the RSS feed.

    I hope they figure it out as well!

  • I guess I’m in the minority here. I do still like my weekly local journal newspaper, and I like it in print (not online) for weekend reading away from my PC. AND, I don’t mind paying for it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I get the majority of my national and industry news online but there’s something about the local news print that I can’t seem to give up. :-)



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