Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Media News

The Fate of Newspapers: Farm It, Milk It, Or Feed It 167

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-an-era dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "According to Alan D. Mutter, after a 50% drop in newspaper advertising since 2005, the old ways of running a newspaper can no longer succeed, so most publishers are faced with choosing the best possible strategy going-forward for their mature but declining businesses: farm it, feed it, or milk it. Warren Buffett is farming it, and recently bucked the widespread pessimism about the future of newspapers by buying 63 titles from Media General. He is concentrating on small and medium papers in defensible markets, while steering clear of metro markets, where costs are high and competition is fierce. 'I do not have any secret sauce,' says Buffett. 'There are still 1,400 daily papers in the United States. The nice thing about it is that somebody can think about the best answer and we can copy him. Two or three years from now, you'll see a much better-defined pattern of operations online and in print by papers.' Advance Publications is milking it by cutting staff and reducing print publication to three days a week at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, thus making the Crescent City the largest American metropolis to be deprived of a daily dose of wood fiber in its news diet. Once dismantled, the local reporting infrastructure in communities like New Orleans will almost certainly never be rebuilt. 'By cutting staff to a bare minimum and printing only on the days it is profitable to do so, publishers can milk considerable sums from their franchises until the day these once-indomitable cash cows go dry.' Rupert Murdoch is feeding it as he spins his newspapers out of News Corp. and into a separate company empowered to innovate the traditional publishing businesses into the future. In various interviews after announcing the planned spinoff, Murdoch promised to launch the new company with no debt and ample cash to aggressively pursue digital publishing opportunities across a variety of platforms. 'If the spinoff materializes in anywhere near the way Murdoch is spinning it, however, it could turn out to be a model for iterating the way forward for newspapers.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Fate of Newspapers: Farm It, Milk It, Or Feed It

Comments Filter:
  • by kevinroyalty (756450) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:03PM (#40658107) Homepage
    my local paper i only want on sunday. in attempting to subscribe for sunday only, they say "no, you have to take it friday/saturday/sunday". i say "sunday only, or i don't subscribe". they wouldn't budge. guess what i decided :) on the occasion i want a sunday paper, i go to the local gas station which is not far from my place and pick up a paper. i won't be shedding any tears when they fold (ha!)
    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Yeah I know what you mean. I told my magazine publisher I only want even-numbered months, because those are the "special" issues with designated themes, and therefore better. But they wouldn't budge. Insisted I MUST buy the odd-numbered months too. Fie on them!

      • by PCM2 (4486)

        A lot of papers offer Sunday-only subscriptions. Sunday is a big moneymaker, what with all the coupons, night life ads, etc.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:32PM (#40658293)

      My pet peeve is how they keep treating loyal subscribers worse than new subscribers. I don't understand why either: They practically incentivize canceling your subscription. It's the same with mobile phones.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Wanna know what I've noticed in the shop? Asking customers why they always seem to have that bloated as hell yahoo portal as their home page I've found that they are using it to replace the paper as the papers have gotten too slow, too much press release garbage, too much AP regurgitating. Instead the older folks and soccer moms have switched to the Yahoo Portal while the younger folks use Google News if they want to know what is going on. Hell even my parents who always had a newspaper subscription haven'

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Instead the older folks and soccer moms have switched to the Yahoo Portal while the younger folks use Google News if they want to know what is going on.

        It's worse than that. The younger folks use Twitter and Facebook for news. A long long time ago newspapers used to print mainly news, but over the decades almost all news media has shifted to giving you opinions rather than factual information. But why bother with the media when you can get opinions and low quality journalism from people you follow on social networking sites?

        The only other thing newspapers have to offer is titillation and a bit of a celebrity freak show, but of course no-one can complete wi

        • by s.petry (762400)

          A long long time ago newspapers used to print mainly news, but over the decades almost all news media has shifted to giving you opinions rather than factual information

          News always gave you opinion, that's what sold. The problem now is that there are no striking differences in any opinion from paper to TV to Radio to Web. It's nearly always the same opinion if they even decide to talk about "News".

          What I think concerns me the most is that people have not noticed, but you know what? Politicians have. A tiny percentage of the population pays attention to big issues, and when people to point to things they tend to quickly get drowned out by corporate owned media. For two

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        Yup.

        I have one friend who reads the paper more than he reads news online. Mostly, I think, because he works as a telemarketer, and its easier and more acceptable to read the paper while soliciting donations on the phone than to whip out a laptop (especially since recording devices are a no no in call centers that take credit cards).

        Every few weeks he comes out with the hot new story thats going to blow my socks off....invariably I already saw it...online...usually days ago.

    • by flyneye (84093)

      I just read the one at work. There's no way I would pay for that drivel,misinformation and disinformation. Especially in an election year.( probably the only reason there are still dead tree versions)
      So Warren bought the farm, huh? The cattle producing the fertilizer aren't getting any better. It's the same old milk and chemicals as always. We get our news from the internet and blogs now. Warren has a lot of paper to clean his butt with I guess. It's interesting to watch someone so respected, fall on their

    • by Rob Riggs (6418)

      The Chicago Tribune does a Sunday-only subscription. I just want the paper delivered by 6AM. My wife and I are early morning people -- get up early, read the paper with breakfast, and get out.of the house by 7:30AM. Our paper was typically delivered somewhere between 9-10AM on Sunday morning. That's completely useless to us. We no longer pay for a subscription. The Tribune won't stop delivering the paper though.

      We would be disappointed if the newspaper had decent Sunday Funnies. They are the worst of

  • Nice power vacuum... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:07PM (#40658119)

    As of recently, because private newspapers have been shutting down, going digital only, or otherwise withering on the vine, there is another type that is waiting in the wings to take over mainstream news:

    Newspapers from governments and causes. The whole government of Qatar is paid for because of Al Jazeera. I'm sure other governments will be happy to step in to provide "news" that is slanted their way.

    I'm amazed people like Rush Limbaugh have not stepped in to have their own newspaper printed in a region.

    Sometimes, I hope for a "people's paper". Journalism is like the music industry -- completely and utterly dead, but there are some experienced reporters. Combine that with someone who can do basic paper layout, it might be possible for a local paper to be run on a shoestring and still provide reasonably accurate coverage on news topic. No, they may not have the cool Associated Press articles, but it is far better than nothing.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      >>>I'm amazed people like Rush Limbaugh have not stepped in to have their own newspaper printed in a region.

      Well there is one "person like Rush" who created an online newspaper: Glenn Beck. So you can scratch your amazement: It's already been done.

    • Hyperbole much? The problem with journalism is people want stuff for free and traditional outlets that have found themselves under a free market system (rather than being a loss-leader for entertainment segments). The joke of it all is the consumers still want their newspapers, they just want it from the internet.

      And the problem with what people *think* is journalism is too many Limbaugh types have created their own agenda-promoting outlets. Drudge is one, the Huffington Post is another.

      • by Genda (560240)

        And people honestly think they can keep getting their news free forever... when will they learn, just because you can't see it, you're still paying.

  • The one thing I have noticed is that Warren Buffet cannot resist getting involved in newspapers. Just because he invested money in them, in this case, I would not consider this a smart investment.

    • by SurfsUp (11523)

      The one thing I have noticed is that Warren Buffet cannot resist getting involved in newspapers. Just because he invested money in them, in this case, I would not consider this a smart investment.

      It's about time for Warren Buffet to get some comeuppance. A cutthroat buyout specialist masquerading as a down home good ol boy. Admires Lloyd Blankfein. Opines that Barklays did nothing wrong by fiddling the LIBOR. Profited hugely from the world's misery in 2008. Hates technology so much that he believes buying shrinking dead tree newspapers is a great idea, because there aren't any buggy whip factories to buy. Go for it Warren!

      After all, it worked so well for Conrad Black.

    • by wmbetts (1306001)

      Chances are he knows what he's doing. If I was investing in news papers I would do the same thing he's doing. Newspapers in small towns have a better chance of turning a profit, because that's generally where people get their small town news. No website is going to report on stuff that matters to them, because those 1k or 30k people towns don't generally matter to them. There's also generally one paper in town which is a plus.

      • Re:Warren Buffet (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tftp (111690) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @10:12PM (#40660087) Homepage

        No website is going to report on stuff that matters to them, because those 1k or 30k people towns don't generally matter to them.

        You believe that in a crowd of 1K to 30K people there is not one geek who can set up a LAMP with Joomla? And that there are no willing contributors who can master the simple user interface of Joomla? Life in small towns is not all hard labor, it's also long periods of boredom.

        A newspaper is a costly proposition. You have to print it somewhere (your 1K village has no printing press!) and deliver quickly, and distribute. There is no feedback.

        An electronic newspaper is free to publish. It supports logins for subscription if you insist on it, but logins are primarily for comments. This makes it interactive. That Fred Smith from a ranch 30 miles down the road does not come to town every day, but he is certain to log in every morning and every evening, read it all and add comments to whatever he finds interesting.

        I haven't touched a newspaper in a decade. Probably haven't intentionally seen one either. Why would anyone want one? It's not even ecologically sensible, to kill trees just to deliver a few minutes per day of amusement to a family when the same, or better, can be achieved electronically, at a millionth of cost.

        • by wmbetts (1306001)

          I never said "life in a small town is all hard labor" and never eluded to it. Nice try at trying to make me look like someone who looks down on small town people though.

          I did live 30 miles from the nearest town and guess what. I got a newspaper. Was it on my step every morning? No, but it was in my mailbox by the time I got done working. I could have gotten satellite Internet, but I didn't really see the point. I was hardly ever inside anyway. When I did get on the Internet it was via a dialup account and t

          • by tftp (111690)

            Nice try at trying to make me look like someone who looks down on small town people though.

            I didn't mean to create such impression. I only wanted to say that people in small towns have free time - perhaps even more of it than people in large cities, just because the nearest theater is 100 miles away.

            I was visiting people in a small town (population about 520) in CA a few months ago. They had wireless internet (Verizon) pretty much everywhere. They had access to Web and email inside the house and outsid

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            If you really want to try and refute my point supply some successful examples of an individual running a website that is out performing the towns newspaper.

            Well, here's one [lakeconews.com]... lame as it is, it's better than our "real" rag. Way more competent.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:08PM (#40658133)

    Where I live (Vancouver, Canada) both dailies are run by the same company. They print the same stories and have the same pro-corporation slant. One of them uses smaller words and dumbs things down a bit, but they are basically exactly the same. As a cost saving measure and as an ultimate sign of cheapness and laziness, these papers reprint, annually, the exact same stories word for word. The editors are told what their opinions are and quietly promotes whatever rubbish the owner tells them to. There are so many "special information supplements", info-marketing inserts, infomercials, and advertisements disguised as news articles that it just has to be illegal.

    Tell me why I should care if these papers die. As far as I'm concerned it can't happen soon enough.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Tell me why I should care if these papers die. As far as I'm concerned it can't happen soon enough.

      I'm pretty much of the same opinion. I'm in Ontario, a few hours south of Toronto right now, and all of the papers are owned by two companies. They all have the same stories. They all have the same types of articles with the same types of spin. They all have pretty much the same content, with the same opinions.

      Someone tell me why I should read them? The Toronto star has been giving away papers at the local grocery stores for months on end trying to drive up subscription numbers. I don't think it's work

      • Someone tell me why I should read them?

        These days I only read newspapers on airplanes, and that is only if power to my (Android) tablet runs out because the cheap buggers could not be arsed to install a USB connector in the seat and I somehow forgot to charge up the day before.

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          I know exactly what you mean. I have el-cheapo kobo referb($34 can't beat it), and I just got a new smartphone(samsung galaxy gravity smart) basically one of the el-cheapo basement jobs. It only took me 10 years, and I needed one for work. But, such is life. It does give me two ways to read books, and when I'm at the airport it lets me do the same thing. Grab either the paper, or simply read a book on either one. Since I found a good ebook reader for the phone(Aldiko) I've been using my phone more ofte

    • Where I live (Vancouver, Canada) both dailies are run by the same company. They print the same stories and have the same pro-corporation slant. One of them uses smaller words and dumbs things down a bit, but they are basically exactly the same. As a cost saving measure and as an ultimate sign of cheapness and laziness, these papers reprint, annually, the exact same stories word for word. The editors are told what their opinions are and quietly promotes whatever rubbish the owner tells them to. There are so many "special information supplements", info-marketing inserts, infomercials, and advertisements disguised as news articles that it just has to be illegal. Tell me why I should care if these papers die. As far as I'm concerned it can't happen soon enough.

      You should not care if the Sun and Province die. At least, they should shut down their tree-killing, environment polluting paper editions and go digital like everybody with a clue.

    • ...and eventually slaughter it.

      Just like they way they treat sports people in the UK
  • So? (Score:4, Informative)

    by cpu6502 (1960974) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:13PM (#40658177)

    People still read newspapers. E-ink or LCD newspapers. If the newspaper can't find a way to convert from wood to electronic, then it probably deserves to die since it's being inefficient.

    That's how the market operates... give the customer what he/she wants or else don't get purchased & go out of business. BTW my two local papers were owned by the same company. They cut costs by merging the two papers since they were basically redundant.

    • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gbjbaanb (229885) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:28PM (#40658265)

      so you end up with a single source for your news... that tells you all the truth about exactly what is going on in the world/your area.

      and if you believe that, you already know the Republicans are the only party that it makes sense to vote for.

      I agree that free market economics are the way to run these things, but there is a market for printed news. Hopefully these places can streamline their operations (by merging various functions like printing and certain non-news parts) and continue to provide a product.

      • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by benhattman (1258918) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @06:04PM (#40658819)

        That doesn't make any sense. Digital distribution is cheaper, which means you can have more competitors than you could with print distribution.

        What's killing news is that digital means there are essentially no more scoops. When a story comes out, it is on every cable news channel well within the hour, and posted on every digital newspaper within minutes, and news aggregators like HuffPo within seconds. Before, a true scoop meant your had the only paper publishing a story that day. Not only did that garner eyeballs, but it brought prestige too. Now it mostly means increased news consumption overall with a lot of that consumption going to your competitors with no compensation for your own paper's work.

        Which is why news agencies have been cutting their staff for years. It's cheaper for everyone to ride the coattails of someone else. It's even cheaper to have interns watching twitter for trending stories. The bottom line is news is both a product but also a public good, and like many public goods capitalism may not be the optimal structure for maximizing it's non-monetary benefit to society.

        • That doesn't make any sense. Digital distribution is cheaper, which means you can have more competitors than you could with print distribution.

          You're right - that doesn't make any sense. Distribution is the least of their costs. Production is the biggest, and digital does very little to cut those costs.

          What's killing news is that digital means there are essentially no more scoops.

          Scoops don't pay the bills. You've been watching too many old movies.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        >>>so you end up with a single source for your news...

        Only if I lived in a vacuum. Apparently you think the only way to get news is through a daily paper delivery, but we also have this thing called TV. And radio. And the internet. I hear a WIDE range of views.

        • by gbjbaanb (229885)

          I think you'd be surprised at the number of people who just don't listen or watch the news, and use the internet for porn and faceboook only.

          I was surprised when I found this out, you just need a friend who doesn't fall into the same "intelligentsia" demographic as us. Then you'd also find out why shite shows such as singing-voting-'reality' TV are so popular.

      • by Maestro4k (707634)

        so you end up with a single source for your news... that tells you all the truth about exactly what is going on in the world/your area.

        Odds are that's already the case. In the county I live in we used to have 2 different city papers and a county-wide paper, all independently owned and managed. But that hasn't been the case now for probably two decades. They all got bought up by the same company, and were being printed by the same company and even shared staff. There was no independence between them, the only difference was that the paper for city A would run more stories about stuff that happened only in city A and the paper for city B wou

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No one gives a shit what newspapers say any more. You can tell from the article title what the article is going to say, because it will be politically correct.

      The newspapers are run by journalism majors who think their job is to "give voice to the voiceless". They're dying because people are sick of the same heterosexual white cismale guilt liberalism every day.

      Newspapers have admitted to censoring race when blacks commit crimes. If there's a problem, they either find a way to blame heterosexual white ci

    • by fermion (181285)
      Years ago, just as the average person began to know what the Internet it, my city went to one newspaper. It is was known at the time, but denied, that surviving paper made a buyout offer to speed the demise of the losing paper. I believe that the issue was capital assets. There were simply not enough people to support two sets of building, printing presses, and distribution sites.

      In this transitional period, the question is who is going to pay for the printing presses and buildings that cost the same n

    • ...is that you're going from "paper dollars" to "digital dimes". In "the good old days" newspapers used to have a virtual monopoly on "the information sideroad". They could charge extortionate ad rates and get away with it, because they were "the only game in town". Then came the internet. Canadian example; You can...
      * search a a very specific home at http://www.realtor.ca/ [realtor.ca] for free
      * search for a very specific jobe at http://english.monster.ca/ [monster.ca] for free
      * search for used cars and light trucks at http://www.a [autotrader.ca]

  • by peter303 (12292) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:13PM (#40658183)
    Most notable the San Francisco Examiner. Several of his papers are distributed as free dailies in major cities.
    Anshultz media group also owns about a third of US movie theaters (Regal) and show production company that was putting on Michael Jacksons final tour.
    He has not publicly stated what his goals are. His earlier investments were oil and gas, railroads, and fiber cable.
  • Milk for the win (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:27PM (#40658255)

    publishers can milk considerable sums from their franchises until the day these once-indomitable cash cows go dry

    What, never? Locally they're milking it. The physical paper version is a spam delivery service with some stereotypical human interest stories that I'm not interested in and some traditional "journalism" that I'm also uninterested in (horoscopes, local event boosterism/complimentary copy, etc), and some AP news items from a couple days ago to fill unsold ad space. They will not stop delivering spam until mailed paper spam stops, maybe even after. The online version I guess delivers spam (I use a ad blocker, I don't even know) but primarily seems to make its money off pageviews of "comments" which are nothing other than paid political sloganeering where paid political operatives sling tired old slogans at each other as a form of spam.

    The cash cow is, give us money, and we'll print your spam and deliver it all over our local geographic quasi-monopoly, I'm not seeing that going away any time soon. Their competitors are US postal mail and direct-mail-spam-services using US postal mail to deliver one pitch per envelope/postcard. Also there are aggregator competitors who mail envelopes stuffed full of coupons and spam and flyers in bulk from multiple companies rather than one promo at a time. Finally there are the special interest papers who will never die, the local free entertainment rag full of which band is playing at which bar and which bar has ladies night on which night, and the occasional political axe to grind slant paper.

    Here's the formula. Get ad contracts with Best Buy / Verizon ATT whatever / local car dealers / Target / walmart / local stores if any remain in business. Surround with some fishwrap, containing a cute picture of a puppy or some kid, fill empty space with AP news articles from a couple days ago, print a zillion copies, hand deliver the spam and spam-envelope to approximately one third of local homes.

  • Quality (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:28PM (#40658263)

    The problem with news is that the quality is crap. It's biased, the headlines are misleading, and there's often no research done ahead of time. Nothing of value will be lost there. But good journalism, research, unbiased headlines... they're getting screwed too. And that makes me sad, because the news is essential for the proper functioning of a democratic society. If we don't know what's going on, if we don't have people willing to get in there to get the full story, not just the press releases... we're screwed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Unbiased headlines" belong in the same fantasy bin as "bug-free code" and "honest project reports". Never happened, never will.

      "Research" and "good journalism" do exist, and yes they're getting screwed because there's no incentive for them. Facts aren't protected by copyright, so they can't be monetized. There's no set penalty in news for getting it wrong, so there's no real incentive to get it right. "Research" in journalism has always been up against a deadline; but with 24-hour news, the pressure is on

      • "Research" in journalism has always been up against a deadline; but with 24-hour news, the pressure is on every journalist to report now, dammit, not in 4 hours' time when they might have some idea what they're talking about.

        And the idea that it was any different back when major papers published as many six editions a day belongs in the same rubbish bin you consign "unbiased headlines" to. Today, if you're ten minutes late, your story hits the air or the web ten minutes late. Back then, if you were ten mi

  • by Gravis Zero (934156) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:32PM (#40658289)

    if you become comfortable in a certain business model you will die. you have to follow where technology is going and possibly steer it to your advantage. newspapers ignored technology and now that it's hurting them, they trying to catch up. they should have been the leaders in the internet realm as it's purely a communications medium. hell, they should have been driving the internet to new places but instead they are reactionary and slow at that. blogs have shown up far too late and they strait up shot themselves in the foot with paywalls which were put in AFTER so many other site with free content thrived by using advertising systems that didnt suck.

    you need to try a lot of different things. diversify your strategy or your one basket may be in trouble.

    • It always amazed me how utterly crap their comment system were, and why they made no effort to create an online community around themselves, turning that into a volunteer workforce. If Wikipedia can create an entire encyclopaedia around volunteers, surely a newspaper can turn readers into content providers (and I don't just mean "send in your funny snaps!")

      Even in the pre-net days, pedants would mail letters in to point out errors in spelling, grammar and facts. There are bloggers and activists today who do

      • by StopKoolaidPoliticsT (1010439) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @07:50PM (#40659431)
        My local (Gannett owned) paper has always had its biases and whatnot... we can argue about content all day long, BUT they used to have a pretty decent phpbb forum to comment on stories (or whatever people wanted to talk about). The forums were relatively unmoderated unless people became abusive, which allowed a wide range of opinions, for better or worse, to be subjected to debate. About once a year, the forums would get reset and we'd start from scratch.

        Well, at one point back in 2007 or 2008, Gannett made the decision to force all of their papers onto Pluck. It was infuriatingly slow, it could be hard to find stories, but obviously, it was meant to give the papers more editorial control over all of their content (it's nice when you can make stories suddenly disappear from memory) but also encouraged them to do it with reader comments. Opinions which differed from the paper's staff, reasonable and polite or not, were deleted. The paper would start "ghosting" users, so that their posts appeared when they were logged in, but nobody else could see them. Readers that agreed with the paper's biases could get away with any amount of abuse of other readers. The editorial staff and executive staff of the paper didn't care, they just let things fester.

        Then Gannett made the decision that there was just too much abuse going on in the comments and that it was too much work to keep up with, so they switched to facebook commenting (the reality, based on reading a Gannett insider blog [blogspot.com], I get the distinct impression that may be that an exeucitve had pre-IPO stock in facebook, so this could be quite a personal boon as well).

        Next thing you know, they were instituting a paywall, requiring a large mandatory subscription increase for paper-only subscribers that have no interest in digital, while simultaneously letting more than two dozen staff members "retire early" and shrinking the paper to a size that you couldn't start a fire with. About the same time, they printed a story on local tax delinquints, only they forgot to disclose that an editor at the paper was himself a delinquint, tried to scrub the posts when a reader posted it and then threatened legal action (ok, "consulting a lawyer about legal action") for libel when the story, along with the link to the state database, spread. A senior editor doesn't know that truth is an absolute defense in a libel/defamation case! And rather than simply admit it, the editor and one of the executives waged an online campaign against the readers before ultimatley hiding the comments.

        They just seem determined to shoot themselves in the foot at every opportunity. And Gannett's executives just seem to be milking the company for every little drop they can get out of it along the way.
  • by T Murphy (1054674) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:32PM (#40658291) Journal
    Two of the big Chicago papers- Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald- each make a point to do investigative reporting, finding information on mismanaged government funds, questionable hiring practices, and other political negligence or misconduct (which we have plenty of). We'll always have some form of news source covering events that are geared towards the media, like the presidential elections, sporting events and press releases, but it takes an established newspaper run by people willing to invest in time-consuming research to generate quality investigative reporting. With politicians who have more clout than an average citizen can handle, it takes a newspaper with a weight of its own to fight back. I realize newspapers are going to have to make significant changes to stay in business, and that many won't make it, but I am worried that in the process we may lose one of our best means of keeping the government in check.
    • by vlm (69642)

      I note a lot of govt govt govt politician in your post. Wake me when a local newspaper does a shocking expose on their advertisers, like the local real estate criminals, or the used car dealers, or the local food stores.

      I don't really need journalists to tell me political party A is full of crooks, because
      1) political party B is thrilled to tell me all about how crooked party A is
      2) both sides are equally full of crooks
      3) I have no input on the matter, its not like I have an option for non-crooked govt, or

      • by T Murphy (1054674) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @06:51PM (#40659083) Journal
        It's much harder to do investigative reporting on private companies, as you basically need a whistleblower on the inside in order to get hard facts*. The papers do have "What's your problem" columns where the newspaper steps in to help a consumer being held at the mercy of a company. Of course, if you want an expose on advertisers, that would require funding newspapers entirely on subscriptions in order to remove any appearance of bias.

        Also, your Party A/Party B comment shows you don't pay attention. When the newspapers dig up enough dirt on a politician, they become a pariah, and other politicians will want nothing to do with them. Your comment is like saying that because athletes get away with some calls when the ref isn't looking that sports are better off without referees. No, the newspapers aren't going to straighten out politics, but they force politicians to maintain some level of honesty. There have been cases where newspaper investigations have triggered criminal investigations. I agree we're never going to get a clean government, but it's thanks to idiots like you that it is possible to get disasters with names like "Blagojevich" in office. They are not all the same, and they are not all crooks (especially the more local you get).

        *Private companies can blow you off a lot easier if you start asking questions, and also will readily sue (retaining lawyers will strain the newspaper's budget). Digging up dirt on the government generally involves public documents and FOIA requests, which makes it easier to build a case and harder for the government to brush it aside.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Have you heard of something called Fast and Furious? Not even Congress is allowed to look at documentation on that and found the Secretary of Justice in Contempt of Congress with bipartisan support for it.

          You are confusing public information that doesn't make the political party in power being easy to get vs. documentation showing hundreds murdered by a policy being run by the party in power not available even to Congress.

          All of the DNC is standing behind Holder still, despite the amount of negative things

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:33PM (#40658299)

    Everyone thinks the news is free since it's all just a click away. There are lots of great aggregators like Google News, Yahoo, Bing, as well as specialty aggregators like Slashdot.

    SOME news is free. Flikr and tweets by passers by are free, but a worldwide professional staff of reporters, editors and publishing infrastructure (either print or online) is expensive to maintain and will not survive years of wholesale freeloading.

    Longtime newspaper readers have already noticed a substantial drop in the quality of almost every big major newspaper in the country (except for maybe USA Today, which is the exception that proves the rule) over the past ten years or so. They've all had to let go a large part of their staffs.

    So just as people are whining that they don't make pop music the way they used to, so we're starting to see that with the reporting of the news. Yes, there will be plenty of news to read, more than you'll have time to read, but the quality has gone down and will go down further.

    • Longtime newspaper readers have already noticed a substantial drop in the quality of almost every big major newspaper in the country (except for maybe USA Today, which is the exception that proves the rule) over the past ten years or so.

      Quite the opposite - you haven't noticed a drop in quality in USA Today because it was already pretty close to rock bottom.

      • I was about to write the same thing - unless it starts coming out in crayon done by 2nd graders, how could it be worse????
    • ...there will be plenty of news to read, more than you'll have time to read, but the quality has gone down and will go down further.

      I can't say I ever felt really deeply fulfilled by having a selection of sound bites read to me slowly by an actor.

  • Been milking us with faux news and editorials for many decades, politicking, and whoring for advertisements like cigarettes and (p)harmaceuticals. We are going to have to evolve new systems and methods of news capture, aggregation, evaluation and packaging.
  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:36PM (#40658321)
    A good newspaper that spends time investigating, digging, and has the balls to take on critical issues have been a huge pillar of our civilization. But take my local newspaper in Nova Scotia. Technically it is independent which is great but it is run by one rich family so do you think that it will run exposes on their friends? I can't remember the last time, if ever, they have nailed a slimy car dealership or real-estate agent to the wall as these are some of their biggest remaining advertisers. They did wail away at our current mayor but it was more schoolyard than Watergate. It was a local arts paper that did the gumshoe work that blew him out of office. The Mayor in waiting looks like a putz and I haven't seen them take a single shot at him.

    Move one province over and the major newspapers are owned by the richest family there.

    But the internet is made up of a bunch of little twerps with nothing to loose and everything to gain(becoming the next Drudge) by blowing up an old boys club or two by exposing truths that our local newspapers are too incestuously invested in.... I Love It!!!
  • Regardless of how you feel about Warren Buffett, he'll be better for us and better for the newspaper industry than Rupert Murdoch.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Warren Buffett will be better than Rupert Murdoch how? The so-called Buffett rule/law he is pushing very conveniently helps Buffett avoid paying income taxes. He's just as big a jerk as Murdoch.

  • by Bhrian (531263) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:47PM (#40658399) Journal
    A local newspaper owner told me last week that 80% of a newspaper's income is from legal notifications. Cities have legal obligations to publish notifications regarding meetings, sales, and such. State law says they much use a local paper that's existed for more than 3 years and has a subscriber base of a certain number. Of course, these same notifications could easily be included in utility bills or other, much less expensive alternatives. Basically taxpayer money is being used to keep newspapers alive.
  • Alan D. Mutter writes that with a 50% drop in newspaper advertising since 2005, the old ways of running a newspaper can no longer succeed so most publishers are faced with choosing the best possible strategy going-forward for their mature but declining businesses: farm it, feed it, or milk it.

    Mutter's smart, but he's got it wrong. Mutter's assuming the product is a constant stable commodity but the real story is how its changing. The strategy first has to focus on what you wanna make and distribute (based partially on what ad contracts you can sell). Then, and only then, can you decide what strategy to push product.

    For example, my local fishwrap has all but given up on reporting news. Why bother, in this era? Every 2-3 years they fire 50% of the remaining reporters and editors. What they a

  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @05:17PM (#40658595)

    I think the reasons why newspapers are dying is simple: the "de-massification of the media" (as described by Alvin Toffler in "The Third Wave"), thanks to the dramatic improvements in communications technology over the last 60 years.

    The rise of cable TV in the 1970's and 1980's, paid online services in the 1980's, the public Internet and small-dish satellite TV in the 1990's, satellite radio in the early 2000's and smaller portable devices to get access to the Internet from circa 2006 on have effectively broken the "massified" means of news delivery such as newspapers and evening news broadcasts by major broadcasters. As such, by the time you get the newspaper in the morning, you may often be reading day-old news! Today, with tablet computers such as the Apple iPad, I can turn it on and within 20 minutes find out the latest news using the news apps for BBC, CNN, Fox News, and USA Today, check on Twitter and Facebook feeds, and even check on various news sites around the world. In short, modern technology will make the printed newspaper just about obsolete.

  • by InterGuru (50986) <[moc.urugretni] [ta] [dhj]> on Sunday July 15, 2012 @06:13PM (#40658873) Homepage

    Whether we read it on paper on on the screen does not matter. What does matter: "How are we going to support journalism?" . Especially local journalism. Who will cover the zoning board. Who will ferret out corruption? The meetings of the Virginia legislature used to be covered by eight reporters, now it is covered by one. ( From memory, I cannot find the story ).

    New Orleans may give us a preview, since there is no shortage of corruption. While the cat's away.....

    • New Orleans may give us a preview, since there is no shortage of corruption. While the cat's away.....

      New Orleans didn't become corrupt as a side-effect of the decline of the T-P. It's been corrupt since the beginning, and the local newspaper hasn't had damn-all effect on things.

  • by AmazingRuss (555076) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @06:19PM (#40658897)

    ...and if that don't work, Fuck it.

  • Make them watchdogs again. My local example, the Los Angeles Times, is pretty much just a sock puppet for the state government. Reporters never ask follow up questions, and just nod their bubbleheads at whatever insane drivel politicians spout.

    See "Transmetrolitian" by Warren Ellis for a template.

    Quote: "I want to see humans talking about human life personally. I want to see people who give a shit about the world. I want... I want to see posessed journalists! YES! I want to see people like me rising upp wit

    • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @06:46PM (#40659057)

      My brother has worked for some major metro dailies in the Northeast, including as managing editor. He's recently decided to leave the industry at perhaps the peak of his career because he's convinced it's dying.

      We discussed it and came to the same conclusion as you. The fundamental problem isn't the business model, it's an apathetic citizenry. If Americans cared deeply about civic issues and governance, rather than American Idol, they would find a way to fund good journalism. But if they don't, there's no business model that can keep good journalism going.

      I only hope it takes something less than a national tragedy to re-invigorate the American people's concern for good governance.

      • So investigate and raise hell and give people something to get riled up about.

        • So investigate and raise hell and give people something to get riled up about.

          The point is that this doesn't seem to have worked. If you look at the horrible things Congress and the President have done over the past 12-16 years,
          I don't notice a lack of information reaching the public. What I'm struck by is the general public's apathy and/or resignation.

          The CIA tortures people. The executive branch (and now Congress as well) has suspended Habeus Corpus for anyone called a terrorist. The TSA violates the 4th Amendment with their VIPER program (traffic stops and searches on public

          • It's the remoteness of national issues (not an excuse, just a hypothesis), even the TSA stuff to people's minds. That's why I'd like to see more state level or city level investigative stuff. Expose the things in people's own backyards (sometimes literally). Start fighting the corruption locally. I think there's a whole science of watchdog journalism to be forged here. Better to start small anyway.

            I have to admit to a certain level of apathy myself. It stems from a feeling of "OK, bad stuff happening there.

            • My inertia mainly comes from a sense that I can't really change anything of import.

              For example, I was deeply pissed off about the CIA exporting suspects for torture. But when I saw that a sizable fraction of Americans were like, "So what? They're terrorists, so they deserve it." or "They might be terrorists, and I'm really afraid of terrorism, so let's torture them just in case it's a ticking-bomb scenario.", I just felt like there was little point in trying. I would just be yet another protester with a

  • by symbolset (646467) * on Sunday July 15, 2012 @07:51PM (#40659439) Journal
    The business model of newspapers died. It's not coming back. It had a long and glorious run, and it's over.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Some people say the place they get their news is from online news aggregators. Well, if you look, most of that news comes from news papers and the newspapers get much of their news from sources such as the AP, Reuters, etc. Kill off the newspapers and online news will also disappear.

  • by WillyWanker (1502057) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @09:35PM (#40659921)

    It's like watching the end of the horse and buggy, icebox, or gas lamp industries. Only with more copyright/extortion suits.

  • My local paper (AL.com) got hit by the same fate as the New Orleans newspaper (NOLA.com): a reduced schedule, and a horrible redesign.

    There is now a massive floating banner that covers a full third of my netbook screen. It is intolerable.

    Therefore, I wrote Firefox and Chrome add-ons to remove the floating banner. It works on NOLA.com, AL.com, MLive.com, and MassLive.com.

    Enjoy:
    http://dannagle.com/2012/06/advance-digital-banner-blaster/ [dannagle.com]

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @11:09PM (#40660307)
    when they stopped caring about me. When was the last time a story like Watergate broke? When was the last time the papers challenged the powers that be? Sorta hard to do that when the powers that be own you lock stock & barrel. Why would I pay 50 cents/day to read the same corporate drek and propaganda I can get for free in their advertisements?
    • by coofercat (719737)

      Depends where you are... We've had the MP's expenses scandal, phone hacking, government in bed with Murdoch and olympic tickets for sale under the counter. All that in the last year or so.

      However, what I will say is that even though a couple of these are really pretty serious, they have caused a 'scandal', but nothing like the scale of things that have gone before. That's not a quality issue, or a news paper circulation issue - it's because the people just don't care like they once did. We're more intereste

  • The reason Murdoch is separating his newspapers from his TV empire is the scandal in UK where his newspapers got caught with their pants down bribing police, hacking into people's voice mails and outright corruption at the highest levels of the Government. He's now being investigated in US because of some of these practices. It has nothing to do with the success of the newspapers. With this scandal, his TV empire has caught some attention over here and he's already been blocked from taking over an other net

    • by MtViewGuy (197597)

      Actually, MORE people care about international news because of the Internet. That's why I read the websites for BBC News, Times of India, and even People's Daily in China on a fairly frequent basis (the People's Daily web site is available in multiple languages). The scandal involving Rupert Murdoch's newspapers were well-covered in the USA, so most Americans knew of that scandal.

  • The key issue regarding news delivery is the critical importance of well-researched and unbiased reporting to the health of a democracy. Assuming that the traditional newspaper is dying, a new model needs to grow in which the costs of doing this reporting are covered. If you don't have professional, independently-funded reporters you will not get the in-depth, researched, and verified stories that delve into the dark corners of corporations and Government - you'll get schlock reporting that skims the surf

  • Actually start delivering real content that is properly edited, checked, etc.

    Seriously, newpapers - both on-line and in print - are getting worse and worse about grammatical mistakes - punction, grammar, spelling, etc. They rely too much on technology to find the problems, and don't even do that in many cases.

    The 3rd book in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [stieglarsson.com] (The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest [stieglarsson.com]) has a good take on the whole issue. Newspapers need to cut management costs, increase staffing, and actuall

As in certain cults it is possible to kill a process if you know its true name. -- Ken Thompson and Dennis M. Ritchie

Working...