Saturday, March 7, 2009

College papers facing advertising problems

Like all newspapers, the massive advertising slowdown has hit college newspapers. National, local and college-sponsored ads are all down, many report. Some have cut editions. Reality bites,

Newspapers sharing content

Newspaper sports editors may share content across the nation in an attempt to hold down costs. It sounds kinda like what the Associated Press has done for a century and a half.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's largest four newspapers are already sharing content, and the features departments of newspapers in Raleigh and Charlotte to merge.

We're going to see a lot more of this in the future.

Oregon student paper ends strike

Oregon student newspaper workers to return as newsroom, board agree on mediation.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Speaking of comics (and I love comics), the delightful Comic Riffs blog written for the Washington Post by Michael Cavna reports that the Atlanta Constitution is dropping 25 percent of its space devoted to Sunday comics and uses that to open a discussion about the role of the Sunday color comics section since so many are available online for free.

I will only point out that Sunday color comics were started as a circulation builder when newspapers were in their most competitive mode (late 19th and early 20th centuries), and they have been considered as major draws for newspapers in competitive situations (such as New York) even up to recent times. On the other hand, less reader-seeking managements have buried them for years, even as their circulations declined.

What's wrong with trying to attract readers using tried-and-true methods as well as new ideas? Frankly, I'd like to see newspaper and magazine managements throwing out the stops to attract readers rather than seeming to meekly let them go while bemoaning the inevitability of the end of print.

An old ad slogan of the Leo Burnett advertising agency went something like this: "If you don't reach for the stars, you'll never grab one." I'd update it to: "If you don't seek readers, you'll never catch one."

Who can afford to write today?

Francis Wilkinson of The Week daily newsletter takes the new media environment a step farther than most with an essay in which he asks the intriguing question: "Is writing for the rich?" Basically, he says it's the best of times for writers with lots of outlets and it's the worst of times since many can't get paid. It's a subject poignantly touched upon by the perceptive "Between Friends" comic by Sandra Bell-Lundy (you can find it at this address, look for the March 4 comic). It sums up the dilemma of the new media: lots of writing with little or no pay is available. An associated thought: Will the Internet become worth as much as you pay for it?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Oregon student newspaper staff goes on strike

The issue is control of the independent publication, The Oregon Daily Emerald, at the University of Oregon. In a dispute concerning control of the corporation, the board of directors has hired a former professional editor as publisher over the protests of student newsroom staff who maintain that the proposed structure would limit student control of the newspaper and magazine. Students on the staff object to a structure where their editor would report to the publisher, posing, the students say, " an obvious threat to student control and editorial independence that is key to the service we provide." As of now, no further editions are planned, student say. Obviously there is more to come.

Magazine web traffic up

Consumer magazine web traffic was up 11 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, the Magazine Publishers' Association reports.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Defendants want web comments censored

Four defendants facing the death penalty in Tennessee have asked the judge to censor comments on news web sites. Judges frequently have put gag orders on media reporting of trials. This is the first attempt to muzzle members of the public. There's been no ruling yet, although the judge has expressed some sympathy for the defendants' position that the media has some responsibility to monitor their sites.

Some content generators kick back against news aggragators

They are challenging the widespread practice by the likes of or Huffington Post to excerpt large parts of articles even if they are linked. A New York Times story covers the multiple questions, although it doesn't really cover all the ramifications, including some media companies that are planning to challenge anyone linking to their product. Given the fact that no good media funding model exists, I wouldn't be surprised to see more of this.

"Most of the wounds are self-inflicted"

When you look closely at Howard Kurz's analysis of why newspapers are dying, it's pretty much a searing indictment of mismanagement by virtually an entire industry. Why are they dying? It "is a tale that involves arrogance, mistakes, eroding trust and the rise of a digital world in which newspapers feel compelled to give away their content," he writes. I'd add another reason: greed. As newspaper management looked at Wall Street (especially Wall Street pay levels), they decided that going public was the way for them to cash in on all that gravy. Where only a couple of decades ago, many newspapers were privately owned or, like Milwaukee's newspapers, employe-owned. Now almost all of them are public and carrying heavy debt loads. It's servicing that debt that is killing newspapers, not drops in circulation (minimal) or even heavier declines in advertising. Without the debt, much of which was added to make purchases to look better on Wall Street, newspapers would be hurting but still

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Don't count out local newspapers, columnist says

But that doesn't necessarily mean print newspapers, according to California columnist Don Miller.  Still, he says -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- " Newspapers remain profitable -- especially if not dragged down by corporate debt. Readership, while aging, remains committed -- as long as the paper does what is should do: covering the news, acting as a watchdog on government and other publicly funded agencies, entertaining, explaining, making sense of the seemingly senseless, bringing clarity to the cacophony of the daily babble."

Yes, that's right. PRINTED newspapers remain profitable and circulation is holding for those newspapers actually doing their job. For those cutting and hacking staff, cutting and hacking features people like, and cutting and hacking price (OK, I'm joking there; nobody is cutting price, some like the Journal Sentinel actually are increasing them apparently in a bid to drive away all of us who still subscribe).

Anyway, the key is doing what newspapers traditionally have done. Just cover the news.