Friday, May 29, 2009

Things are really, really bad for newspapers

Wanna know how bad things are for newspapers? The only joy in a Pew Research Report concerning classified advertising shifting to free online is concerns about violence and murder linked to Craigs' List. That's pretty sad.

Newspaper revenues off 28% in first quarter

Earnings reports for newspaper companies' first quarter really look bad. I'd like to say there is good news somewhere in this report, but it's not there. The analysis indicates that, yes, a part of the problem is the economic troubles we are going through, but it's only part. Online revenues are also dropping.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Median age of magazine readers rising fast

New report shows that median age of magazine readers is rising faster than the age of the population in general. The trend has been big since at least 2002. It doesn't bode well for the future.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Time to think like a contrarian

I'm going to go out on a limb. I predict the future will be kind to publications that do not follow Newsweek Editor John Meacham's belief that “as the number of news outlets expands, it is said, attention spans shrink; only the fast and the pithy will survive.” The New York Times has a nice essay about Newsweek's makeover, but it runs under the heading of "Newsweek's Journalism of Fourth and Long," and states "The makeover represents a rethinking of what it means to be a newsweekly, but no redesign can gild the cold fact that it remains a news magazine that comes out weekly at a time when current events are produced and digested on a cycle that is measured with an egg timer, not a calendar."

I'd be foolish to disagree that current events are produced on that quick a cycle, but I don't believe they are digested that quickly, which is why I predict a brighter future for some publications that, instead of trying to out-quick the Internet, opt instead for intelligently putting the news in perspective. That, by the way, was exactly what Time and Newsweek did in their most successful years. And I'll point out that the Times essay ran in it's weekly "Week in Review" section, which also works because it puts events into perspective.

I am a news junky who reads three print newspapers daily, four more weekly, regularly scan eight on the Internet (four from outside the U.S.) daily, and read too many blogs/homepages/whatever to remember. I subscribe to five rss news feeds daily and eight discussion groups (there are probably more that I'm forgetting). My problem is that I'm getting all that "egg timer" news, and I am always seeking something to put it into perspective.

I predict somebody's going to built a highly-successful future doing just that -- and probably more than just one publication. They just have to get away from those with the attention span of a gnat who haven't read any history (or at least have forgotten all they've read) who are killing publications right and left by trying to out-quick the Internet and shirking long-form journalism. It can't be done.

The Times headline used a sports analogy, so I'll offer another, especially for basketball fans. It's like a fast break where the smart teams always have a player trailing the first ones down the court. The trailer is the one who scores when the quicker players are offset by even quicker players on defense, allowing the trailer to take the ball to the basket unmolested. You can't out-quick the Internet, but you can out-smart it.

Monday, May 25, 2009

State of newspapers worldwide discussed

The state of newspapers worldwide is the object of the Washington Post's major editorial discussion today. It offers assessments of newspapers from many regions. Very interesting. Bottom line: Newspapers may well die, but journalism will flourish.