Thursday, November 5, 2009

S.F. Chronicle goes glossy

In the latest innovation as a way of holding readers, the San Francisco Chronicle has gone to a somewhat glossy paper for its sections fronts, including Page One. While I can't see it dramatically changing the dynamic for the Chronicle, which is losing readers at an alarming rate, it's good to see them try.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wall Street sees more problems in newspapers' future

Today's Wall Street Journal weighs in with an investors' view of the newspaper industry, and it isn't very good. The problem, according to the story, is that newspapers have cut almost all the costs they can so they need to show revenue increases and advertising isn't recovering. It's a grim picture, viewed this way. (Yes, it's grim any way, but see Kathleen Parker's column on the strength of newspaper readership to see the glass half-full, not half-empty as is Wall Street's view).

Monday, November 2, 2009

Of glasses half full and newspapers

Let me start with a story. My wife and I were talking about the possibility that the Journal Sentinel might go online-only. Both of us like print newspapers, which I find much easier to read and in which I am much less likely to overlook stories. We talked about adding the Wall Street Journal or New York Times at home. I read both at Marquette. My wife asked, but where would I get my sudoku and word games.

The point is very good. Newspapers are a lot more than news, despite what today's editors seem to think. After reading the often-depressing news, she likes to do the games to ready herself for a workday. Similarly, I like to read comic strips. Sure, all them can be found online, but not as easily. And I don’t want to discount the likelihood of missing obscure news items online where web sites are driven by popularity, burying items on less popular areas.

That came to mind when I read Kathleen Parker’s column about Alex Jones, author of “losing the news.” According to Parker, Jones looks at the reasonably strong newspaper circulation (down less than 10%) is outstanding given we subscribers could get the same stories free. I’d add that we’re doing this despite most newspaper management’s seemingly intentional attempts to drive us away by drastically cutting staff (and therefore quality) and increasing prices. The Journal Sentinel, for example, is planning to charge for all sorts of the kind of offerings it used to use to attract readers, such as its Sunday TV listing.

I’d agree with Jones (although I haven’t read his book yet) that the desire for print shows the strength of the format. If only some print publishers would show a spine.