People Want News

David Carr, in a masterpiece of scorn and fury:

The industry tried chasing clicks for a while to win back fleeing advertisers, decided it was a fool’s errand and is now turning to customers for revenue. But in order to charge people for news, you have to prosecute journalism.

The belief that historic monopolies will hold together just on the basis of inertia has proved to be wrong. Newspapers that have cut their operations beyond usefulness or quit delivering a daily print presence have suffered. The audience has to be earned every day.

You cannot give people less, and expect them not to notice, not anymore and not for almost two decades now. And I would welcome this newfound sensibility with a parade of hookers handing out balloons and blow if a) it hadn’t taken a brutal decade of layoffs and bankruptcies to get here and b) I didn’t think most newspaper owners won’t do the same thing again at the first sign of a new idea. What this really was about was laziness and avarice, and I see no sign of that going away.

It’s all so unnecessary.More people are reading online? Screw it, let’s put everything online and fire a bunch of folks and stop delivering the damn paper. Plenty of poeple still read the paper, though, and pay for the paper. Why not have everything online and have a paper? I will never understand why people act like you have to pick. Granted, you can’t make one reporter do 99 things, but as a business, why not have a great web site and a great paper and great mobile and great video? Why does one thing have to suffer for something else to succeed?

And why would you ever, ever, ever make your product harder for your customer to understand?

The company endlessly complicated what had been a simple proposition that has worked since the newspaper’s founding in 1837: deliver a printed bundle of its best efforts every day for a fixed price. The new distribution plan is hard to explain, but I will do my best.

On Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, a broadsheet called The Times-Picayune will be available for home delivery and on the newsstands for 75 cents. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, a tabloid called TPStreet will be available only on newsstands for 75 cents.

In addition, a special electronic edition of TPStreet will be available to the three-day subscribers of the home-delivered newspaper. On Saturdays, there will be early print editions of the Sunday Times-Picayune with some breaking news and some Sunday content.

There’s more, but you get the idea — or not. It’s an array of products, frequencies and approaches that is difficult to explain, much less market.

What the CHRIST. People know what flailing looks like, and this is it, and ain’t nobody wants to be at a party that isn’t the cool party anymore. Plus, and I’ve learned this in my offline life over the past 15 years, if you need a second sentence to explain your thing, it’s already over. By the time you take a breath and go into part two, people have already moved on.

Not a lot of things are true about newspapers that are true about all businesses but this is: Customers aren’t complicated. They don’t want to hear your explanations and they certainly don’t want to hear your whining. They want to hear that you have a service that will make their lives better, that will be given to them in a manner that requires a minimum amout of work on their part. That’s all there is. As Carr puts it:

The much ballyhooed unmaking of daily newspapering seems to be unmaking itself, and there’s a reason for that. Most newspapers have hung onto the ancient practice of embedding prose on a page and throwing it in people’s yards because that’s where the money and the customers are for the time being.

Shocking. If only someone had seen that coming.


One thought on “People Want News

  1. And, as I commented in an Adrastos post, the TP is getting or about to get their clock cleaned by the Baton Rouge Advocate, formerly a perennial second-tier newspaper that made its money from being the only game in town in the State government seat…Unfreakingbelievable.

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