Digital-First Is Meaningless

GOD, this gets so tiresome:

“For six consecutive years, The Plain Dealer had double-digit losses in advertising revenue; that’s compounding on one another,” Fladung said at a gathering sponsored by the Cleveland chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists at the Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. “Whether you are a business reporter or not, it’s not hard to see that that’s a jetliner nose down. The business model was broken.”

Fladung said the decision to cut back home delivery from seven days a week to four was precipitated by the revenue dive.

The strategy, Fladung said, “is a market-share play in the digital space.” In other words, by focusing on the kind of news the online audience prefers — shorter stories, posted continuously during the day and updated if necessary — the newspaper hopes to attract as many local readers as possible away from television station websites and other sources of local information.

I fail to see how home delivery impacts when you post on your site. Are the delivery guys doing the posting? Do they need space in the vans for their laptops, and the papers get in the way? If you want shorter stories posted continuously (which I don’t grant is an automatic path to riches, by the way) you need to maybe rearrange your newsroom, not your distribution operation OH WAIT:

The last six months have been tumultuous for the city’s only daily newspaper. At the end of July, the paper laid off 50 journalists, reducing its news staff to 110.

Well, fewer journalists will definitely help you come up with more content faster! How progressive!

This is such total bullshit, really. The newspaper had readers who paid for the paper to be delivered to their homes. Instead of saying okay, let’s pursue other readers in addition to the ones we have, the company said instead let’s shaft the readers we do have, while blathering in consultant-speak about “digital-first,” our understanding of which only seems to be that we need to update the website more.

(You want to talk about digital-first for local news? Explain to me how you’re going to market your website when you’re competing not just with whatever local TV stations exist but with all of the rest of the Internet, please. Explain how you’re going to get people to click on you instead of Gawker. Explain how anybody will find your site without the paper’s eminent name to point them there, and explain how destroying that name helps your cause. Explain that, and I will believe you have a strategy.)

I’m about done reading endless editorials about how this time, today, this go-round the newspaper is ALL ABOUT the Internet. It’s not like last time, with the paywall. Or the time before that, with the hyperlocal. Or the time before that, with the glitter logo and the shaky iPhone video of that one house fire/car wreck/pet show.This time, the newspaper is taking the Internet seriously and is really, truly gonna do something new.

The blathering is exhausting. These CEOs and MEs who loudly declare that they are “digital first” are the industry equivalent of that one friend you have who will not shut up about how someday he’s gonna go to Japan or join a gym or write that novel.

He never does dick, of course. Every time you’re over at his house he’s high and watching Honey Boo Boo, but damn if he doesn’t want to tell you his very detailed intentions at every fucking dinner party.

I’m about done listening to people explain how they are digital-first. Spend a fraction of the time you spent writing those editorials actually using tools online to report the news, and you will not have to declare what you are, because people will know.


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