Newspapers Will Pay For Anything Besides Journalism

ANY. THING. 

Even as the Chicago Sun-Times clings to life as a metro daily news organ, the publication says it has launched a new digital marketing agency called Digital 312, with the shop’s name incorporating the primary Chicago telephone area code.

Launched with a staff of around 11 people, the plan is to harness the experience the newspaper itself has gained in transitioning to a digital first news organization and apply that to clients of the agency that are looking for marketing expertise in the digital arena.

When I look at the money that’s gotten pissed away by newspaper companies in the past two decades, I don’t see the influence of the Internet or Kids Today Not Reading Anymore or That Rat Bastard Craig and His Rat Bastard List or Steve Jobs’s special phones stealing our attention spans. I see stupidity and a willingness to spend too much, too late, on things that don’t matter.

There are approximately 11,000 agencies that will help clients buy advertising, digital and otherwise, in the Sun-Times. But if nobody’s reading the Sun-Times, and nobody’s picking up the Sun-Times, and nobody can fucking find the Sun-Times if they scour the city for it because they only distribute four copies to every other 7-Eleven lately, and even if you do find it there are two good stories and 20 pages of week-old city hall gossip billed as a MAJOR SCOOP MUST CREDIT, well, I don’t care how swank your new ad agency sounds. Nobody’s going to put their products in your (digital or physical) pages.

If your name means nothing because you’ve spent 20 years destroying it with one ill-advised but loudly announced initiative after another, from a bloated, heaving website littered with auto-generated ads to a “national news network” that now redirects to a bunch of repeating clickbait advertorials, lurching onto yet another thing instead of supporting the one good thing you have left (your city room) will not help you.

Has newspaper revenue declined precipitously with the rise of mobile/digital devices? Natch. But there was still plenty of money to spend, on everything from endless rebrandings and redesigns and new divisions to replicate what other companies already did. On just about everything except journalism.

A.

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