Another Newspaper’s Genius Business Model

Let’s make the product suck, and then when readers notice, use their noticing to continue to suck harder: 

Meanwhile the paper’s corporate owner, Gannett, is pushing toward print oblivion. Gannett “is throwing the digital switch,” as a story by Ken Doctor for Nieman Lab reported, pushing print readers to switch to the online version of Gannett’s papers. In time for the November 6 election and “across its 109 local markets,” readers were directed “to head to its digital sites for results, “to embrace real-time media for real-time news.”

“When long-time readers of the Des Moines RegisterMilwaukee Journal Sentinel, or Fort Myers News-Press open up their papers” on Wednesday, the day after the election, “they’ll see hardly anything in the way of results,” story predicted. “Even on Thursday, when nearly all vote totals should be in, don’t expect to see newsprint used when cheaper pixels can do the job; the complete election results will be online, Amalie Nash, executive editor for local news at Gannett’s USA Today Network, told me.”

I’ve been saying this for years, but UNLESS YOUR DISTRIBUTION GUYS ARE UPDATING YOUR WEBSITE THERE IS NO REASON WHY YOU HAVE TO GUT PRINT TO DO GOOD DIGITAL. Jesus Christ, I will never understand why in the past 20 years we’ve taken “here is this thing some people like, let’s blow it up in favor of doing this other thing some people like” as some kind of strategy.

(Don’t throw finite resources in my face. When there’s a consultant to pay or a sexually harassative exec to throw out the back door, the millions suddenly appear. There’s enough money in journalism to pay Megyn Kelly to get fired, there’s enough to put papers on porches in Wauwatosa.)

Even that, though, would be a cut above what most newspapers have done, which is to do BOTH print and digital badly. It’s not that they’re abandoning print to do digital well. It’s that they’re abandoning print to half-ass digital, put it all behind a paywall, pivot to video, and fire all the fucking photographers. They’re abandoning print to slap mattress store ads on the front page of their website which, when it does actually load, won’t let you log in as a subscriber without viewing ten more ads first about how you need to subscribe.

They haven’t done ANY of it well. I could forgive newspapers not knowing how to do the internet if they knew how to do newspapers. But it’s been 20 years and the same seven syndicated columnists are making the same seven figures each to say the same worn-out shit about politics or Kids Today or whatever Mitch Albom is bitching about now.

The only things that have been cut from the print edition are news stories, which is WHAT PEOPLE PAID YOU FOR IN THE FIRST FUCKING PLACE.

“With more copy editing and page layout handled by chains’ centralized hubs, and with more newspapers relying on shared or outsourced printing facilities, the days of getting evening stories into the print paper are already gone in many markets,” Doctor writes. 

“‘We have a 7 p.m. close in most of our markets,’ Nash told me. If you’ve ever wondered why today’s print newspaper headlines often reflect news that feels days old, that’s why.”

That would explain why the Sunday Journal Sentinel lacks most of Saturday’s college football scores: “any night game is simply listed as late game with no score, eviscerating the drama of the top 25 results,” as I’ve written. “Even home teams get short shrift: Late Bucks or Brewers games are no longer covered to the end of the game in the next day’s paper.”

They keep turning out lights and using people’s hatred of the dark as an excuse to snuff out candles.

A.

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