Buying Ink by the Barrel
Ten years ago, when The Kelsey Group more closely covered the newspaper industry, we conducted annual research among both dailies and weeklies to judge their overall opinion of or interest in electronic services. Every year daily newspapers said that their primary reason for introducing electronic services of all kinds was to €œremain the No.1 information source in their community.€ On the other hand, weekly newspapers told us that their primary objective was to €œcreate new revenues and profit sources.€ Since electronic services didn€™t generate much in the way of sales, weeklies didn€™t pay much attention and focused instead on enhancing their print products.
I would say that this thinking is pervasive among all the traditional media. That is, the largest players see themselves as having a €œpublic trust,€ while the upstart smaller media outlets are focused on survival and taking market share of eyeballs, eardrums and greenbacks from their competitors. In the movie €œGood Night and Good Luck,€ Edward R. Murrow is willing to risk CBS€™ largest advertiser in order to get a significant story. He saw this as an obligation that he had to his constituents.
On the same page as the article questioning the future of newspapers is a piece about Google now being worth $400 a share, giving the company a total market capitalization approximately the size of California. A major reason that I read newspapers or watch TV news is because of context.
Broadcasters and publishers have the opportunity to determine which stories are the most important and give them priority billing. They also control editorials. That incredible opportunity to influence people€™s thinking is not likely to be replaced on the Internet no matter what electronic device we are using to access the news. As long as publishers don't lose the public trust, there will be readers and, therefore, advertisers.
Will the business change? Yes, of course. Does anybody want to buy a newspaper? Absolutely.
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I'm glad someone understands that newspapers are more than a bottom line business. There will always be print newspapers (for innumerable reasons), but a major one is that first class newspapers will have first class reporting and analysis. For some owners that will be more important than making a fortune.
Yes, the days are gone when you could both make barrels of money and put out stories that are important to only a few people. But newspeople know that the best jounalism comes from deep digging and hard work.
A great reporter wants to be in print in a major newspaper the way a great actor wants to be on Broadway.