Tuesday, 10 June 2008

U.S. newspapers try a less is more approach

If you're feeling comfortable about the future of newspapers, read this piece.

Is Sam Zell right about the U.S. newspaper business?
Last week, Zell, chairman and chief executive of Tribune, and Randy Michaels, chief operating officer, announced a set of deep cuts, saying that shrinking revenue left them no choice.
They said they would trim 500 pages of news each week from the company's dozen papers, including The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times. Their aim is a paper with pages - excluding classified advertising and special ad sections - split 50-50 between news content and ads.
Journalists may recoil, but is a thinner, flashier, more local newspaper, with a smaller newsroom staff, the best financial model for an industry that is enduring a painful contraction with no end in sight?
Conversations with analysts and executives yielded an impassioned argument on that subject - it is a question they have asked themselves many times - but no consensus.

But watering down the product hurts staff morale, he said, and if taken too far, "could accelerate the migration of readers to the Web or other sources of news."
John Morton, an independent newspaper analyst, says he thinks that tipping point has already arrived at many papers.
"To the extent you diminish your product, I think you diminish your success, in print or online," he said. "In the long run, it's going to be harmful to newspapers' brand names, which is the strongest thing they've got."
As newspapers suffer through steep losses in circulation and advertising, Morton said, many of them have accelerated the process by offering readers less, trying to cut costs and preserve unrealistic profit margins. "It's a strategy, basically, of gradually closing down," he said.

When I read these types of articles, I have a strong sense that newspaper executives just don't have a strategy for survival, and that newspaper editors and journalists strategy for survival is to hope they get to a pensionable of buy out age.


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