Old Dogs New Tricks and Crappy Newspaper Executives

(Speaking notes for an address to the Canadian Journalism Foundation
Toronto, Canada, 2/16/2012)

Good evening.

I’m old media.

This is my 36th year as a newspaper man – apologies – my 36th year as a multi-platform news executive.

It’s a career I started as a copyboy on this same street about a dozen blocks east of here.

I was hired for taking a picture of a belly dancer fooling with a drunk columnist. I was given the job of a guy who had just been fired for being a drunk. And I ended my first night on the job, taking home – dead drunk – the guy who hired me.

In my career the only reprimand I have ever received – if you don’t count the odd suspension for insubordination – was about expenses, specifically it was about booze. It read: “You are no longer allowed to order an Armagnac, digestif or any other after dinner drink that is older than you are.”

This is commonly referred to as the Golden Era of journalism.

And now, like many of you, I am struggling hard to teach this old dog new tricks.

Struggling to accept that much of what we know is no longer valid.

And trying to come to grips with the fact that crappy newspaper executives are a bigger threat to journalism’s future than any changes wrought by the Internet.

All of us have been subjected to the annual spectacle of a gaggle of print publishers gathering on a panel – Doug Knight, our moderator this evening, has officiated over a couple of these – to declaim they are not dead yet.

It’s an embarrassing display played out time and time again at conferences where our industry heads look like aging ingénues at Stratford declaring they can still play Juliette. And nobody has the heart to break it to them.

Or worse still, mediocre journalists, wrapping themselves in the flag of long-form journalism, to deride the value of social media as a reporting tool. A tool they don’t understand or care to understand.

And then having to watch them use that ignorance to dismiss the phenomenon of participatory journalism.

When I hear these hacks cry out that their work can’t be reduced to 140 characters I always think – if only – and pine for the useful hours I could get back in my life if spared their thumbsuckers.

And while these false, zero-sum arguments play themselves out, Rome burns.

And in the United States of America, where I work, the fire is burning faster and fiercer than ever before.

Since 2005, the U.S. newspaper industry has lost more than 60% of its advertising revenue and so many jobs no one can accurately count them.

And while this is not yet the story in Canada, I would say the only difference between here and where I work in New York City – is time.

It’s not like the Internet isn’t coming to your town.

The Journal Register Company – the Company I took over two years ago – and, more recently, MediaNews Group –which we now both run under Digital First Media – could be the poster kids for what ails the US newspaper industry.

We count our products in the hundreds.

Our employees in the thousands – ten thousand actually.

Our audience in the millions – 57 million actually.

And our revenues are counted in the “Bs” as in billions.

And, it is profitable. With better margins than an average Dow Jones listed company.

We have titles pre-dating the American Revolution and can stretch our lineage back to at least one predecessor title co-founded by Benjamin Franklin. Well, just about stretch if we stand on a high stool.

Another title was around to publish George Washington’s obit.

And our core mission is enshrined in the nation’s Constitution.

And none of the above will save it or other companies like it – unless we and our industry profoundly change how we do business.

You can’t fix what you won’t admit is wrong.

So let’s start with this one: Print’s coming back.

A show of hands please if you think that’s true – heads up people this is a trick question.

In America from 1985 to 2005 – the very peak of print newspaper advertising revenue – the average annual growth was 2.7%. Again, that was the Golden Era.

And for those of you wrapping the daily sheet in heavyweight glossy stock betting on a return to the Golden Era – at that rate of growth -it will be more than a quarter of a century before we are back to – 2005 levels.

But that is not going to happen as advertising gets ever less share of marketers’ dollars.

And newer, sexier platforms are targeting customers in such terrifyingly precise ways that we print folks are effectively taking a knife to a gunfight.

In 2012, in the US, it is expected there will be more advertising on the web than in newspapers and by most estimates more Americans now access their news via the web than print.

The customers have spoken.

But are we listening?

I would argue not nearly hard enough.

The debate rages on where that news starts – largely print – rather than how people access it – largely the web – and how it might be blocked.

And so, for awhile, we were treated to spectacles like the online copy enforcer RightHaven pursuing stay-at-home bloggers obsessed with their cats who happened to pick up some online news copy for a post. RightHaven died a deserved death.

Now we have the Associated Press playing around with NewsRight – the word Right is used a lot by print people. This time, we are told, NewsRight is out to nail companies who are not bloggers – it would seem – and to gather data on how our copy is used. Okay. We’ll see.

In the meantime, where are the industry efforts to understand and act upon how news is actually created and consumed?

Where are the industry efforts on understanding how professional journalists can come together with the people we used to call the Audience and who, armed with laptops and broadband access, are in the same business as us?

I meant what I said earlier when I used the word struggle.

I am not a Net native. I’m a newspaper man. My father was news photographer’s assistant and then a printer. The first hands that ever held me had ink under the fingernails.

And it’s tough enough struggling with concepts such as open publishing and participatory journalism and to let go the control we used to have on copy because of our control of the means of production, without print’s knuckle-draggers refusing to acknowledge we need to change at all.

Because change we must.

And if we are going to change we are also going to have to admit that the Print model is broken. Don’t believe me – then read any of the newspaper company Chapter 11 filings in the United States or Clay Shirky.

If you haven’t read Shirky’s essay Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable and you are in the newspaper business then brother let me tell you – you are not paying enough attention.

His message is simple:

“If the old model is broken, what will work in its place? The answer is nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the Internet just broke.”

And his message is clear:

You don’t tinker or tweak a broken model. You start again anew. And I would add build upon our foundations.

To do this you have to let go of those things we once held true. Like:

- We are the gatekeepers of information.

- That we are the agenda setters and that we decide what news is and what is not.

- And that we keep the Outside world outside and only let in the chosen few – people like us.

So, if we can admit the Print model is broken what else must we recognize isn’t working anymore.

I think it is this:

As career journalists we have entered a new era where what we know and what we traditionally do has finally found its value in the marketplace and that value is about zero.

Our traditional journalism models and our journalistic efforts are inefficient and up against the Crowd – armed with mobile devices and internet connections- incomplete.

Our response to date as an industry has been as equally inefficient and in many cases emotional.

“You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone” is not much of a business model.

The French philosopher Roland Barthes argues that when culture becomes nature we are in the presence of myth.

In our blustering for self-justification we have created a myth of our value. Without ever establishing its economic value, we have argued our value as journalists and journalism itself is self-evident and unassailable.

This has been one of the most gut-wrenching struggles for me to deal with because clearly journalism is not without value but, for sure, how it is largely practiced in print today – particularly “he said last night journalism” – nearly is valueless.

Today news organizations that do not embrace how news is now created and consumed – Digital First and Print Last – are ignoring not only how their customers desire to get news but how they understand it as well.

We ignore this at the risk of killing our business but worse we ignore it when the solution to our future is sitting under our noses – the power of our brands – if we would only let go of the past and embrace the future.

The University of London professor Celia Lury argues in her essay “The Brand as New Media Object” that brands themselves are platforms for content.

Dr. Melissa Aronczyk at Carleton University argues, with co-author Devon Powers, in their work “Blowing Up The Brand” that “the relationship between consumers and brands become less about the consumption of the product than about social relations, experiences and lifestyles such consumption enables.”

In an industry that has been hidebound to its production process – printing – but equally wedded to the belief that its brands stand for something, I think the professors’ arguments point to a way forward for newspaper companies as news companies.

Just as the printing press divorced the reader from the writer with the pen and created a whole new world of scalable audiences and techniques of communication, the new digital platforms demand journalists use each platform to its utmost advantage.

The first steps in this transition have been our Digital First strategy but clearly it is also a case of Digital Right – the right uses for the right platforms on the right occasions. And not just the simple re-purposing of content from one platform to another in order of priority.

Online stories today that do not link are now considered inferior by consumers. News companies, as brands, cheapen and destroy themselves if they do not allow the social interaction that society now demands of the new digital tool set.

Marshall McLuhan knew this when he said the Medium Is The Message.

In the news business, particularly a legacy business like newspapers, if we don’t understand this and take advantage of the Medium’s potential we will cease to be the Messenger.

And it is in this role of Messenger that we have tied up our ideas of brand values.

Such as:

- A Messenger the community can trust.

- A Messenger known for its accuracy, integrity, etc.

But what does it mean to be the Messenger in today’s new news ecology where the people we used to call the Audience are now equally participants, competitors, colleagues, arbiters and sources?

At Digital First Media we have started to answer that question by first unlocking our brands and sharing our content into this new eco-system for all to use. And where we, in turn, aggregate the Audience’s content, curated under our brands.

The Audience – at the Journal Register Company – has responded to this initiative by doubling in about a year.

Letting go of control is a very hard thing to do. And allowing the Audience – or the outside – in is even harder.

Often when I talk about bringing the Audience into the news conversation, the aforementioned aging ingénues respond sharply, reminding me:

- “We have always connected with our communities.” Read: letters to the editors or streeters.

- “Our readers are part of our process.” Read: surveys and citizen members of editorial boards.

- “We hear and act on their complaints.” Read: the ever-ineffectual Ombudsman.

When I worked at the Toronto Sun, as both a reporter and an editor, we said the same things usually wrapped up in this tidy little phrase:

“We produce a newspaper for the guy who rides the Queen St. streetcar.”

I bought into that, even though as a guy who actually did ride the Queen Street streetcar to work it was obvious about half of the riders – men and women of color; non-English speakers struggling to find their way in Canada’s largest city – looked nothing like the self-satisfied white guys – me included – who sat around the rim deciding what was news.

The web ensures that doesn’t happen anymore. Or at least it doesn’t happen for a long period of time for a news company trying to survive.

Extending Professor Lury’s argument that brands are platforms, at Digital First Media we have taken our initiative to unlock our brands and share our content one step further.

In Torrington, CT we have literally extended our brand, the Register Citizen, by using the newsroom itself as a platform.

At the Register Citizen we have established an Open-to-the-Public newsroom and all are welcome.

They are welcome to work at blogging stations set up right in the newsroom. They are welcome to use the community meeting rooms and they are welcome to attend the news meetings themselves. For those who can’t make it the news meetings are also live-streamed.

In Torrington we have tried to embody the basic values of the web – transparency, inclusiveness and interactivity.

Placing online fact-checking boxes on every story is our direct request for help to correct any mistakes we may have made. I believe this is an act of transparency that is bonding us closer to that community.

To be clear, we have accepted we are no longer the old-fashioned agenda-setters or gatekeepers of information for our communities. Clearly communities know what they want and can organize themselves around issues and activities.

What we can do, however, under the power of our brands, which are still trusted, is help organize relevant information out of the river of content now available in each community.

Vint Cerf, Chief Evangelist at Google and called by some the Father of the Internet, is very clear about this:

“People’s trust in journalism has always been about branding.”

And as the community has become even a physical part of the newsroom we are building a better connection with that community than we have ever had before.
In Torrington, the community has responded by driving the newspaper’s digital audience to more than five times its print audience and it has taken the Register Citizen from a loss to profitability.

Along with the Community Media Labs at all Journal Register Company dailies and which are now being rolled out at Media News Group, Torrington’s Open-to-the-Public newsroom is becoming a new model of community engagement that works and enhances the news organization’s brand value.

This is a brand value being built by the community itself as the community takes ownership in what the local news organization does and helps to establish its key values of community involvement.

The gate is forever open now. There is no longer a gatekeeper on community news. Communities will now value those institutions – like Twitter – that help the flow of news and those – like us – that add context and reflect the values the communities themselves set.

Adding value to the new free-flow of news requires a new news organization.

Our journalism tied to the power of participatory journalism is in my opinion an unbeatable combination as we help communities make sense of the river of information on the web.

In New Haven, CT we have created what we believe is a local newsroom that adds value.

It has four key components: Breaking News; Investigative Reporting; Audience Engagement and Widgets.

Audience Engagement and Widgets are the new no-brainers. Newsrooms must share content and they must engage their audience as demanded through the new digital tools that are powering social media.

No social media connection. No news organization.

While the crowd can be as fast or even faster on breaking news, adding the context we have through our community connection and professional newsrooms is both vital and additive to brand value.

However, it is the re-establishment of an investigative reporting unit – a victim of cutbacks in local newsrooms a long time ago – which can add the greatest value.

Finally, again, and using the new digital toolset, we are asking questions that others are not asking.

That virtuous circle is complete when the news organization’s engaged audience pick up those questions and demand answers.

From a business perspective we are getting closer to the Holy Grail of value alignment with our communities.

Trust me when I say all of this is easier to say than do and it takes a commitment from the entire organization. If you are not fully committed the community will know it in a heartbeat.

And then you are dead because a thing of value has to earn its value – constantly.
I strongly believe sharing content will mean more prosperity not less in the future.

One of the reasons I am so stern on paywalls and other walled gardens is because I firmly believe that in the future content will go the audience and not the other way around.

Smart, original content, tagged with advertising will gain value by being shared through networks.

Shared content equals influence.

And influence in the new eco system equals engagement.

And engagement equals value to those advertisers and others trying to reach that engaged audience.

While online news start-ups here in Toronto like OpenFile understand this intuitively too many newspaper publishers do not.

And they continue plow on by slashing editorial, research, marketing and even sales resources – our only core competencies – to meet profit expectations.

An aside, newspapers get the investors they deserve.

In the US with many newspapers either in, coming out of or threatening to go into bankruptcy, newspaper managers appear to be equally bankrupt of ideas as they seek to please investors by slashing costs and driving short-term gains.

Investors, being no fools and recognizing newspaper managers have no plans to truly transform their business, are simply doing their jobs when they keep management focused on producing short-term gains.

Investors don’t buy into myth. They buy into math.

If you want investors to take a long-term view on our industry or our companies then you better give them a long-term plan that works. Give them a plan they will back.

And I would add it should be a plan built on the editorial floor where the core of our business lies.

The rest of transformation is mechanics.

If it is not core to your business- and in newspapers core means content and sales – then reduce it, stop it, sell it or outsource it.

And for God’s sake stop listening to newspaper people. We have had since the mid-90s to get this right and clearly we are no good at it.

Put the digital people in charge – of everything.

They can take what we have built and make it better.

It is so very important we get this right – not just for the industry and investors – but for our communities.

“The newspaper is the place where communities are formed,” writes New York University professor Aurora Wallace in her book Newspapers and the Making of Modern America. Dr. Wallace continues: “Newspapers are … the engine behind the construction and maintenance of strong communities … when they falter, we must ask what else will suffer as a result.”

We owe it to the communities who have sustained us not to falter just because we are afraid to change.

Finally, I would say to newspaper execs learn to let go and love the ‘Net.

I am here to tell you, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Metaphorically, I still chase cars down the street and bark at cyclists but I’m picking my marks better now and for old dog I’m starting to catch some of them.

Thanks.

121 thoughts on “Old Dogs New Tricks and Crappy Newspaper Executives

  1. I would be curious to hear your perspective on the rise of ‘Brand Journalism’ or ‘ Marketing Journalism’…. and if it is one of the ‘new tricks’ that newspaper executives should be looking more closely at as they reinvent themselves.

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    • Some real basic fallacies in this – with most of the principles several years old and the solutions yeah but…. If Clay Shirkey is your guru – you’re way late.

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  4. Great post, and one I can identify with from a magazine journalist’s perspective, having worked for a title with 50+ years of history, which was then acquired by a company with 100+ years of print.

    But most importantly, it’s so great to see it written by a CEO – truly rare as the common opinion is that most are hoping the slow decline of print lasts long enough for their retirement and someone else has to solve the problems.

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  6. no one mentions crap content and reader’s intuition that they are being bs’d as responsible for the decline of news.

    always the wish is to blame something else.

  7. Put the digital people in charge of everything? Really? I for one am glad you weren’t dispensing wisdom, my friend, 90 years ago, or we’d have newspaper reporters trying to cram their business model down onto the radio industry. And the same with TV a few decades later. I suggest you go back and read Clay Christenson’s The Innovator’s Dilemma. Combined operations amost always fail. Digital journalism carries a far different business model than print journalism, and forcing one staff to put one medium first will ensure the death of the other. (But then again, perhaps that’s the end goal of Digital First — to dispense of a print product that can’t be run profitably?) The fact is, people have been predicting the industry’s demise for generations and have consistently been wrong. Another fact: newspaper owners morphed their companies into broadcasting and cable enterprises from 1920-1975 quite successfully without declaring one medium superior to another. I, too, was a reporter and editor — one year your senior, I might add. I too was a harsh critic of the newspaper industry for several years. But after a decade of research and a deep understanding of the successful metamorphis of industries faced with disruptive innovations, I must say while journalism has definitely given you the ability to weave a good story, you’ve got the story wrong.

    • If you are comparing the Web to TV or Radio as disruptive forces then you have the story wrong. The business model of print flourished in the years from 1920-1975. To radically change then was a mistake. To do so now is a matter of survival, or not. No one said the web was “superior” or not,but if you are in any of those three businesses, I’d say you better watch out. Including Cable. Is that so hard to see?

      • The point is, print should be run as a print business, and digital as a digital business.

        The big mistake newspaper companies made was trying to merge the two, thereby damaging their own print products without building sustainable digital products (sustainable in this sense, meaning capable of support the newspaper view of journalism as a business). (Another aside: There’s a whole separate issue about how most newspapers, even before the web, were poorly run, and the damage corporatism has done to newspapers, but the Journal Register Co. would be at the head of the class of poorly run chains with root problems predating the web.)

        The problem with “digital first” is it should be “digital only.” And print could have a lot longer run (though the cow may already be out of the barn) if it were run solely on its print virtues.

        I think Gordon and I are saying the same thing having, it sounds like, studied the same history and same business theories.

    • Gordon and Howard, a few points:

      Putting the Digital people in charge doesn’t mean not focusing on Print but it does mean putting the future of the business in the hands of those better skilled to take it there.

      It also doesn’t mean mashing up old and new to the detriment of both (you don’t have to be a devotee of the Innovator’s Dilemma to have figured that out).
      It does, however, mean that Digital teams can focus on Digital while leading the way for Print teams and impart their skills to the Print side when appropriate. Ask any Print salesperson we have if they could even go on a Print-only call these days even if they wanted to.

      Digital First is a transition strategy – not an endgame strategy. None of us know the endgame. Therefore it focuses on growing the new while maximizing the old. New revenue streams. New sources of Audience. And allocating the resources to grow both.

      And Gordon, what student of media, is not already aware that no medium has ever completely disrupted another to the point of its’ complete demise? Isn’t the point to figure out how to adapt as a company so as not to be so diminished you fail to transition to the new reality?

      As always, I appreciate the comments.

    • Gordon – I read your post and felt I had to reply. Like it or not, the Internet is a direct threat to Print. The survival of a newspaper company is dependent on developing a solid Digital Strategy in order to make a seamless transition at the appropriate time. Here are the reasons why a Digital Strategy is necessary: (1) News Distribution is Changing, (2) Death – Examples of Companies that Failed to Make the Transition and (3) Diminishing Newspaper Product

      (1) News Distribution is Changing: Think about how news travels today. When Michael Jackson died, people knew about it within the first few minutes. The news first broke through Digital channels and by the time the story makes it into the newspaper, it’s already yesterday’s news. A newspapers success is based on circulation, circulation depends on relevancy and relevancy is based on providing new information or insight into better news. If one can get news within minutes, it starts to chip away at the print business model of relevancy. Then it starts to wear on circulation which directly impacts revenue and profitability. The weight of overhead expenses that a print business carries makes it challenging to compete against a leaner Digital business. Thus a “Digital First” business model starts to make sense because you’ve now created another revenue stream leveraging the same audience on a different platform. The product of news in both Print and Digital is complementary which allows you the ability to leverage assets and resources from one organization to another and create efficiency.

      (2) Death – Examples of Companies that Failed to Make the Transition: Take for instance Blockbuster. Ten years ago, this was a financially healthy company and was a dominate player within the movie rental business. Fast forward to today, an Internet company called Netflix emerges and Blockbuster closes it’s doors. Why? Because Blockbuster lived in their own space and didn’t see the threat. By the time they realized Netflix was a threat, it was too late. Add to that the fact that Blockbuster carried heavy overhead expenses (stores, employees at each location, insurance, etc…) they just couldn’t compete. Borders, again another example of a company that didn’t embrace a Digital Strategy. Amazon ate their lunch and eventually took them out of existence. At one point, Borders was so desperate that they used Amazon’s platform to sell their own inventory. Tower Records, another company that ignored Digital and was taken out by MP3 distribution channels and eventually Apple took the market with iTunes. I can go on and on about companies that died because there wasn’t a proper transitional strategy into Digital.

      (3) Diminishing Print Product: If you don’t believe newspapers are transitioning to Digital, you should take a look at your papers classified section. From what I understand, classified ads are major revenue drivers for newspapers. This section used to be thick with thousands of ads. Today everything is on the Internet real time and transactions happen at a faster rate thus diminishing the relevancy of classified ads in the newspaper.

      For these reasons, I think what Mr. Paton had to say was extremely relevant. “Digital First” and drive innovation as this is crucial to the survival of a company. For a company to continue the same business model while the world around them is changing will lead to negative consequences.

      Lastly I wanted to address your comment, “Combined operations almost always fail.” There are a number of major companies that own businesses in Television, Radio, Digital, Publishing and Film. Off the top of my head Disney, General Electric, News Corp, Time Warner, Viacom and CBS. Consolidation is happening within the industry today. A combined operation allows a company to not only diversify their holdings, but leverage each property to gain efficiency and drive profitability. I might be misunderstanding your statement, but it seems as though the opposite is happening.

      I didn’t realize that this post would turn out to be so long. Thanks for reading.

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  9. I was at your presentation in Toronto and afterwards realized there was something passing strange about the sociology of the event. Following your presentation people went to the mics, and all identified themselves as journalists. They then politely asked you questions which you politely answered. The strangeness was that it felt nothing like what happens when a journalist writes a piece on the Net. After that is mounted the commenters respond but almost never in polite question format. Rather the tell the writer and the rest of the world what they think and why and just often go off into their own world of what the piece should have said, but didn’t. That is, their view of journalism, and I suspect the view of tonnes of the people who engage with your newsroom and its “transparency, inclusiveness and interactivity” credo is “listen to me, I matter.” With that in mind, I wondered with the polite interrogative framework within which the journalists in Toronto spoke to you was a relic of the past. Whether, if you were looking for future journalists to hire you wanted them to act and sound like cloud commenters and not like some third personalized, question-posing, just-the-facts-man robot .

  10. I read my local newspaper online but also subscribe to the print edition. I want the newspaper to survive.
    I am especially interested in local politics. Not blood in the streets

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  12. I really wish you had been leading the Sun-Times. I’ve been reading about you or reading your blog from time to time and have been quite impressed. Sun-Times made a lot of motions about going digital, a lot of noise about going Web first, but the leadership did not set expectations, nor did it kick any butts at the slow pace of change. Perhaps, had they acted aggressively, as everything I’ve read about you suggests you have, the company would be in better stead and perhaps there were be fewer of us without jobs today.

    It’s nice to see someone with vision making it happen. I wish you the best.

    Ted

  13. Many of these prescriptions — though certainly not the one about thoughtlessly handing “digital people” (http://tiny.cc/0f9y5) the reins — are valid, but the thinking isn’t new. Every newsroom knows that it needs to engage its audience through different means, and while some journalists are resistant to that effort, few papers are not aggressively transitioning.

    They are still failing, however, and they’re failing in part because it IS a zero-sum game. Papers are losing money, and without money, there are no additional resources to commit to all this audience-engaging. Aggregation, social media, video, etc. take TIME, and if you focus your dwindling staff on dressing up content across different platforms, it is INEVITABLE that you will lose some degree of your content’s worth — whether in quality, breadth, depth, originality, or all four.

    It’s true that many journalists are hung up on losing their “gatekeeper” roles, but that’s hardly our sole complaint. Many of us got in the business because it allowed us to showcase our work, and we simply can’t take pride in what’s being mashed through the new model. Tough shit, Paton might say, but it’s his problem, too. The most skilled of us are leaving in droves for greener pastures.

    Long story short, publishers are going to have to do more with less. We all knew that already. When Paton will really innovate is when he can start telling us HOW.

    • I am at a loss. To me the most important new is local. Does it bring in advertisers? As we all know Tip said all news is local.
      To me it is local first, then national finally foreign. Of course it is important to rank them in importance daily. Dead last is blood in the streets and crime unless it is white collar and political. It is the lede if it is political at any level of government.
      But what is the profitable medium.?

    • It’s just not true that these changes will necessarily mean less journalism resources. That is true in many places because the strategy is to cut only, rather than to re-organize. It’s unfortunate that anyone loses their job, but by concentrating on core parts of the business and saving expenses in other areas by letting third parties handle them, the end result can be adequate to meet journalism’s needs.

    • You investigate, you write or create, you get published either in print or digitally and you get paid. Am I missing something here?

      • Uh, yeah, you are. As I said:
        “Papers are losing money, and without money, there are no additional resources to commit to all this audience-engaging. Aggregation, social media, video, etc. take TIME, and if you focus your dwindling staff on dressing up content across different platforms, it is INEVITABLE that you will lose some degree of your content’s worth — whether in quality, breadth, depth, originality, or all four.”

      • Perhaps some, but that is not really the core of the significant issues at hand. Something has to fund the digital conversion of it’s formats and audience engagements, or the newspaper firms will be left in dust. {period}

        It seems that the majority of remaining, (large customer) newsprint advertisers are simply pre-print. They pay for inclusion of their pre-printed (print) advertisements into local newspapers and delivery out to consumer addresses. It’s simply a cost/price choice they make versus any other physical delivery means to reach the same consumers with their pre-printed ads. It seems that print advertisers’ decisions for pre-print distribution actually have very little (if any) remaining relevance to what editorial content (or other publishers content) is included in the newspaper itself. It’s a “cheaper to the door” delivery model right now than any other physical delivery means.

  14. I found all of this very interesting. However, I’m not sure which road each of you are taking. Is it paper vs internet? I find both facinating. Maybe, I’m not quite in to the paperless world. I still love the smell of newly published papers and the feel of paper books.

    • Kindle fire may be the first significant change to book reading unless the book is very old, special interest or obscure. But what is the medium for daily news?
      The need is for innovation and profit. Less MBA’s

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  16. The companies in a position to monetize the situation are not necessarily news orgs, which own two valuable things: 1) The brand when it comes to news as a “product,” 2) the means of production and distribution (printing presses and vending boxes and gangs of kids and fleets of trucks etc.).

    But the new means of production and distribution are electrons, and the companies that have organized those in the most popular ways are Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

    They collect billions of dollars in advertising, so it seems what you’re talking about is news organizations leveraging their brand names to somehow sip from that stream. Because it’s hard to imagine any corporation with significant news holdings, unless it’s a behemoth like Time Warner or GE, coming close to where the new behemoths already are.

    I guess there’s still a place for print and local news and will be for for a while, even if the news is not the primary print product. I’d like to know how much money local newspapers make off outside print jobs.

    I also wonder if television is as strong as it’s ever been. Seems like there is a stronger appetite for news than ever (magazines are doing well, cable news is wall-to-wall, and obviously online — the subject of this discussion — is blowing up), and that the real problem is newspaper logistics – paper, ink, presses and distribution is expensive as hell.

    Maybe all of this is as simple as, “What the hell do we do with all this expensive stuff we’re stuck with but don’t need as much, if at all, any more?”

  17. Happened across this and thought it appropriate. If news companies don’t already have a squad or two of these guys maybe they should …

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

    “Mathematicians are suddenly sexy.” As the ability to analyze data has grown more and more fine-grained, the push to understand how daily habits influence our decisions has become one of the most exciting topics in clinical research, even though most of us are hardly aware those patterns exist. …

    This research is also transforming our understanding of how habits function across organizations and societies. A football coach named Tony Dungy propelled one of the worst teams in the N.F.L. to the Super Bowl by focusing on how his players habitually reacted to on-field cues. Before he became Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill overhauled a stumbling conglomerate, Alcoa, and turned it into a top performer in the Dow Jones by relentlessly attacking one habit — a specific approach to worker safety — which in turn caused a companywide transformation. The Obama campaign has hired a habit specialist as its “chief scientist” to figure out how to trigger new voting patterns among different constituencies.

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  20. John Paton without a mentor?
    Endgame? We are all in business with a endgame. With social media having no Geo Zone limitations (or restrictions) and an infinite number of real time ‘reporters’ already multimedia enabled, privately held media firms like MNG would be far more STRATEGIC to kill most print news infrastructure rather than to continue to pursue, rationalize or attempt to justify further resource expenditure within it.

    BTW, I recently witnessed a large MNG division operating under the belief that digital advertising was a NO COST “value add” to their remaining advertisers. Not much different than a self inflicted shotgun blast in the modern world.

  21. My feeble prediction…those that flee the fastest towards the shiny new toy while putting the main revenue generator in the back seat will die first. When managed properly and not cut to ridiculous levels the blend of paper and web works best. Many newspapers have quit – reducing the number of days – turning its back on its core customer and foolishly putting at risk a reach that averages 70% or more in most markets. Without the newspaper that reach would be approximately 20 – 30%. Competitive media companies are licking their chops hoping newspapers continue to NOT see what they own and properly utilize it. I am a 46 year old ad executive that spends more than my fair amount of time online but I also know, hear and see the tremendous results our advertisers get from our newspaper. We have one of the top dealsites in the country because we use the print to drive this online effort. We have one of the strongest performances in recruitment revenue in the country because we still have 3-4 pages of print help wanted advertising. We have modified our rates so that customers could experience the strength of both and it is working. Digital revenues at our paper are also growing dramatically but NOT at the expense of print. After closing in on prior year this quarter our newspaper will be positioned to cross 2010 by mid year and 2009 by the end of the year. Hopefully all the editorial folks who are reading this find hope that “the blend” can be the answer. Please look past the typo’s and grammatical errors – I am an ad guy and I look forward to telling this story for as long as I can. I personally am getting tired of people fueling the fire of print’s demise – many have quit or just haven’t figured out how to use the power of both which is the obvious answer. This is not rocket science. Have a good week everyone. Marty.

    • Marti-

      Yes, and a story it be.

      There can be rare exceptions to every industry and super niche markets. Your organization might consider also selling additional media solutions (Television, Radio) to your clients for a complete “Blend and Spend.” No one likes reductions in their budgets or empires, especially media planners and ad agencies, and it is those entities that remain partial on continuing to blend news print in their spends. When I hear, see or read statements such as “I also know, hear and see the tremendous results our advertisers get from our newspaper” – it reminds me of sales executives using the “it’s gaining a lot of traction” cliché and I typically stop listening to them, reading their proposals or inviting them back. Are those your core customers? It’s more far likely that your core customers are increasing their spends in digital and interactive advertising and with the proper targeting and ad copy, are getting much higher conversion rates. Clearly, the last stand for the news PRINT industry has to be that “Blend” is the right thing. That makes sense at this point in the history of news print and that argument is still accepted by some, old school, media planners until they are retired.

      BTW, in the course of everyday life the readers/users of your print product(s) ALSO read and use a myriad of other sources and products for information as well. So, I would argue that there is science to this:

      Offline readers of x are often the online readers of x, while both offline and online readers of x are also online readers of y, z, a, b, c…Even more likely is that online readers/users of y, z, a or B likely are NOT readers or users of x offline or online whatsoever.

      I have formula’s for this “science” that obviously I’m not willing to publish out in open forums.

      Have a great quarter!

      • for the love of Pete, John – while you decipher the alphabet we will continue to utilized the power of our 75% reach. That reach will evolve more to digital over time but that is ok. We will be adding other powerful, relevant, strategic elements to this already strong offering over the next several months and will continue to deliver the anti-trend. It is disappointing that we have so many of us going in so many directions right now when the answer is clear – deliver relevant content to the valuable audience that we have gained over the last hundred years or so and continue to reach them in new and different ways. Many people have been looking for the silver bullet when they own the answer and just need to change the pricing to incorporate all of the tools that will provide the success. I refuse to make claims I can’t back up – sorry if you stopped listening.

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  23. Great speech! I live in Silicon Valley (Palo Alto, CA) and don’t understand why your company continues to print newspapers in an area that is so connected digitally. Pull the plug on the printing presses. Save yourself a bunch of money. There’s no point in pushing a 16th century business model in our area. It looks silly and undermines your message!

  24. Media News Group runs the paper in the city I live in. Several months ago, they decided to block internet access for anyone who didn’t buy an exorbitantly priced subscription to the fishwrap edition. They have made absolutely no staff expansions or any attempt to improve local coverage and can hardly put out a competent newspaper, much less a worthwhile digital edition. So reading this stirring little speech was quite amusing. Maybe Mr. Paton should spend a couple of weeks visiting the papers he is supposedly in charge of and reading it to those people.

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  27. the more things change, the more they stay the same…

    -Col. McCormick, Founder of Tribune Co., defined a newspaper as presenting the news of the day, fostering business and proving that check on Government it does not provide itself. Your talk chronicles your belief that a newspaper is the “conscience of the community”. Our earliest publishers would post daily in the town square the news of the day and discuss it with the local residents. Your Torrington open newsroom, along with the open source digital tools available, is an update of that scenario. It is the reason your audience has doubled. Content in early days went to the audience. This, as you point out, is ever more true in the digital world where content will go to the audience. But what really you are growing is ENGAGEMENT. Newspapers can take little comfort in their collective industry web reach audience metrics when their engagement metrics are pathetic.

    -in the 70′s, The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Today papers were merged. Clayton ‘Kirk” Kirckpatrick, Tribune Editor prestented to me, Tribune Ad Director, a totally remade Chicago Tribune. His concern was how our major advertisers guaranteed ad positions were virtually thrown out the window, As he explained how these changes would increase reader engagement, I assured him our advertisers would buy into them. They did and we never received any complaints. In fact, our already healthy market ad share was increased. ENGAGEMENT breeds advertising vitality. Kirk, his staff, and city officials adopted a 10 point platform for future Chicagoland growth. These 10 points appeared in every Sunday Tribune Editorial page with a progress statement One porgram was “Save Our Lake”. Any time a news story, a news analysis piece or editorial piece appeared, it carried an icon of a oil stained hand emerging from Lake Michigan. The Lake was saved. The Tribune won a Pulitzer.

    -I believe your Digital First Media approach is right on target. Like you, I am a newspaper person. I am also a newspaper person that has been transformed to the Net. I believe that what you are doing is transformational. And like anyone else, i don’t know what the endgame will be. I strongly suspect that when, if ever, the endgame becomes clear….those who achieve enduring audience engagement, using the endless digital tools available, will have created the hybrid new business models for success.

    -again, the more things change the more their foundling principles stay the same…Think of what Kirk and his team in their day could have done with the tools available to all of you @Digital First!

    Good luck in your endeavor and vision….and don’t let the bastards grind you down.

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  30. Mr. Paton,

    Still very curious on where the “full-page ad,” so to speak, is for web journalism. We’ve seen web sites employ all sorts of creative machinations to draw eyeballs to their ads. Philly.com plays an automatic video every time you visit, for example. What do you see forthcoming that will transform the industry and boost profit numbers for news websites? Or do you think it’s a gradual process to push those numbers up? Probably the latter, I’m guessing. More people are advertising online and shopping online with each passing day.

    John H.

  31. Having been deeply involved in digital publishing since the early 1990s, and having participated in the successful launch of digital only brands like About.com and iVillage, I find it interesting that so many voices here believe that management can’t coordinate a balanced digital and print strategy. Companies that can moniteze content twice, rather than once, have an advantage. And the future of new media is even more platforms. See http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/140496/two-platforms-are-better-than-one.html

    The important thing to know — and that I agree with Mr. Paton about — is that it’s a more collaborative world now, and that a News (paper) brand must be a conduit that delivers and currates content in both directions; to and from the audience.

    The idea that print and digital are mutually exclusive is worse than un-proven. Its wrong. I wrote about here: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/138520/wrong-all-along.html

    The search for easy answers is fruitless. The future of pubishing is more complex then ever. Managers who are looking for simple answers that apply in all cases will never find what they need. Readers don’t one just one value (to consume content or to broadcast their voice) they want both. As publishers re-understand their industry they can only then formulate solutions.

  32. Digital people in charge -really. Outsource it. If it were out sourced to qualified people may work. I have read you say digital is to replace print loss. It most likely will in the long run. Print will not go away. I agree with Marty the customer needs to be catered to , not force fed. I also agree with Gordon. You weave a good “story”

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  41. Damn you John Payton! I have an “aha” moment, think I am onto something and you throw it concisely out into the universe, stealing my thunder.

    In all seriousness, great post! You’re right on the money. Unfortunately, many of the people who hold the reins in this industry don’t feel the same way. There’s a lot of talk about “digital first,” “media convergence,” etc., etc. but the talk is backed by half-hearted efforts. As you stated, everyone must buy into making the necessary changes. And when I look at what’s being done, at least here in Canada, the passion appears to be lacking.

    The current model – and by current I mean the one that the traditionalists are following – must be flipped on its head.

    Please continue to pave the way.

  42. Some great ideas, in the comments as well. But I wonder how many Town Criers made the transition to printing tracts, books and papers?

  43. “Investors don’t buy into myth, they buy into math.” love that one. But without being a brand, how will the revenue streams pay the production costs when you are a newbie in publishing business and therefore no brand that shapes its perception by creating constant value and keeping its promises? If anyone has an answer or idea, please let me know.

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  48. Mr. Paton does not know what he’s talking about, but he does do what he does confidently. He’s out to impress the banks, not Madison Avenue. Posts like this are yet another example in a series of stunts to impress banks, belittle and bully other newspaper executives, paint the picutre that “John really has this thing figured out” and ultimately allow John “PT Barnum” Paton to run more entities. Digtial First…you say it but don’t mean it. The average JRC website is a train wreck of blinking ads with disproportionately small-fonted blurts of occasional mediocre content. 12 ads per page is common; 15 is even more likely. They have completely obliterated the reader experience but they don’t really care…I’m sure their YOY impression totals will look impressive to the banks. A company woefully behind in site design, dedication to reader experience, app development and mobile sites is not “Digital First”. Be honest, you are “Appeal to Banks First”.

    • I love the Web particularly its transparency. Like any wonderful development in media it comes with some ugly side effects including cowards hiding behind Ayn Rand-inspired pseudonymns.

      • Maybe you could hire a few writers who write some decent content?
        Takes me about 12 seconds to read the neighbors papers which blows into my yard.
        Might want to add a few rocks to keep the paper in the tube.

    • It would be nice if you would lend some substance to your criticism, Gail Wynand. You make the same kind of overarching statements you accuse Paton of making. But the L.A. Times and others that have written about him point to numbers that give him credibility. You offer nothing of substance except an opinion. And everybody has an opinion. Not everyone can back them up.

      • One of the beauties of Web 2.0 is anonymity.
        No one would dare be honest with a big shot in publishing, especially when ‘papers are shedding editorial staff like skin cells. So anonymity allows honest criticism.

        The old saying is that if you don’t find web 2.0, then web 2.0 will find you. You been found.
        Your angry response is evidence that you don’t get digital and the interactive web.
        Also, you showed that if the person DID reveal his/her name that you would make him/her pay dearly for it!

        Certainly the commenter is correct. The Ottawa Sun / QMI / SunMedia (if that’s who you are still affiliated with) is nowhere near a digital first enterprise – it’s about the worst example of the way not to digitize. There is no sign of a leading edge business strategy, just looking into the future through the rear view window.

      • Minto, if your comments were directed at me (as the placement indicates), I think you misread my intent. I was asking for substance to back up opinion. My past affiliation was with Sun-Times Media in suburban Chicago.

      • @Schnell…
        Ooops – was actually pointed at Mr. Paton.
        I’ve written extensively on the chaos in media over the past dozen years, and there has been a steady line of big papers who have done exactly what the critical commenter writes about. They say one thing, but do another.
        Their CEOs make big pronouncements about being on the leading edge, when almost all of their leaders are just working toward a deal to get their full pensions or to position themself as a guru that can get a job when they’re canned.

      • Actually, anonymity is one of the uglier features of the overhyped term web 2.0.

        I disagree with Mr. Paton on many things and have said so publicly, but I’ve always shown him the courtesy of using my real name.

        Professionals never hide behind anonymity and should the day ever come where I need a job, I suspect Mr. Paton, more than most, will appreciate both my honest disagreements and my honesty in using my name.

        Interestingly, I the critics of Paton seem to fault him for being too radical. I find him not radical enough. Be glad I’m not your CEO.

        The passive resisters and opponents of change should all read this:

        http://www.journalism.org/analysis_report/obstacles_change_culture_wars?src=prc-section

        The biggest threat to quality journalism isn’t Mr. Paton. It’s his critics and the like.

      • Minto, John Paton is on Postmedia Network Incorporated’s Board of Directors. PNI was born out of the ashes of Canwest and operates under a “Digital First” banner. They have a tough road ahead of them. They have to try to rebuild (and if they’re being true to their highly publicized strategy, reinvent) a business – all while servicing a heavy debt load and answering to investors expecting a return on their investment.

        I agree with Howard, rapid change is necessary. We’ve sat around too long. The time for evolution is past. It’s now time for a revolution. Few people like change, but for those who embrace it, there’s some exciting times ahead.

        Howard is also right about throwing some criticism out there and openly debating the issues. We’ve all seen the results of the “yes men.” No singular vision or set of ideas is going to modernize the industry. It’s going to take some solid team work.

      • Really for Howard Owens..
        Really good stuff – your work and idas – impressive. I’ve been following the Pew Center and Rosenthiel’s investigation for a while – it’s pretty good stuff and this report is about the most comprehensive so far. It is highly anecdotal, largely because there are so little hard data.
        So many of the case studies that appear to be working may be aberrations based upon a territorial characteristic.
        There is scary stuff – like ‘papers throwing about numbers like 25% of content coming from public participation…. another 25% coming from blogs. That’s hardly the POV and credibility that built great newspapers.
        The big problem is identified – culture – the industry refuses to leave the status went.
        How would the shareholders and creditors of, say, a major daily react if a new BizPlan was brought in the actually went digital with revenues shrinking from $1B to $50mm, but bottom line going from a loss $50mm to a profit of $7mm. Problem is that there is more hope (and bigger perks) in working in the $1B revenue generator.
        As far as using a pen name – who is likely more honest – the anonymous critic before, or the self identified sycophant later on….

      • First, thanks for saying nice things.

        I wanted to react to this, “like 25% of content coming from public participation….another 25% coming from blogs. That’s hardly the POV and credibility that built great newspapers. ”

        If I understand what I think you’re saying, I disagree.

        It’s been a long time since I’ve thrown around these numbers, but in general terms — in 1940, newspapers employed something like 7,500 community correspondents. These were the farmers wives who wrote about church socials, etc. By the 1990s, community correspondents had been reduced to about 1/4 of that number.

        Amateur content helped newspapers engage audiences and amateur content has a place in the modern news operation.

        The other big problem you hit on in your comment, though not explicitly — the big problem for newspapers is executives worrying about what shareholders worry about.

        The declines of newspapers started well before the net and two big contributing factors where professionalization at the expense of community connection and the birth of the shareholder-controlled chain.

      • I took the reference on sources of community to evolve interaction much like we’re doing here and the vanity / Huff type stuff.
        Might just be crossed wires…
        The big loss is, of course, investigative work.
        Loss of ads leads to thinner ‘papers which leads to less space for content, which leads to choosing between a celebrity press release and getting someone really smart to track down why that interstate went through that specific farmers field.
        But only 10% of costs are in content… peanuts.
        I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff…

      • It is amazing to me that we continue to feed the beast that our industry is not a profitable one or that it is broken. Not only are most newspapers making good margins many of them continue to reach 70% or more of their market. This isn’t rocket science – most newsrooms continue to have significantly more resources than their competitors and ad divisions just need to provide programs that utilize their entire arsenal of products that produce great results for their customers. Our competitors would love to have the reach that most of us provide in a given week. Can we at least start looking at the glass as half full – many businesses would actually look at it as 90% full, as do I. Have a great week.

      • Mr. Carry
        You’re pretty much right – print is still the best way of getting an ad to huge numbers of people in a physical medium that can sit on a coffee table or be used to wrap fish.
        And there’s still big money in it.
        But the trends are scary:
        http://newspaperdeathwatch.com/
        The broken part of the model is the legacy of a printing plant. Run the paper from midnight to four a.m. then print flyers and event invites.
        I no longer read a printed ‘paper – I read digital – there just isn’t enough interesting content to warrant getting ink on my fingers.
        The latest thing I’m seeing is ‘papers holding back posting content on their digital editions. For me, all this means is I delete that paper from my bookmark bar.

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  53. I have to say that the open newsroom in Torrington, CT is darn impressive. Our Innovation Mission made a stop there last year and spent the day with Matt, Jon, Adam & team. The 16+ senior level executives that accompanied us were inspired and many are now moving in that direction. Deseret Digital was another stop on our tour and their Deseret Connect (contributor network) is terrific. Local media companies definitely need to find ways to tap the power of the community more and both of these companies are doing a fine job. Our Local Media Innovation Alliance will be issuing a report this summer about Emerging Content Strategies. Digital First Media and Deseret Digital will certainly be profiled as industry leaders.

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  57. After reading the speech and the comments, I have to put my 2 cents in the game! My background first. I am a digital guy, through and through. After years of learning the hardware side of technology and moving into networking (not social networking back then, hardwired, ya know, Hubs, Routers, Switches :) ), I was intrigued by the revenue generation side of the “internet”. So hence, I started my career as a digital only sales rep in 2004 for a newspaper in the great State of PA!

    2004, what a great year, it was a leap year, the Olympics in Athens, New Zealand bans smoking in all public places, including bars, and I realized that the print sales folks were not used to selling.

    The days of the phones ringing and taking orders for full page ads on Sunday had stopped. No more martini lunches, no more having car dealers bickering “thats my backpage of sports”, and no time to wait on finding out the needs of the advertisers. Wait, the needs of the advertisers? They just need to continue with this 3×2 TOMA ad for 52 weeks this year. This is what they have always done, and that is what they need!

    Really? Need? Did we ask? Do we have a multimedia solution?

    Wait, yes of course we have a multimedia solution, we have these banner ads all over our site! Let me bring my online guru in and he can help you. We can just add $100 to your monthly invoice and bada bing! You have a multimedia solution.

    Fast forward 7 years 2011, now a VP on the Digital Side. Times have changed. I am in a new & much larger market. I feel like a million bucks with my new gig and can impact change! Time to see where some improvement is needed and how can I integrate mobile solutions such as POI based Augmented Reality, not gimmicky Vision stuff, but true AR. Also, I need to look at the infrastructure of the CMS we use because semantics are where its at. Ontology based semantics. This will be key! Banner ads are going away quickly and who really cares about a click and branding? I want results!

    Excited to hit the road with this integrated, trained staff, and hear their consultative selling pitch!

    “Hello advertiser A, here is your tear sheet for your TOMA, and this is our new online guru. He can talk to you about the internet. But first, take a look at this special section we have coming up in March. Also are you going to be doing the same full page in the Real Estate Magazine this year?”

    You see where I am going with this.

    Folks, this isn’t about whether or not you need to listen to digital people or print people. This is about listening to our advertisers, users, reader; their needs, their pain. Journalism is hot! I am 38 and get the Daily News delivered everyday (I like that magazine format, I do not work there and great ads, go Johnny P.!). And I agree that these are two totally separate business models. They can compliment each other extremely well, don’t get me wrong. But different businesses altogether. Anyone touting they have the solution is most likely not telling the whole story. IMHO, the solution is opening our ears and eyes to the folks around us. The people and businesses that rely on us as a trusted adviser. Users, Readers, Advertisers, our Communities.

    Gordon B. , looking forward to the 21st! Should be a great time! John Paton, great speech even though I don’t totally agree with it 100%. I truly appreciate you sharing this! We need to grab a beer at some point :)

    The above was a brain dump and just some of my ideals, opinions, and rant. I could have kept going as those who know me would agree, I am sure. Have a great day everyone!

      • Thanks Minto! I get scattered because I have so much to say! I have a strong passion for the publishing business and a strong passion for digital.

    • Some great passion here! Great to see it! You’re right – We do need to communicate more effectively with our customers, our readers, our communities, our suppliers, and our peers. We also need to communicate more effectively in-house. It amazes me. We’re supposed to be in the communication business, but too many times the head has no idea what the tail is doing and vice versa.

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  73. Reblogged this on PaleInk and commented:
    If you’re a journalist, as I am, you are probably worried about the future of newspapers and journalism in general. The net, the loss of advertising revenue and general fragmentation of readers means has had a damaging effect on readership, revenues and jobs. The answer? Well, from what I’ve read, there’s no simple, or single, answer. But this long-time journo has some interesting ideas: namely, involving local citizens, going digital first and working as a brand. I think it’s a hyped in its dire predictions but he puts some good ideas.

    • What happened to monk scribes when gutenberg came along?
      Was the real value in how their religious scripts were written?
      Of course not.
      The value was in the content and the distribution. It still is.
      Is the value of a “paper” in its printing presses and trucks that deliver the papers?
      Of course not.
      It’s in its POV and credible brand.
      It does not lose these when it goes digital.
      In fact, about 70% of the costs disappear.
      But so does perhaps 90% of the revenues.
      The problem is legacy (printers, plants, truck drivers and investor/owner expectation). The digital model simply does not have the critical mass to support all this. And it is unlikely to very soon.
      Citizen participation has no value; opinions are cheap and everyone has one and the assumption that a “paper” will retain its credibility by filling it’s webpages with citizen opinion (even vanity opinion from name brand people per Huff) is invalid.
      Only 10% of the costs of producing traditional papers is on newsgathering.
      Start the new equation with this. Say (simple math) 100,000 paper issues / daily edition = say $100,000 in subscription sales and $50/1,000 in ad value x say 30 pages = $150,000 in ad sales = $250,000 in revenues and $25,000 in newsgathering costs.
      Start with that overhead in a digital edition – $25,000/day- spent on staff as well as freelance and syndication. (again simple math for illustration). In the digital world, what other costs are there? Computers, coffee, a little tiny bit of office space, investor returns, overhead salaries, web designers and managers. Say another $25,000.
      So – the digital edition has a $50,000 / day overhead. But CPM is much lower in digital, say $5 / 1,000. You would need 10 MILLION visitor impressions – this from a paper that only generated 100,000 daily readers in print form.
      It is a very, very tough scenario. But we are developing a solution.
      My math is really back of envelope – if you want a conversation on this email me. brianfrench@rogers.com

      • The main readers are the older generation who grew up reading the paper and have no use for the internet.
        If you guys think people are going to pay for online content,your completely nuts.
        I know everything is advertising dollars,but it’s going to dry up very soon.
        The days of inflated circulation numbers will soon end also.
        Sales are what counts…not the false circulation numbers the office likes to generate.
        Cater to your readers…not your advertisers.

  74. Pingback: Will newspapers face a digital death? « PaleInk

  75. Pingback: Will newspapers face a digital death? « PaleInk

  76. We live in a digital economy of free. If a reader can’t get content for free, he’ll find it for free (pirated) or not read it. Once you charge a penny for something on the web, you’re in a different economy – with a very small audience.
    I think managers for are believing in a recovery to the old model are either delusional or trying to last long enough to get a pension.
    To have a paper edition costs about the same if it’s 10,000 or 100,000 copies printed.

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