2005-01-06

Stats: Newspapers in Decline

'Newspapers Baffled by Declines' by Mr.John C Dvorak I'd been doing some research on media trends, especially the effect of on-line activity and how it impinges on old media, when I ran across this 'Wired' article called 'Newspapers Should Really Worry', that I suppose the bloggers have picked up on in droves. On-line mavens, of course, credit themselves for the decline of newspapers. I don't see the decline that way. The key point I noticed in the story is this paragraph:
'Imagine what higher-ups at 'The Post' must have thought when focus-group participants declared they wouldn't accept a 'Washington Post' subscription even if it were free. The main reason (and I'm not making this up): They didn't like the idea of old newspapers piling up in their houses'.
This struck me because it's the exact same reason I don't subscribe to a paper, and I'm certainly not alone in my age group (don't ask) in this thinking. This trend has nothing to do with on-line news or 'Google'. It would be in place without the Internet, and was started when TV news was the only alternative to newspapers. The newspapers themselves create the problem by not understanding what they've done to themselves. I should mention that when given a chance to read a good paper at the airport while travelling, I do enjoy the stories and perspectives. Newspapers are not dead yet. So what's the problem? It dawned on me when I came across a news posting on 'News.com' titled 'Craigslist Costing Newspapers Millions':
'Free community Web site "Craigslist" has cost San Francisco Bay Area newspapers up to 65_million_USD in employment advertising revenue, according to a report released Monday 2005-01-03. "Craigslist", which generates more than 1 billion page views each month, also has cost the newspapers millions more in merchandise and real estate advertising, and has damaged other traditional classified advertising businesses, according to a report published by "Classified Intelligence"'.
I realise that the main reason I object to the piling high of newspapers is that the saturation effect of advertising has made it intolerable -- not the newspapers piling up, but being inundated by advertising within those papers and confronted with far too much shotgun advertising from all sources. Why am I getting pages of advertising for 'Albertson's', for example? I never shop there. And I won't, except in an emergency, and advertising won't change that. So why am I confronted with all the 'Albertson's' sale prices when I'm not a customer?
The fact is, I don't want this junk in my house. And that's what today's newspapers have become: Junk. Clutter. Who needs it?
'The Washington Post' folks will focus-group the heck out of this 'problem' and it will never dawn on those running the paper that maybe this newly discovered rejection has nothing to do with their product, but has everything to do with its packaging. This moment of enlightenment will take forever to come. The people at these papers are too corporate and dense to ever figure it out. Instead they will dumb down the content or add a column by 'Mr.Snoop Doggy Dogg' to throw a bone to the demographic group they want to get on board. These tactics won't work and will annoy other demographic groups, and circulation will slip even more. It's hilarious. If you wonder why 'The New York Times' is picking up circulation, take a look at the packaging. No used cars. No cartoons. No grocery ads. 'The Wall Street Journal' and 'USA Today' also have very few classifieds. Circulation is up. So what happened to cause this rift? First, let me say that my observations do not imply that the local papers should not serve the needs of the local merchants and should refuse advertising. But they should NOT be all advertising. Have you ever seen the Sunday edition of 'The Los Angeles Times'? You need a forklift to carry it. Here's the problem: When I was a kid, we used to get the local paper, and once a week a free paper called a 'shopper' was delivered. It was all advertising and no content. I was a paperboy who actually had both routes. Everyone got the 'shopper'. Somewhere along the way (besides getting rid of the paperboy), the big papers played games and found ways to steal all the advertisers from the 'shopper', and most 'shoppers' are now gone. In the San Francisco Bay Area, little papers such as 'The Classified Flea Market' cropped up to take the place of the 'shoppers'. But for the most part, the metropolitan dailies have usurped the 'shoppers', and in many cases have actually become the 'shopper', like a science-fiction story where the invaders turn into the invaded. The mentality of most metro dailies is certainly advertiser-oriented, just like a 'shopper'. Entire sections, such as the real-estate or auto sections, are pure PR fluff surrounded by ads. There is no news coverage at all, but lots of promotion. Most metro dailies are offering free delivery for a limited time -- a bad idea. It creates the wrong image. It's a 'shopper' mentality, and it re-inforces the notion that the paper is a worthless shopper. Most local papers are also cheapened by too often relying on syndicated feeds from 'The New York Times' or 'The Washington Post'. Heck, if I want to read 'The New York Times', I'll subscribe to it. Then 'Craigslist' comes along and resurrects the 'shopper' concept and takes it to a new level. The publication is free and placing an ad. is free too! And it is a machine-searchable database. Good luck competing with this model. Now if we look at the real margins of newspapers, we'll see that they have plenty of opportunity to return to the days when they served the public, did their own reporting, and were important. Once they realise that their days of being the local free 'shopper' are over, then the panic will end. But knowing the folks who run the papers tells me that ending the panic will take a while. 'Newspapers Baffled by Declines' John C Dvorak, PC Magazine, 2005-01-03 The above article refers to the following articles: 'Craigslist costing newspapers millions' by Mr.Steven Musil [Top] Free community web site, 'Craigslist' has cost San Francisco Bay Area newspapers up to 65_million_USD in employment advertising revenue, according to a report released Monday 2004-01-03. 'Craigslist', which generates more than 1_000_million page-views each month, also has cost the newspapers millions more in merchandise and real estate advertising, and has damaged other traditional classified advertising businesses, according to a report published by 'Classified Intelligence'.
'"Craigslist" has created an extremely important and valuable marketplace, and perfectly illustrates the changing nature of the classified advertising industry', Mr.Peter M. Zollman, founding principal of 'Classified Intelligence', said in a statement.
'Craigslist', launched in 1995, is a bare-bones classifieds site for people looking for almost anything, such as apartments, dates or baseball tickets, in 45 cities. The site has since created a flourishing network of on-line buyers and sellers while maintaining a simple look and feel free from banner ads. Local search advertising revenue is expected to reach 502_million_USD in 2004, up from 408_million_USD last year, according to market researcher 'Jupiter Research'. That number is expected to hit 824_million_USD by 2008. Classified advertising represents a 28_000_million_USD to 30_000_million_USD business in the United States of America, including 16_000_million_USD in daily newspapers, and an estimated 100_000_million_USD business internationally. On-line auction giant 'eBay' took a 25 per cent stake in 'Craigslist' in August. 'eBay' also announced recently that it would buy on-line apartment rental service 'Rent.com' for 415_million_USD. 'Craigslist costing newspapers millions', Steven Musil Staff Writer, CNET News.com, 2004-12-27, 9:10 PM PST 'Newspapers Should Really Worry', by Mr.Alan L. Peneberg [Top] Publishers of newspapers and magazines like to corral readers when they're young. If you can shape kids' info-seeking habits when they're in their teens or twenties, so the thinking goes, you'll nab them for life. Because brand loyalty isn't just about offering the best product for the best price, as it is with, say, minivans or socket wrenches. It's also about image: Are you a 'New York Times' guy or a 'The Washington Post' 'aficionado'? Do you read 'The Wall Street Journal', 'The Economist' or 'Fortune'? Do you subscribe to 'Newsweek' or 'Time'? Is 'Wired' more than the way you feel after a double espresso at 'Starbucks'? Your choice says a lot about you. From the perspective of publishers, the 18- to 34-year-old demographic is highly prized by advertisers -- the people who make writing, editing and working at a newspaper or magazine a vocation, not just an avocation (like it is for most bloggers) . But there is trouble afoot. The seeds have been planted for a tremendous upheaval in the material world of publishing. Young people just aren't interested in reading newspapers and print magazines. In fact, according to 'Washington City Paper', 'The Washington Post' organised a series of six focus groups in 2004-09 to determine why the paper was having so much trouble attracting younger readers. You see, daily circulation, which had been holding firm at 770_000 subscribers for the last few years, fell more than 6 per cent to about 720_100 by 2004-06, with the paper losing 4_000 paying subscribers every month. Imagine what higher-ups at 'The Post' must have thought when focus-group participants declared they wouldn't accept a 'Washington Post' subscription even if it were free. The main reason (and I'm not making this up): They didn't like the idea of old newspapers piling up in their houses. Don't think for a minute that young people don't read. On the contrary, they do, many of them voraciously.
But having grown up under the credo that information should be free, they see no reason to pay for news.
Instead they access 'The Washington Post' website or surf 'Google News', where they select from literally thousands of information sources. They receive RSS feeds on their PDAs or visit bloggers whose views mesh with their own. In short, they customise their news-gathering experience in a way a single paper publication could never do. And their hands never get dirty from newsprint. 'The Post' experience merely mirrors the results of a 2004-09 study (.pdf) by the 'On-line Publishers Association', which found that 18- to 34-year-olds are far more apt to log on to the Internet (46 per cent) than watch TV (35 per cent), read a book (7 per cent), turn on a radio (3 per cent), read a newspaper (also 3 per cent) or flip through a magazine (less than 1 per cent). And when young people go on-line, they tend to browse for news in much the same way they window-shop for jeans or sneakers: sampling a headline here, a blog entry there, a snippet of a story there, until their news cravings are satisfied. For instance, Mr.Patrick Reed, a 27-year-old disc jockey, sound designer and record store manager in Manhattan, clicks to 'Americablog'- 'for indie politics, "Slashdot" for geekery', as well as daily fixes of 'CNN.com' and 'Google News' -- 'probably five to 10 times a day', he said. Mr.Reed, is afflicted with digital wanderlust and enjoys getting 'different perspectives from around the world'. Mr.John Athayde, also 27, a web designer who works in Washington, DC, buys a newspaper once every 'two to three months', usually 'because someone I know has a picture in the events section or something'. Instead, he views news as 'packets of distributed information', and uses 'NetNewsWire' to aggregate about 70 news sources, including several blogs. 'I typically will read entire stories within the news aggregator, bypassing all design (and) advertising' to get 'to the content'. Twenty-four-year-old Mr.Max Fenton makes websites for fashion designers and tutors celebrities on how to use a 'Mac'. He did his 'best to stay confused about RSS until the last phase of this election cycle, when the news just started coming from too many sources'. He reads the liberal bloggers of 'Pandagon' religiously, because 'they're anchormen' and 'human aggregators of news' and 'voices I trust'. Blogger Mr.Waldo Jaquith, also in his twenties, souped up his laptop with Wi-Fi so that he's almost never without Internet access. Between classes at Virginia Tech, he reloads various RSS subscriptions and spends a half-hour reading stories or blogging his own, 'so that people who use me as a content aggregator can get their news fix'. He believes that 'as news-reader (programs) improve and become more widely used, adding the sort of auto-filtering and smart-sorting capabilities of a decent e-mail client, their popularity will snowball'. He also predicts that print media, which he says his generation has largely rejected in favour of digital dissemination of news, will die off within 30 years, 'when the dead-tree readers will die off'. What this world will look like is anyone's guess, but it probably won't include 'The Washington Post' thudding on anyone's doorstep at 5 in the morning. - -- - Adam L. Penenberg is an assistant professor at New York University and the assistant director of the business and economic reporting program in the department of journalism. 'Newspapers Should Really Worry', Alan L. Peneberg, Wired.com, 2004-11-24 Links Craigslist - Edinburgh

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am like that. I love reading blogs and news stories online, better than a newspaper with a bias, or that has been dumbed down. I LOVE the term "Dead Tree Readers" (thanks for introducing that one to me, I will try to sprinkle my conversation with it from no on).

1/13/2005 01:54:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I give the press another 10 years tops.

1/14/2005 02:01:00 am  

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