Reading this editorial, it looks like the Denver Post is falling prey to the same force that felled Toys 'R' Us: the corporate raider that buys the company not to actually make what it makes or sell what it sells, but to bleed cash from it and leave it burdened with debt. Somehow, these types expect to make up the shortfalls through cost-cutting and layoffs, even though a company with fewer resources and people is that much less equipped to deal with its competition AND manage with all that debt.
In newspapers, the mantra is "doing more with less," which is nonsense. Look at that photo illustration atop the editorial. Can anyone realistically expect a company to cut its staff from 250 down to less than 100 and plan to cut 30 more, and still produce anything at the same volume and quality?
Well, I have to think that the guys who take over these businesses don't care about the company's long-term viability any more than Viking raiders cared about the long-term viability of the towns they raided. They came in, got what they wanted, and left the towns to burn, assuming that there would always be another town to raid somewhere else.
That's a great analogy, Baron.
Yeah, corporate raiders buy companies, sell off parts, extract what they can, and then walk away, leaving a company that is usually headed for bankruptcy court, where the employees and shareholders take the hit.
My newspaper, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, had the motto "you can't cut your way out of trouble" and tried to hold the door against layoffs as much as possible. Then Gannett bought us and started firing everybody. The paper's printing was outsourced to Jackson, 90 miles away, which moved deadlines up to 7 p.m. (no sports for you!), and fired the entire press department. They outsourced HR and advertising to their home office in Virginia and fired all those people. They moved editorial management to (much-hated) Nashville and all the layout/copy editing to Des Moines, Iowa, and fired everyone in the newsroom except for 40 people. (That's when I was let go.)
Except for some veteran reporters doing their best, much of The CA is utter crap now. There's zero chance that it can survive in its current form, especially with more subscribers bailing every time there's a horrible editing breach or the paper is filled with stories from Nashville and Knoxville instead of Memphis. (It's the "USA TODAY-Tennessee Network!") It is no longer the newspaper of record, it is no longer the best newspaper in town and I will not be surprised whatsoever when the print product goes away or is reduced to 3-4 days a week.
Gannett is putting out a "product" as cheaply as possible, without regard to journalism's role in a democracy or quality. The only thing that surprises me about this is that people continue to be surprised by this.
...The SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL is owned by Digital First, the owners if the Denver Post, as well. Actually, I'm not to sure that Digital First does't own EVERY daily in coastal Northern California, barring only the two in San Francisco proper...The Sentinel is astonishingly thin most?? days, the last one I bght costing 1 dollar and 50 cents for 18 pages of paper...
We lament the shrinking staffs and shrinking content—correctly, I think, we all love to read, and those cuts included the Captain, but newspapers are also shrinking not just because there is less content but because there are fewer ads. I remember flipping through page after page of ads every morning, but no longer. Emerkeith Davyjack nails it, there isn’t much there—content or ads. Usually, the ads were a nuisance and, we thought, who would miss them? But they paid the bills. Increasingly what we get is no longer “subsidized” by ads, so the price goes up and content goes down, which causes another round of cuts and lower circulation, which further erodes newspapers’ desirability as a platform for advertisers. And on and on goes the vicious cycle.
Kind of like comic books in the 1970s: declining sales, price increases to cover the losses, less content (eventually down to 17 pages), further declines in sales, more price increases ... so here we are with titles selling 40,000 (if they are lucky) that might have once sold 200,000 to 400,000. Even though there were more ad pages they didn’t seem to add significantly to the bottom line, and many of those were house ads, which wouldn’t bring in ad revenue.
Newspaper circulation is at the same level it was at in 1945 or so. Of course, the population has doubled since them. This doesn’t bode well.
Will digital save newspapers, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Right now digital isn't saving newspapers. No one has figured out how to make online advertising pay for a digital newspaper entirely, and most people won't pay for online content because they've gotten used to getting it for free. Add in competition -- not just other news sites, but propaganda like Breitbart, plus social media, which is where most Americans get their news -- and the business model just doesn't work.
Chains like Gannett seem to be going out of their way to kill the print product, with all its nasty overhead. But the print product, despite the drop in ads, is still paying for everything. Digital simply doesn't turn a profit. So the future for journalism as we knew it is grim.
Early on, nobody knew what to charge for digital ads, and I believe the first mistake was to set those prices too low, making it too hard to ratchet them up to the appropriate level.
Yes, most people won't pay for online content because they've gotten used to getting it for free. But I think the mistake there is was setting the prices too high per article. Who would pay $1 per article online when the entire day's newspaper is less than that?
And the way chains like Gannett have gone about saving money, by denuding the papers of staff, is beyond stupid. The Wall Street Journal has always been able to have most of its content behind a paywall and get people to buy it. Why? Because Wall Street Journal subscribers want news and information gathered and written by Wall Street Journal reporters and edited by Wall Street Journal editors and organized and presented with Wall Street Journal judgment.
But the Gannetts and Media Generals and Tribunes -- excuse me, these days they call it "tronc" -- stripped their papers of reporters and fill the pages with wire stories. Why should anybody pay for the Memphis Commercial Appeal or the Baltimore Sun or the Akron Beacon Journal if the stories aren't written by reporters in Memphis or Baltimore or Akron about what's happening in Memphis or Baltimore or Akron -- and instead are given the same Associated Press stories that are available everywhere, for free?
Newspapers have trained people to expect to get their content for free, because they keep cutting away the content that makes them special that no one else is providing.
CBS This Morning did a story today about the Denver Post revolt
In a similar vein, the Chicago Sun-Times puts out an appeal begging readers to subscribe to its website, to keep the paper alive. It specifically points out one dumb decision by the previous ownership: "Importantly, we have recommitted to visual journalism to reverse the damage done when past management laid off the entire photography staff."
But here's a very telling note in the appeal:
the Chicago Sun-Times wrote:
The Alliance of Audited Media, an industry group that monitors the circulation of news publishers, estimates that the percentage of legitimate websites generating relevant, original content is very low, about 3 percent of the world’s 329 million websites, because the economics are brutal.
Google and Facebook dominate digital advertising, together collecting 73 percent of all digital ad revenue, according to a 2017 analysis by the research firm, Pivotal. All other companies compete for rest of the digital advertising pie. As print advertising has declined year-after-year, this has a created an impossible business model for labor-intensive, quality local journalism.
...And here I thought that it was all about being lean and mean! And doing more with less. Oh, and increasing the owner's stock shares every quarter...
...Was this dropping the photo staff of the SUN-TIMES done under Lord Conrad Black's ownership? When did it happen in relation to the death of the most famous S-T employee, Roger Ebert?
Myself, I just did recently " get all grown up " and subscribed to the basic digital plan for the New York Times - coming from the area, even though I"ve been gone for coming up toward 21 years, it's a familiar newspaper to me. The NYT basic digital is roughly what the S-T costs - for the first year.
The Chicago Sun-Times laid off its photographers in 2013.