A feeble attempt at “pundintry”

I don’t really want to wade into Paul Mulshine’s debate on whether an army of blogging “pundints” are killing newspapers; it’s deeper than the muck at the TVA coal plant. Besides Michael Silence caught me snarky.

But the letters published last night by the Wall Street Journal in response to the column show that quite a few of the people that read or used to read newspapers just don’t care about the fate of newspapers and just might be knowingly smiling at the prospect of their demise.

I do know a goodly number of people who would miss their newspaper if it failed to show up in the paper tube or driveway — or online — so it’s just not us poor ink-stained wretches who would miss them.

You can argue the problems of newspapers as content or economic ad infinitum, but, in truth, it’s a total business product issue. It won’t be pretty, but we’ll figure out how to have economically viable local news enterprises and that could very well involve more embracing of the “Army of Davids” than shunning them because they do, in fact, know how to spell pundit more times than not

Naming rights for this blog are available*

Instead of newspapers and other media companies buying parts of sports teams and naming rights to stadiums and arenas, maybe the sports teams need to buy part of newspapers … the Dallas Mavericks Newsroom, the Tennessee Titans Press Room, the Atlanta Falcons Satellite Printing Plant?

There would be fewer headaches for team owners than Mark Cuban’s “beatwriter cooperative” idea.

Cuban said:

Buying anything more than small ads in papers  to promote price
promotions for the Mavs has not worked for us. I would far rather
subsidize in depth coverage of the Mavs, even without any editorial
control then spend more money on advertising. Im a firm believer that
there is a foundation of readers who use the sports pages as their
primary source of local team information. That number may not be as big
as it used to be, nor will it be as big in the future. Thats ok.  The
numbers may not make the newspaper shareholders happy, but they are of
sufficient numbers to have an impact on the local sports market.

Hey, before you say, there goes that crazy Mark Cuban again, read his post on a beat cooperative with writers funded by teams but working for newspapers. Given the current conditions, it’s not that far-fetched. Yeah, and next they’ll only be delivering dailies three days a week.

*But I still write whatever I want.

“Willful ignorance” may win out

These two pieces on the future, or lack thereof, for newspapers are best read as a pair.

This change has been more like seeing oncoming glaciers ten miles off, and then deciding not to move.

By the turn of the century, anyone who didn’t understand that the business model for newspapers was a wasting asset was caught up in nothing other than willful ignorance, so secure in their faith in the permanence of their business that they assumed that those glaciers would politely swerve at the last minute, which minute is looking increasingly like now.

— Clay Shriky in Boing Boing

Newspapers were built on local advertising monopolies. The Internet deprived them of those monopolies. Less important than an individual’s ability to access the BBC’s news feed was his ability to access Craigslist’s classifieds. In the internet age, midsize newspapers are an inefficiency. …

More prescient managers might have made for better news products but not sufficient revenue models. Most of the commentary on dying newspapers has been about making their news product better. But the salable product of newspapers was not news. It was local advertising and classifieds. Classifieds are now free and online advertising is a weak revenue stream. Meanwhile, the Internet gives individuals have access to more news, not less. Much is lost amidst this, particularly in terms of local coverage. Which is why, aside from journalists losing their jobs, few are actually upset over the changes roiling the industry. Which is why, as Shirky presciently said in 1993, “there is nothing anyone can do about it.”

— Ezra Klein in The American Prospect

And as Stowe Boyd notes, the trend toward the Internet being the primary source of national and international news is accelerating, 40 percent in 2008 versus 24 percent in 2007, according to a Pew study. And for those under 30, 59 percent versus 34 percent in 2007 list the Internet as the primary source of national and international news.

Despite these glum assessments (or perhaps to spite them), newspapers are still investing in new presses and printing facilities. And while people like to beat up on the economic plight of newspapers, local market TV stations are in the same spot, shrinking audiences and shrinking ad revenues.

I have a suspicion that we’ll see glacial moving print newspapers — and local TV stations — for far longer than either Shirky or Klein think even through I agree with their analysis that news or information will gravitate toward the most efficient means of dissemination.

Newspapers and TV stations just won’t be like they used to be — or are now.

I also have enough “willful ignorance” to believe that we will find an Internet economic model for supporting locally focused journalism. But then, again, I’m looking forward, in a way, to 2009.

(via Derek Tutschulte)

The story of Knoxville Talks

Katie Allison Granju on newsroom blogging and how she came to create Knoxville Talks.

Far too many publishers, reporters, editors, anchors and producers still see blogging as some sort of second-class, redheaded stepchild. Bloggers aren’t real journalists, so the argument goes, and they certainly don’t belong in the newsroom. But as real journalists and journalism professors continue to grapple with what exactly it is they do these days, bloggers are out there just doing it–without the angsty navel-gazing or handwringing. Bloggers certainly can be real journalists, albeit ones who fall into their own category within the profession. The sooner the powers that be accept this new reality, the sooner they can begin reaping the benefits.

That’s part of a Nieman Reports article on how an innovation came about in one newsroom. Good reading.