Sick media just the symptom

You often hear editorial types describe the current problem of newspapers and TV as “it’s not an audience problem; it’s a revenue problem.”

Maybe, maybe not. That sort of short-circuits the question of whether news, particlarly local news, is economically viable, and if not, how to make it profitable.

It also possible the woes of traditional media are just the sympton and not the disease.

At least some think it’s advertising that’s dying not newspapers or TV or magazines. They’re just caught in the death throes of advertising. (Little solace to those in the media business, perhaps.)

A reader wrote The Atlantic’s James Fallows

The real problem is, advertising is dying. It’s just pulling down newspapers along the way. Next up: TV, radio, and Google.

Another reader of Fallows’ said:

The problem with newspapers is that they were a bundle of hard news, classifieds, sports, weather, financial information, comics, lifestyle, etc. People were willing to pay the cover price for the whole package, but were mostly interested in the non-news items.

All of those non-news categories have fled to the net, where they are done significantly better. Craigslist really is better in every way than the newspaper classifieds. Other categories are also covered in much greater depth out on the net.

The newspapers themselves thought of their reporters as the core, and the other sections as just fluff to fill out the paper. With the “fluff” gone, they are discovering there’s not enough taste for hard news alone to pay the bills.

This is why micropayments or paywalls for online papers are not going to save the business. Hard news just doesn’t pay for itself, not in advertising revenues or in subscriptions.

And Jay Small riffs off a Jeff Jarvis post on “advertising as failure.”

Either of these would not bode for content providers relying on an advertising supported model.

Reading online comments shouldn’t be icky

APME Online Credibility Roundtable

There’s been a lively discussion about online comments as a result of the APME Online Credibility Roundtable on Comments we held recently in Knoxville. Our excellent Roundtable guests raised many points that others are reacting too. 

The comment threads are spread across at least three different URLs. You can see the discussion on Knoxviews, on News Editor Jack McElroy’s column about the Roundtable and on knoxnews’ “This is How We Roll” blog.

We’ve posted two video pieces from the Roundtable plus the complete session as an audio file (they’re linked from the “This is How We Roll” post).

The goal is to develop strategies and solutions to curb the meanness and hate that too often deelops in comment threads. Join the conversation. We think this is a bigger problem than just one newspaper news site in Knoxville. if you blog it, let me know and I’ll add a link to our coverage links.

But it’s more than just talk. We’re developing a strategies to improve comments on the News Sentinel’s web sites on five fronts. We’re be talking about those efforts in more detail in the future.

Less bluster; more ballyhoo

Mme. ClofulliaBuzzmachine Jeff Jarvis often asks “What Would Google Do?” to outline a digital strategy, but maybe the question media companies need to ask is “What would P.T. Barnum Do?”

Tom Grubisich urges newspapers to leverage their Google links to the gaudy max instead of lamenting about the search giant.

To be blunt, what newspapers have to do is emulate the marketing savvy of the carnival. When you came to the freak show, you were greeted by spectacularly clothed, fast-talking barker. Standing next to the barker was the “bearded lady” or “wild man of Borneo” or some other bizarre creature – a tantalizing sampling of what was insidethe tent. Buy a ticket for 50 cents, and you could satisfy your socially incorrect curiosity.

Newspaper barkers would have an easier job than the carnival barker. They don’t have to sell tickets. But they do have to do a better job of selling their content.

All we have to do is get them into the tent.

(More on the media frenzy surrounding “The Bearded Lady of Geneva,” pictured above.)