Friday, February 12, 2010

The Newspaper Industry Is Run by a Bunch of Brain-Dead Morons

Not to put too fine a point on it, but isn't that the key lesson from l'affaire Zuckerman? I mean, if Mark can get readers to toss ten large in a hat for what's essentially a pig in a poke, imagine what the Post could have done with, you know, an actual advertising budget and a subscriber list that (once) numbered over a million.

Boo-hoo, the Internet makes it harder to make money in journalism. Waaaaaaa. Competition is so hard.

Guess what--provide a decent product, and people will pay. Instead, faced with competition, the newspaper industry just keeps pissing on its own product. Circulation shrinks, so they lay off reporters, and quality gets worse, and circulation shrinks, and so they lay off more reporters, and quality gets worse, and circulation shrinks more. Does it really take a business genius to figure it out?

Let me be clear that I'm not talking about the editors or the reporters or probably anyone who's ever set foot in a newsroom. The problem is the corporate hacks--most of whom have nothing but disdain for journalism and don't have any vision for the business beyond the next quarter's stock price.

And don't think this is just about the Moonie idiosyncrasies of The Washington Times, either. There's no reason that any other news outlet couldn't have been making profits off of the the consumer demand that Mark is tapping into.

If I launched a downscale general store/pharmacy in DC, would that work? Nope, CVS has squeezed very cent out of that market, thanks very much. How about a chain of cookie-cutter faux-gourmet coffee shops. Sorry, Starbucks has that market cornered. Maybe a mid-priced Mexican restaurant on the Hill? Don't think so.

But despite over 100 years of branding and resource development, the newspaper industry manages to leave so much money on the table that a guy like Mark can put up a fundraising bat on blogger, and whammo. And all due respect to Mark--he's a good reporter, but we're not exactly talking about Johnny Apple here.

I don't expect the newspaper industry to learn any lessons from this. They've been shooting themselves in the foot for years. Don't get me wrong. Some papers are better than others. Like, some papers are shooting themselves in the foot with a revolver while others are using an Uzi with armor-piercing bullets. But if there's ever been a more embarrassing episode of supposedly elite businessmen and women getting shown up as total friggin' incompetents, this is it.


phil dunn said...

Speaking of the Wash. Post, since the Wash. Times sport section disappeared, the Post, in its hard copy edition, acts like the Nats don't even exist. Three or four years ago, they had major coverage of both the Nats and Os. Now, they never mention either team. Their sports section has morphed into nothingness and I am canceling my subscription. Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

The the hard copy edition of the Washington Times will be gone within a year and the Post will disappear within five years.

Anonymous said...

Both of the WT Nats beat writers were head and shoulders above any beat writer that the Post had assigned to the Nats. Chico needs to write an article or two on the Nats, just so the hard copy readers still know we have MLB in DC. The Post sports section is a disgrace.

Steven said...

I wonder though if this finacial support for Zuckerman is going to be a rare occurrence. With all the Nats blogs clamoring for this one thing, we were able to raise 10 grand. But what about the next time? Would we be able to pay for a reporter for a full season (with travel)?

Harper said...

Don't forget that they often raise prices while cutting service. It's odd that when demand and revenue decrease they only ever think of ways to increasing the latter, not the former.