Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Newspapers vs. blogs

Part Three of a Geezer's View of Richmond's Buzzing Blogosphere: Newspapers vs. blogs

Is the Internet stealing the readers of daily newspapers? With some demographic groups, are newsy blogs having more impact than are inky OpEd pages?

Well, there's no doubt times are a-changing. The role of the daily newspaper is changing, too. But I'm not so sure newspapers like The Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Virginian-Pilot are losing their readers to the Internet, in droves, so much as they are failing to gain new readers, while their old readers are dying off.

It doesn't seem people under 40 read the newspaper in the morning like their parents and grandparents do/did. For whatever reasons, they just haven't developed the habit. And, I suspect that trend predates the Internet's grip on their lifestyle.

Those potential readers under 30 seem almost proud of ignoring newspapers. No doubt, many in that age group are convinced their time is better spent with a laptop than a lap full of newsprint. That is, if they bother to keep up with the events of the day at all. Hey, they'd rather watch TV on their laptops, too.

So, newspapers are scrambling to have an online presence, to make themselves noticeable and useful to young readers. Yet, their writers are still scoffing at blogs, even as they feel free to quote from them (frequently without attribution), whenever it suits them.

Sometimes I wonder if newspaper writers are being told to avoid mentioning political blogs or community news web sites by name. Hey, in the past, I've had magazine editors tell me their publisher won't allow the name of a competing 'zine to appear in their pages.

Meanwhile, Tidewater's most admired political blogger, Vivian J. Paige, reacts to a Virginian-Pilot editorial that defends daily newspapers with a reach that may set a new record. The editorial writer, Donald Luzzato, casts his newspaper as being sort of like an outfit that makes cartoon feature films, Pixar, but not really. All of which leads him to a put-down of bloggers.

Paige throws a penalty flag at Luzzato's rambling screed. Then gives him some pretty good advice:

I guess Don Luzzato got up on the wrong side of the bed. His Friday editorial in The Virginian Pilot was an interesting juxtaposition of how a movie company is like a newspaper (huh?) thinly disguised as an attack on bloggers. I’m not sure what someone slipped in his latte but despite “how many people spend their day keeping [him] from looking like a fool,” the rant made up for it.

Click here to read Vivian's post on the state of the news-gathering business today.

At some point down the road perhaps some smart newspaper people will figure out a profitable way to cooperate with community news bloggers and political bloggers. The ones that do it right, whatever that will be, will gain an advantage over their competition.

The newspaper people that go on too long with seeing all bloggers as gray in the dark -- nothing but irresponsible, pesky enemies -- will surely pay a price for staying the course too long with a losing strategy.

Speaking of times a-changing, VCU journalism professor Jeff South got it right in Part Two of this series:

[T]he genie is out of the bottle and will never go back. Online self-publishing -- by individuals and communities -- is here to stay.

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