Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Daily newspapers on life-support

At TimesOnline Andrew Sullivan zeroes in on the topic that more and more writers are focusing on -- the death of the daily newspaper, as an institution.
[The newspaper industry] has been faltering badly under the pressure of new media for a few years. For much of the past decade, circulation for all papers has been declining at about 2% a year. The last year has been a test case of sorts. Newspapers had the story of a lifetime: an election campaign of historic interest, suspense, drama and personality. From Hil-lary to Barack, from John Edwards’s love child to Sarah Palin’s Down’s syndrome child, from John McCain’s wild lunges for relevance to the first black president, it was the kind of year in which circulation should have boomed. If you live for a story, this year was an embarrassment of riches.

And yet the decline didn’t just continue. It accelerated.

Click here to read the entire article by author and ace blogger Sullivan.

Closer to home several local bloggers have been posting about/covering what has been the steady withering of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Could it be that there's a feeling in the air that one doesn't blog about their special list of the dumbest things Media General has done to save its sickly newspaper in Richmond, pronto, the RT-D will go belly up before they get in their licks?

"The Death of the Times-Dispatch," at Once Upon a Hot Summer Night, is the most recent post on this topic. It was written by a RT-D staffer who was just shown the door.

At Bacon's Rebellion, "Who will Report the News?"

I'll look around and post more links that pertain to this topic.

Meanwhile, there's a local blog that is a hub for stories on the inkstained mainstream media, new media, etc., with much of the emphasis on the dying newspapers angle. Click here to visit Blood in the Water, published by longtime Richmond writer/editor Greg Weatherford.

And, published by writer Mariane Matera (former publisher of the Richmond Music Journal), her blog is called Why the Richmond Times-Dispatch is Dying. Click here to visit it.

Still, you can't wrap a fish with a web site. In spite of how strange the economy is now, and how clueless the Richmond Times-Dispatch is seeming lately, I think printed periodicals are going to last a lot longer than those who seem to be delighting in the current trend are saying.

The smart ones will figure out what they do well and cut everything else loose. Maybe newspapers will come out less than every day. Maybe what is really dying are the media empires that own way too many entities to manage them all effectively.

In every line of business, empires are going out of style. Whether there is a General Motors, or not, cars that people want will be manufactured in this country by somebody. What's going to change fast is that overblown companies that make cars people don't want are going to die.

In Richmond, if a smart independent outfit started putting out a free, with-it, newsy, twice-a-week tabloid, maybe 32 to 48 pages, it could be done. No home delivery. It would be picked up at many sites, or mailed out with the receiver paying for the mailing.

With a state-of-the-art web site that changes 24/7, hooked up to the tabloid, it could be done.

It could be done with a lot smaller staff than anyone at Media General, or Landmark Communications seems to realize. Eventually, we'll probably see several efforts along this line.

1 comment:

Le Chat Noir said...

Wornom wrote a hell of a post, but the T-D's just dull. Beyond history and the hyper-local angle, what is the compelling reason for keeping it at this stage?

The columns--and I admit I haven't been in town in 30 months--were written by nice, incredibly boring middle-aged ladies who prattled on about their nice, incredibly boring middle-aged lives. The sports department's opinion makers devolved from the great Bill Millsaps to Paul Woody, who's a nice, incredibly boring middle-aged man.

The suits shoved Holmberg out the door, and a few other good writers left Franklin Street. I appreciate Bart Hinkle's more analytical approach to conservatism in the editorial pages and Michael Paul Williams stirs up debate now and then, but other than that, who else has stimulated the readers since 1992?

To paraphrase Tony Blair taunting John Major in 1997, the Times-Dispatch is "Weak! Weak! Weak!"