Newspapers – Going flat?

This past Wednesday, Professor Rabinowitz had a friend of his involved in Newspaper publishing in to talk to the class. His name was James Lesserson, and he has worked for the Daily News and The New York Times. The focus of our discussion ended up being the affect that the internet has had on newspapers and the newspaper industry.

He began by telling us about the way Newspapers operated financially before the internet. Generally, Newspapers have three categories of expense: “people”, “paper”, and “all others”. The “people” category includes paying reporters, editors, and people like Mr. Lesserson; it normally accounts for about 50% of a newspapers expenses. “Paper” includes the cost of printing and the paper itself, and it accounts for approximately 10-15% of expense. Finally, all other expenses take up the remaining 35-40%. Before the ‘internet bubble,’ as Lesserson called it, burst in 2000, The New York Times had a circulation penetration goal of 50%. This means they expected to place their paper in 1 of our every 2 households.

However since 2000 things have changed drastically. Goal of circulation is more like 40%; newspapers are losing money in advertising and sales. Most people get their news from internet sites like google. This is causing a major problem. Most of the news we read online is still being gathered and the articles written by newspaper reporters; however, newspapers are no longer seeing the benefits of this work. Google and other internet news sites gather the information, and prioritize it for readers according to the readers’ interests. These companies aren’t spending anything to produce the product, and the articles are gathered and sorted automatically by machine.

Despite the drop in revenue, expenses aren’t decreasing. People don’t want to be paid less, and paper and printing isn’t getting any less expensive. If anything, expenses are increasing. Many newspapers are having to cut back on their newsrooms. As a result, news reporting is slowly becoming less in depth; each reporter is worked harder and every employee has more on their plate.

Is it really any surprise people like Marda Dunsky are arguing that the news is becoming unreliable? That reporters aren’t doing their job?

After talking about these serious issues, all of which the newspaper industry is facing the conversation in class turned to e-book readers and potential ways newspapers might adapt to the future. Mr. Lesserson was of the opinion that newspapers can’t go digital unless they make a large e-book reader that can be folded like a newspaper. I disagree. I think that one about the size of a magazine would do the trick. It would require newspaper publishers to seriously rethink their formatting, and to try and create a digital format visually more like a magazine; it would require learning to present information differently. I suggested that editors and reporters should be encouraged to blog; opinions are important these days and who better to give them then those who are doing research and presenting us with ‘facts’. Think of the advantages to newspapers on an e-book reader, especially one such as Kindle – it could download automatically. You wouldn’t even have to stop outside your door to pick it up. If something was extremely interesting to you, or if you wanted to know more about an article you could do research on the spot. It could include links to other sources of information, original documents, other articles on similar topics.

Mr. Lesserson expressed surprise that magazines hadn’t caught on to digital versions much quicker. He thought that with their industry/interest specific information they would easily make the transition. However, their habit of publishing monthly editions has held them back. They don’t publish fresh information quickly enough. Newspapers publishing daily. Although much broader in content, they have frequency as an advantage over magazines. They are used to producing new content around the clock. Yet they have been just as slow to adapt. Perhaps in the end, those who will be successful are those who take the best of both worlds and meld it together. Maybe in the future we will have a daily news-mag. Or maybe it isn’t too late for these two industries. There is time yet; perhaps they will seize it, and learn to adapt. Either way, there is no doubt; the future is coming.

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One Comment on “Newspapers – Going flat?”

  1. Significant Uses of Variable Data Digital Printing

    Variable Data Digital Printing is also known as Personalized Publishing, Variable Information Printing and database Publishing which is employed to modify and adjust all the included documents within the run of digital printing. It is widely used by de…

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