The Newspaper Industry is Walking Backwards

There are two types of magazine publishing: Trade and consumer. The financial set-ups for these two are drastically different. There are also two types of newspapers: Free Dailies, and regular papers. Again, the financial blue prints are supposed to be very different.

Essentially, however, Trade magazines and free dallies follow a similar blue print. Consumer magazines and regular newspapers also see similarities.

Traditionally, consumer magazines/newspapers create content that is appealing to consumers, then, because consumers use/read/view their product (to the point they will pay for it) companies trying to market to that market segment advertise in the magazine or newspaper, with the hope that consumers of the magazine will then also buy their products. Some customers even enjoy looking through the ads. This has worked fairly well for a long time now (though, some companies are turning off of print ads because it’s hard to measure the direct response).

In contrast, trade magazines and free dailies are … free. They don’t cost their readers anything. Instead, they are paid for by the companies that advertise in them. Sometimes (at least according to my experiences in trade publishing) this means that editorial revolves around advertisers, and caters to them (rather then readers). This method seems to make less sense – by catering to advertisers you essentially make their ads less successful. At least in trade publications, they can get away with this because you’re dealing with business information, so the readers are partially reading the publication for the same information that manufacturers/advertisers want them to have.

But recent trends in the consumer magazine world make no sense. Ditto on newspapers, though for different reasons.

First, we’ll discuss consumer magazines.

The trend is to up newsstand prices, to compensate for the slack in advertising sales but to significantly decrease subscription prices, which leads to an increase in circulation, in hopes of seducing advertisers back with the number of people they will be reaching. Rather, wouldn’t it make more sense to keep subscription prices level, and re-evaluate your content, since that’s what attracts readers? Then, if advertisers want to know how ads are effecting their sales, you can do reader surveys etc, so you can present them with more targeted niche markets where their products will best be appreciated vs. tv, where someone can switch the channel or the web where, yes it’s more track-able, but may translate into fewer actual sales because web ads are viewed as spam, while print ads are viewed as an integral part of the magazine the reader buys.

Now for newspapers.
Why, when it comes to budget cuts are they firing the content-creators? If anything, newspapers have become almost commodity products because they all report essentially the same information. This is why they are losing their value to readers – if they want to compete with the web, which can be tailored to meet each readers specific interests, they should try to carve niches that include information that readers should know and would want to know but might not thing to look for, and that wouldn’t be included in every other newspaper their reader might pick up. Exclusive stories – logically, you would think that sense the web does a very good job of covering (quicker the print newspapers can) national news, print papers would focus on local news which is much harder to find covered on the web. They should find out what is actually effecting people in given communities, and try to differentiate themselves from the ‘free’ news on the web.

They could even consider differentiating themselves in terms of depth. People on the web want news fast – good news on the web is short and quick to read. In contrast, papers have a chance to capture attention and hold it – they can including background stories. Magazines don’t suffer because of newspaper sales – why should newspapers suffer from the web? If each form of media were to carve it’s own societal niche, all three could work in concert and thrive.

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2 Comments on “The Newspaper Industry is Walking Backwards”

  1. […] mbreau created an interesting post today on The Newspaper Industry is Walking BackwardsHere’s a short outlineThere are two types of magazine publishing: Trade and consumer. The financial set-ups for these two are drastically different. There are also two types of newspapers: Free Dailies, and regular papers. Again, the financial blue prints … […]

  2. […] Melissa B’s Weblog On publishing and how to get there « The Newspaper Industry is Walking Backwards […]

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