Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A paper’s sad decline in debt’s grip

Advertising at the emaciated newspaper has shriveled to historically low levels. Its staff has shrunken to a fifth of its former size. Its readership has fallen by almost half. The presses have been shipped out. The building is up for sale.

Welcome to the San Mateo County Times, a once vigorous, locally owned, independent, community paper in northern California that was purchased in 1996 by MediaNews Group. Serving an area bracketed on the north by San Francisco and the south by Palo Alto, the Times became one of a cluster of 20 dailies owned by MediaNews that ranges from the tiny Ukiah Daily Journal to the once-formidable San Jose Mercury News. All of them have seen better days.

The Times may portend the future for other American newspapers owned by one of the several publishing companies that aggressively over-borrowed in recent years to fund acquisitions as the industry slid into an era of declining sales, slumping readership and uncontrollably rising expenses. The other companies range from such chains as Tribune and GateHouse to the one-off companies operating the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Philadelphia Inquirer. The managers and investors of these companies may yet see their initiatives pay off, though the prospects dim with every month of weakening sales.

The MediaNews papers in northern California are unique unto themselves. They are not only the largest consolidation of newspapers in the country but also are being managed more aggressively than any other group of publications to squeeze as much cash as possible out of a highly leveraged business facing some of the worst market conditions in the worst environment in more than 300 years of American newspapering.

With MediaNews forced by a combination of choice and unfortunate circumstance to push its ideas about newspaper “optimization” to the ultimate level, the price has been steep for the people working at its properties in northern California – and the communities they are supposed to serve.

Most of the Times is gone

How many other papers will share the fate of the San Mateo County Times? It’s impossible to predict. But one thing is certain: Most of what made the Times the Times is gone.

The newspaper this summer was stripped to a staff of exactly two editors, four reporters, two photographers, one sports correspondent and a secretary. The team will be expected to produce compelling, or at least convincing, coverage for two dozen separate and highly individual jurisdictions inhabited by some 705,000 residents spread over 741 square miles. The 10-person staff is about a fifth of the 48 editorial employees who worked there when MediaNews bought the paper a dozen years ago.

The Times is skinnier today than it was back then. Not only have its ad volume and physical heft declined, but its readership also has dropped by 42% to some 26k in daily circulation from about 40k at the time it changed hands. Thus, the paper’s penetration of the market has shrunk to barely 9.5% of the more than 266,000 households in the county. To try to turn the tide, the Times sells subscriptions to the daily and Sunday paper for a mere $20 for a whole year.

Although motorists can see the newspaper’s building from Highway 101, the structure is abandoned and up for sale. Before the staff departed for a rental office, production was moved to a MediaNews plant across San Francisco Bay, the presses were shipped off and intruders began stripping the building of its valuable copper fittings, according to former editor John Bowman, who resigned in 2007.

By the time the county historical society showed up to retrieve the leather-bound archives the Times had kept for years in a climate-controlled room, rodents had damaged the issues so badly that the volumes had to be destroyed. The climate controls had been turned off to save money.

Not what Dean had in mind

The Times as it exists today almost certainly was not what William Dean Singleton had in mind when his company, MediaNews, bought the paper.

Dean’s forward-thinking idea back then was to acquire and consolidate neighboring newspapers in a geographic area, so he could enhance the value of the assets by eliminating redundancies to pare costs to boost profits. He also had plans to share content among papers to avoid having multiple correspondents covering the same story, but there were hopes that at least a portion of the savings would go toward doing some of stories that otherwise wouldn’t have gotten done.

Dean succeeded in assembling a formidable footprint of publications that helped make his company the fourth-largest publisher of newspapers in the country. And there can be no doubt that he has cut staffing costs to all-time lows. But, as discussed in a moment, the hoped-for profits have eluded him.

Dean’s greatest success, by far, was in building a game-changing cluster of newspapers in northern California. The combined daily circulation of the MediaNews properties in the region today is more than twice that of the San Francisco Chronicle, which once rightfully billed itself as the largest-selling newspaper in northern California.

MediaNews reigns as the dominant newspaper publisher in the state, too. As you can see in the table below, the total circulation of its clusters in northern and southern California actually surpasses the combined circulations of the Los Angeles Times and the Chronicle.

In addition to buying as many papers as fast as he could, Dean borrowed great sums of money at the peak of the credit binge. But his success has come back to bite him – and, potentially, his partners at Gannett, Stephens Media and Hearst, who helped finance the myriad acquisitions that built his California empire.

Having borrowed heavily to cluster together California’s newspapers, MediaNews today is straining to keep up with the more than $1 billion in debt that it assumed in the belief it would be able to increase sales and trim expenses to produce ever-greater profits to pay off the loans.

The debt is carried not just by the northern California papers but across an entire company composed of a complex series of partnerships owning 56 daily newspapers in 11 states. MediaNews does not break out information for individual publications or groups, but gave a glimpse at the state of its finances when it sold its Connecticut Post earlier this month to Hearst to repay almost 25% of its bank debt.

This deal trimming a portion of its billion-dollar debt may forestall some of the drastic cuts that otherwise might have been required in the future to keep MediaNews ahead of its creditors. But the transacton is unlikley to reverse the cuts that already have taken place, because the heavily indebted company, like every other newspaper publisher, is fighting fierce economic headwinds.

Falling sales, tumbling profits

The problem for MediaNews and most other publishers is that sales and profits have been going down, instead of up.

According to the MediaNews financial statement for the six months ended in December, 2007, its operating profits fell by nearly 25% from the prior year. The report proved to be its last public financial statement, because the private company has elected since then not to issue any more. Although MediaNews did achieve an operating profit of nearly 11% on sales of just under $680 million in the six months ended in December, the margin was well under the 14.9% earnings it generated in the same period of the prior year.

As rocky as things were for MediaNews in 2007, things have gotten only worse for newspaper publishers since then.

In its struggle to avoid default, MediaNews is battling not only rising expenses for newsprint (up 20% this year), gasoline (up 33% through May) and just about everything else but also advertising revenues that are falling faster than even Dean’s seasoned cost-cutters can cut.

The newspapers in the group including the San Mateo County Times are “forecasting a 10% drop in revenue over the next 12 months, on top of a 17% revenue decline in the fiscal year that ends on June 30,” said publisher John Armstrong in announcing the latest layoff that trimmed 12.8% of newsroom employees in his group. “In my nearly five decades in this business, I've never experienced a downturn so deep and so broad.”

Nothing is sacred

The desperation to make the numbers is so great that nothing is sacred. Publishers have been changed. Budgets have been revised. Editors have been ousted. Newshole has been squeezed. Ad makeup has been outsourced to India.

Because newsrooms can be trimmed more readily than any other part of the operation, they have been hit the hardest. The staff of the Santa Cruz Sentinel was slimmed to almost nothing and the survivors were shipped to an office park outside of town. The newsroom of the San Jose Mercury News has been whacked in successive layoffs to a third of its strength in 2000. Even staff critics have been replaced by Associated Press movie reviews.

Though the San Mateo County Times still carries a few staff-written stories about local events, the shrinking paper and its website are backfilled with news from MediaNews papers in other counties – including those located on the other side of the bay. With fewer staffers now than two months ago, local stories will be scarcer than ever.

Because the change in coverage has occurred in a subtle fashion over an extended period of time, the executives at MediaNews evidently think readers won’t notice.

But they do.

“They don’t cover San Mateo County any more,” said a dismayed loyal reader who has canceled his subscription. “When they call and try to sell me the paper for $20 a year, I tell them it isn’t even worth that much.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all about local news, right?

Are those circulation figures audited? I have a hard time believing the Red Bluff Daily News sells 35K papers a day in little old Tehama County.

9:19 PM  
Blogger DigiDave said...

Another absolutely amazing post. Thank you Alan.

I live in the Bay Area and that's where my efforts are focused in my current startup.

One day I hope we can meet. You seem to be more versed in the business side of all this than most.

12:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I want to know is who is the Wharton MBA who came up with the idea of the way to make money in newspapering is to get rid of the newsroom reporters and editors.
Billy Dean tried this approach in New Jersey in the 1980's, and it didn't work any better than BANG is working. What this all proves to me is that the relationship between a newspaper and its readers is very fragile. Disturb it in any way -- cut the Outdoors column, scrap the Garden column, eliminate the Business Section, etc. _ and there's all hell to pay.
I am afraid we will soon see this lesson repeated when Sam Zell's redesigned TRB properties appear over the next month.

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why aren't these kinds of partnerships subject to antitrust scrutiny?

7:55 AM  
Blogger rknil said...

Billy Dean is probably still blaming everyone but himself. After all, if he's not making money with this scheme, it HAS to be the editors' fault.

As far as there being antitrust scrutiny: Newspapers have been violating labor laws for years, and nothing has happened. In their tiny minds, they can do anything.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Kevin Keane said...

While I'm generally a fan of your blog, I have to say you surprised me by this recent post -- and not in a good way. Not only are your conclusions faulty, but you never bothered to contact anyone at Bay Area News Group to discuss the paper's history. You should have.
While it may be true that the Times had a staff of 48 before MediaNews purchased it, that staff included a full copy desk; a sports staff responsible for local, Pac-10 and professional teams in the Bay Area; a features staff with regional and local responsibilities; and a business staff.
After purchase, the Times copy desk was centralized with the rest of ANG in Pleasanton, about a 40 minute drive. Pro and most college sports were handled by the more experienced writers at ANG (along with award-winning columnists) who traveled with the pro teams. Local sports remained in San Mateo, as did the coverage of Stanford. Regional feature responsibilities were picked up by the ANG features desk in Pleasanton, although a features writer remained on the peninsula as well. Business coverage was also provided by the regional ANG business staff -- although, once again, a writer in San Mateo handled local business content. All the local reporters assigned to cover peninsula news remained in San Mateo, as they do today (in a leased building that is in much better condition and is more centrally located than the freeway-bordered warehouse you mention in your blog).
Eleven full-timers remain (you missed a reporter, and the sports correspondent you mentioned is actually a fulltime sports editor). Their coverage of the peninsula is today supported by the Palo Alto Daily News staff (now a sister publication) and the staff of the San Jose Mercury News, which pays more attention to the peninsula than you seem to give them credit for. Plus, the staff of the Contra Costa Times also frequently contributes regional reports.
Comparing the size of the staff of the '96 Times to the staff today makes it appear as if MediaNews has turned its back on local coverage. Not so. In today's paper alone, for instance, there were six staff written local stories in the A-section along with the bylines of 24 other MediaNews reporters in the Bay Area that the paper didn't have access to in years past. That's not to mention the work of a half-dozen more locally based photographers and graphic artists. I don't deny that the MediaNews cluster which you seem to admire and detest at the same time has gone through some difficult financial times. That makes it no different than any other newspaper group in the country.
The fact is that in '96 the Times was in economic freefall, having gone from 50,000-plus daily in the '80s to a 36,000, six-day a week newspaper. If MediaNews hadn't bought it, it may have gone the way of so many other peninsula dailies and simply died. The fact that the Times has the support of a broad regional team of reporters and editors -- not to mention the financial resources of a larger group -- has helped it weather the storm. (Today, BANG-EB has two reporters in Beijing covering the local athletes in the Summer Olympics, including those from the peninsula. I doubt any other newspaper the size of the Times in the country can lay the same claim.)

Times editor Glenn Rabinowitz has done an nice job of finding ways to get even more peninsula-based content in the Times, pointing out ways to the zone sports, news and features pages.

Your portrayal of the Times' "sad decline" painted an incomplete and misleading picture. Of course, if you had bothered to call me ahead of time, I could have told you that myself.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are giving Dean Singleton too much credit.

Get rid of editors and writers and we will be profitable? In other words, let's trash the product and see if consumers continue to value the product.

Only a moron (or a publisher) believes this strategy will pay off.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the kind of thing that is definitely happening everywhere in newspapers. I quit the industry after 10 years because it was so clear that it wasn't a growth industry and many of the papers were failing to figure out how to change their business model to grab revenues from advertising online... Creating a crappier product -- with less people you cannot produce the same quality news -- is not going to produce a strong readership. It is a horrible idea. They should have changed their business plans earlier and tried to maintain their staffs as much as possible... We have canceled our subscriptions to our local papers, one of which I used to work for, because there is nothing in them really anymore. We get our news now by doing our own "citizen journalism" on issues we care about and networking through our neighborhood, etc. But now no one is really watching city government anymore to make sure they do a good job... It's really a travesty. The major U.S. newspaper I used to work for is in similar straits...

4:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good old Billy Dean, the Typhoid Mary of journalism.

Survivor of the former Houston Post, another paper killed by Singleton.

7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good and sadly accurate report. You have to feel sorry for management's Kevin Keane. I'm sure he was ordered to make his post by Singleton but it must be difficult for him to look at his face in the mirror each morning knowing the shameful way he has managed the Bay Area Singleton newspapers.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Carl said...

Reactions to this kind of outing seem to pingpong between passive woe-is-us sadness and pointless thundering outrage of the ex-newsperson, with an occasional ostrich act of denialism tossed in. Our members (I'm a Guild rep on loa from the Chronicle) who work in these pummeled newsrooms haven't got the luxury or time for that. Those of us who are left after the layoffs and buyouts are looking for new ways to work with the management and communities in order to save what we can of these still-proud dailies, and maybe get some new models going to preserve what really matters -- the journalism. So while it's great to see Alan and others documenting the demise of the old model, c'mon already. I see much potential in the cluster approach if it's given a chance to work -- and the journalists get a chance to do our work.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin Keane’s retort was enough to compel me to scurry down to the closest newsrack to see if, in fact, the San Mateo County Times was the same newspaper as portrayed by Keane in his response. Not surprisingly, my review of yesterday’s San Mateo County Times certainly makes Keane’s argument specious - at best - that MediaNews has not turned its back on local coverage.

Here’s what I discovered:

While Keane is correct in pointing out that there were six staff written stories in the A-section, that was the extent of locally generated news. There were no local editorials and the newspaper did not print any letters to the editor. The only other local items in the sixteen page section were two obituaries.

Section B was devoted to sports. The ten page section was void of any local sports with the exception of the wire-generated Bay Meadows San Mateo County Fair Handicap.

Section C, a four page section devoted to business news, classified ads, and legal notices did not include any local stories.

Section D, a ten page section featuring food, wine, and living was also lacking of any local news with the exception of the mention (in agate type) of a San Carlos yogurt shop and the listing of four farmers markets in a compilation of same for the Bay Area.

So there you have it: a total of fourteen peninsula-based content items. In my book, that hardly constitutes a rich, community-based daily newspaper. To the contrary, the state of the paper today reinforces your portrayal of the sad decline of the San Mateo County Times.

In closing, Keane suggests that The Times might have ceased publishing if MediaNews had not rescued it in 1996. As the publisher of The Times in the '90s, I can state without equivocation that the paper would have survived without MediaNews. Our company received at least one other solid offer with similar terms and conditions. One can only wonder what another buyer would have done with The Times.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carl, the Guild rep, says he and the other willing executioners left working for Billy Dean are really "working for preserve what really matters -- the journalism."
Really? Looks to me like is it just for a paycheck? Nothing really wrong with that, but don't try to peddle what you are doing as journalism on a blog that attracts people who know something about the business.
These are very sad remnants of once feisty newspapers that BANG is publishing. In fact, BANG is battling to muscle out the smaller local newspapers that are really doing the daily hard work of journalism by covering their communities, and providing news local residents need.
My suspicion is that BANG is about to go PFFFFTT as a failed debt-encumbered enterprise. That's because I don't believe it has been anything more than a cynical asset-stripping effort to raise more money for Billy Dean's Colorado ranch purchase program. What does he have now, four ranches, isn't it?
You may dress it up as a grand experiment in 21st Century newspapering, and a demonstration of how clustering can save journalism. Sorry, I see it only as nothing more that clear-cutting once thriving community news organizations, leaving only a news desert behind.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The forensic rationalization of these newspapers' reduction is all fine, but the papers are reduced, reduced and reduced some more, to near zero, and it ain't for the better. Was it inevitable, avoidable, necessary, deliberate, accidental, happenstance ... whatever. But it cannot be denied or made pretty. Not much left to read, and no apparent vision or strategy other than austere survival. The clustering-preserves-the-essential argument is as dead as the shuttered presses.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kevin Keane is in a hard spot. But his quibbles seem to lay on the fringes of the argument. The fact is, readers feel their newspaper provide less local content. Ergo, the newspapers have lower value to readers. It's got to be difficult for Keane to acknowledge this point. Just check out the online Q&A he held this week. Sad: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_10168322

7:56 PM  
Blogger rknil said...

"So while it's great to see Alan and others documenting the demise of the old model, c'mon already."

Wait -- you're saying there should be no more documentation of what went wrong? You must be a bean-counter or a publisher.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob (rknil) -- I know Carl, he's not a bean counter by any means but a true-blue union man. His impetus, I think, is that there has been a tidal wave of unproductive grousing (we're talking about journalists here) and not enough focus on what can be done on the positive end. I certainly have plenty to complain about after getting laid off last month by BANG (from The Argus), but that won't get me another job or reverse the crisis in newspapers. Speaking of which, a lot of people out there seem to be lumping everyone together who works at these papers -- the reporters do care about their work, they aren't just plugging away for their pittance. It's out of their hands how management chooses to cut coverage or shuffle beats around, resulting in less local news. The writers, photogs, copy editors and so on are doing their best in a daily atmosphere of dismal morale and with little control of their professional future.

1:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Kevin Keane is in a hard spot, but he has such a disconnect with the newsroom. He expects localized stories with reporters who aren't there, find national stories that we don't receive because the company hacked the wire services, and make pages appealing, even though they laid off a bunch of production people.
San Mateo isn't the only paper with these problems. All of the MediaNews papers are in the same boat. The company cannot produce local copy when the reporting staff has been gutted and all the managers are still there.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally someone said it. "We must cut to survive!" seems to be the lament, but the cuts never seem to gut upper management.

To me, it seems as if editors and publishers are willing to do anything -- such as destroying their own product or companies -- in order that they make it to retirement. Why else would you put up with such a dreary environment?

So, blah blah blah, we have great people, they should say, "We will lay off anyone if it means it saves *my* job."

It's not about quality or journalism. It's about executives keeping their jobs until they can retire comfortably.

That's why there will be no innovation or change in business models, because these lackeys are already blindly taking orders to cut.

Unless reporters are willing to band together in a nonprofit, this will be the demise of newspapers.

5:47 PM  
Blogger rknil said...

"To me, it seems as if editors and publishers are willing to do anything -- such as destroying their own product or companies -- in order that they make it to retirement."

Bear craps in the woods; report at 11.

I guess I don't see anything wrong with Alan or anyone else documenting where these "efforts" have gone wrong. Maybe clustering will be the answer, but it sounds an awful lot like what Thomson failed with in the 1990s. (Of course, some cost-slasher can say: "They just didn't go far enough with it.")

When the alleged solutions are simply warmed-over, recycled ideas, such as the Tribune Co.'s boneheaded redesigns in Florida, then someone should point this out. Otherwise we have foolish people running forward under the banner of "We're gonna save journalism!", whether they're the fools doing the pointless redesigns or the fools right out of college who think their Twitter posts are somehow the future. Meanwhile, the bad managers who sent newspapers plummeting are still in place.

There's one way to fix this mess, but it's hard. The bad managers and pseudoeditors have to be identified and fired. Their tales of mismanagement have to be compiled into dossiers so they can be listed as the criminals of journalism they are. The numerous labor law violations have to be pursued. There has to be documentation of the companies that have flouted the rules.

Continuous summaries of where the "new initiatives" have failed are not the answer, but they are a step in the right direction.

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's sad to see Lean Dean wreck newspapers. Kevin Keane is a real jewel. Ask anyone in the Contra Costa Times' newsroom. They might call him somthing else.
As for the guy asking about the circulation of the Red Bluff Daily News, I don't think there are 35,000 people in the county. My guess is 7-10,000 circulation.
Lean Dean still sucks. I need to get back to my rewriting my resume. Anybody got any PR jobs for old, and wise, journalists?

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MNG is doing the same thing to its newspapers elsewhere. Here in Solano County the once much-decorated Vacaville Reporter has seen its staffing slowly siphoned off. When it was family owned it covered Vacaville, Fairfield, Dixon and Suisun City, all among some of the fastest growing communities in the nine bay area counties. Since Lean Dean bought the place the staff has shrunk to about half of what it was.

People in the community have noticed, and circulation is dropping. Local content is falling off, the newshole is shrinking, the physical size of the newspaper is shrinking and the web site is suffering from a lack of management.

The latest publisher moved here from Lake County and has failed to make much of a connection to the community. He has been ruthless with the cost-cutting, though, which must make his bosses happy.

It is sad since the Reporter was a great little community newspaper, and probably still could be, if it wasn't being bled dry to pay down the loan balances for those other purchases.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

A lot -- probably most -- of the negative comments are triggered by animus and hostility towards Dean Singleton.

A lot of people have scores to settle with Singleton and they hope that the union or the industry's economics will cause his newspaper empire to collapse financially.

Maybe they'll get their wish, maybe not.

And I guess there are people who hate Kevin Keane, too. Witness this comment:

Kevin Keane is a real jewel. Ask anyone in the Contra Costa Times' newsroom. They might call him somthing else.

I'm "anyone" in that newsroom. I completely disagree that Kevin is a terrible editor. Quite the opposite.

As for the folks who want to see Singleton fail, maybe they should take Econ 101. If the company collapses, the employees get laid off. Just ask the former employees of more than a few mortgage companies and dot-coms.

Is that what you folks really want? For Singleton to fail? That way you can finally say: I KNEW Singleton didn't know what he was doing!

Whatever. Maybe you'll get your wish. I personally hope not. Plus, that will have the added benefit of watching you being forced to deploy your fury into another channel.

As for Alan Mutter. The newspaper industry is struggling. I get it. The industry has to re-invent itself. Got that too, years ago. I guess you figured you could make a bigger difference on the sidelines rather than on the front lines.

Then again, I guess that's why sports talk shows are so popular.

Want to get the truth? Read "Life after Television."

Here are some excerpts that suggest that newspapers that focus on local news can still survive and even prosper once they understand how to control the cost structure and make money on the Net

With chip cost-effectiveness still doubling every 18 months, the law of the microcosm is not going away. Now it dictates that of all the many rivals to harvest the fruits of the information revolution, newspapers and magazines will prevail.

p 138.
The secret of the success of the newspaper, grasped by Roger Fidler, is that it is in practice a personal medium, used very differently by each customer. Newspapers rely on the intelligence of the reader. Although the editor selects and shapes the matter to be delivered, readers choose, peruse, sort, queue, and quaff the news and advertising copy at their own pace and volition.

p 138
In this regard, newspapers differ from television stations in much the way automobiles differ from trains. With the train (and the TV), you go to the station at the scheduled time and travel to the destinations determined from above. With the car (and the newspaper), you get in it and go pretty much where you want when you want. putting the decision-making power into the hands of the reader, the newspaper accords with the microcosmic model far better than TV does. Newspaper readers are not couch potatoes; they interact with the product, shaping it to their own ends.

p 138.
Computers will soon blow away the broadcast television industry. But computers pose no such threat to newspapers. Indeed, the computer is a perfect complement to the newspaper. It enables the existing news industry to deliver its product in real time. It hugely increases the quantity of information that can be made available, including archives, maps, charts, and other supporting material. It opens the way to upgrading the news with full-screen photographs and videos. While hugely enhancing the richness and timeliness of the news, however, it empowers readers to use the "paper" in the same way they do today -- to browse and select stories and advertisements at their own time and pace.

p 139.
Contrary to the usual notion, the electronic newspaper will be a far more effective advertising medium than current newspapers, televisions, or home-shopping schemes. Rather than trying to trick the reader into watching the ad, the newspaper will merely present the ad in a part of the paper frequented by likely customers. Viewers who are seriously interested in the advertised item can click on it and open up a more detailed presentation; or they can advertise their own desire to buy a product of particular specifications.

2:13 PM  
Blogger rknil said...

"As for the folks who want to see Singleton fail, maybe they should take Econ 101. If the company collapses, the employees get laid off. Just ask the former employees of more than a few mortgage companies and dot-coms."

Straw man argument. Perhaps you should take Philosophy 95.

The point is the papers are declining seriously under Lean Dean. Either refute the point or admit you have no argument. Just saying: "Well, I like (fill in name)!" means nothing, anonymous poster.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


You have reading comprehension issues, perhaps?

My point was specifically about the vitriol that people have towards Singleton. They've got that venom and demonstrate it frequently.

My second point is there are people who have proposed solutions -- and issued warnings -- about the current digital revolution's impact on newspapers. I cited George Gilder. If people want to merely chronicle the decline of the newspaper industry, then feel free. I'd rather see people light a candle than curse the darkness.

As for whether the papers have declined -- Poster Mr. Trotsky had it right. It is about local news. And that was one of my points, Rknill.

If the papers can hang on to that local news franchise -- which the Internet aggregators can't replicate without destroying their own digital info. collection model -- then a solution beckons.

As for being anonymous, my name appeared on the first post, and I expect it will appear on this one.

Finally, it still goes back to Econ 101. If a company fails, the employees -- all of them -- head out the door. The Guild and a lot of these posters ought to check their vitriol at the door.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who lost a job at one of Lean Dean's paper when he outsourced work to India, I don't really care what happens to his empire. If you work at a paper, keep your options open now and start looking for a new job. It's more than obvious it's just a matter of time that it comes crumbling down.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The death of newspapers is about trying to be all things for all people. Even thier online content models still try to force that mold to work. The nature of the WWW already accomplishes that, and people tend to find exactly what they want from tens of thousands of independent niche "Specialists" Such as this fine blog.

I recommend laid off journalists start thier own niche website in thier spare time (after finding something to pay the bills.) There is no substitute for top quality content online or off, and consumers will always seek out the best. If you're passionate about your niche, your site is bound to become one of the sought out destinations in your field. -Hint: your "field" shouldn't be Journalism -Newspapers don't understand that, and it's why they will die. Journalism skill is what will make you the best in your field, but we're in an online world where the "Specialists" eat the generalists for lunch. (Okay, unless you're Google ..but in 1998 all they were was the best search engine.)

Cashing that first hundred-dollar check from Google adsense, will give you a feeling of liberation and possibility that will fuel your passion to the next level.

18 months ago, having been given bad news by a (Medianews) publisher one to many times, I started moonlighting exactly as I describe. This month my combined online revenues totaled $2500 (90%) profit. And none of it really feels like "work"!

I still earn the lions share of my income from the hemmoraging newspaper industry, but it's obvious that it's death is soon in coming.

Every time I read: "Online ad spending forcasted to increase 12% per year, Newspaper ad spending to decrease 12% per year". I want to get on my knees and thank God I finally did anything besides wait for the next series of budget cutbacks. Worse yet, and not out of the question: Showing up to work and there's a padlock on the door...And it's payday.

Good luck, the only person stopping you is you!

10:26 PM  

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