Survival in the newspaper business: rethinking mass culture

November 16, 2007 at 11:09 pm | In free_press, innovation, media, newspapers | 1 Comment

Terrific post by CEOs for Cities, Rethinking Mass Culture:

“If the average reading level is eighth grade, in a mass-culture model you want to write to that level and hope you capture the largest demographic segment. And you hope that those below the level will give you a chance. In fact, you aggressively court this group by trying to prove your accessibility. As for the group reading above the level: your strategy for success is “where else are they going to go?” Your paper is probably the only/best/major source of news in your community.”Newspapers have not traditionally been mass market. In fact they were the classic niche subsidy model. The genius of newspapers was that they aggregated lots of mini-content – comics, bridge columns, stock tables, crossword puzzles, the arts, business, sports – and built enough of a combined audience to subsidize the content that otherwise would not have paid for itself.

“…the fact is that the content that journalists think counts most – coverage of city hall, foreign reporting, investigations – does not have a big enough audience to pay for itself on its own.

“Yet somewhere along the way, this idea of niche aggregation slipped away from the local paper and was replaced by the sense that every story ought to be comprehensible by every reader. The problem: in a culture that increasingly offers more and more choice and allows people to get more precisely what they want, when they want, and how they want it, a generalized product that doesn’t specifically satisfy anyone finds its audience erode away. The more general, the more broad, the more “mass culture” a newspaper tries to become, the faster its readers look elsewhere.

“The very things you see newspapers doing to try to bring in new readers… are the things that while they might have worked 20 years ago, don’t today. That’s because the celebutantes get better dish at TMZ and the Live at 5 guys do better fire and missing kids.”

Read the full post here.

And if you are interested in arts news, you can’t do better than ArtsJournal for news and the array of blogs sponsored by ArtsJournal.

More later, and on other topics, too, but I’m in a total rush right now. Just for now, on the newspaper topic, though: DO, if you’re in that business, PLEASE do consider what Invisible Inkling has to say in 10 Obvious Things About the Future of Newspapers You Need to Get Through Your Head… Really, read it. Great stuff.

More on Black Press scandal

September 3, 2007 at 9:22 pm | In black_press, free_press, newspapers, times_colonist, victoria | Comments Off on More on Black Press scandal

On August 21 I wrote about the scandal brewing at Black Press here in Victoria, which I learned about through — and which was otherwise consistently covered only by — local political writer and blogger Sean Holman. The whole story was otherwise largely ignored. (On Aug.28, I added an update to the original entry, again adding more information from Holman’s updates.)

The story appears to be fading slowly from view, which I find pretty appalling. There is one other update, again from Sean Holman, who on August 29 wrote his last (to date) entry on the topic: Black on Black.

Go read it for yourself — it’s lengthy and complex, and shows that when corporations put out fires, it’s not necessarily a fine art, but rather something conjured by sheer “because I say so” power.

It’s also depressing to see that comments have apparently dried up around this topic. It’s as if the reporters and some staff cared, initially, but the reading public is dumb, oblivious, and anaesthetized. Or jaded, which may be the same thing.

And as predicted by many, Monday Magazine, despite its pretence of being critical and anti-corporatist, has been breathtakingly silent on the issue. Why? Ever-so-alternative <kof> Monday is owned by Black Press, and I guess staff at Monday know which side of the ass their cheek is buttered on.

Also read Holman’s entry and see that the other thing that’s alive and well is the corporate art of playing “po’ me,” as in: claiming that the big ol’ daily newspaper (the Times-Colonist) has it easy because people pay to read it, so therefore the “free” community newspapers have to put themselves in bondage to their masters, the advertisers, upon whom they rely for revenue.

Oh, give me a break already. If that’s your business model, I suppose it explains why you don’t have to care about the quality or integrity or timeliness of your editorial content.

Besides, I believe the Times-Colonist already scooped Black Press on how to bend over for advertisers, in the process eschewing quality editorial content: who can forget the Vivian Smith affair?

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