What he said

March 24, 2009

I’ve often thought the biggest problem with newspapers today is that they’re saddled with a management structure that could be transplanted to any other kind of business with little or no changes needed. Insurance, for example, or a sewerage plant.

In other words, they’re not running a newspaper, they’re running a company that happens to produce news, and they really have a very tenuous grasp of what makes a newspaper earn money.

Some of them seem to think they sell print editions to punters. This is not true. They sell eyeballs to advertisers. They lure the eyeballs in with good stories, excellent photos etc, but they’re the bait, not the product.

Jason Whittaker has blogged on this and clearly, he’s got a career death wish:

The recession is not killing Big Media in this country, as the sales department will tell you. Nor is the internet and digital media to blame, as the prevailing theory goes. Media companies in Australia are struggling to make a buck through a lack of imagination. Through short-sightedness. Through commercial timidity, certainly.

Ultimately, though sheer management incompetence.

I can’t find anything to contradict him on.

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4 Responses to “What he said”

  1. Mysterious Dave Mather Says:

    Yeah, but it is still the same problem as in the earlier Clay Shirkey post. Who wants to pay for content on the internet?

    Mr Whittaker is pushing for online purchasing, but wasn’t that tried by ‘Granny herald’ with its premium content (where you had to subscribe for opinions online), and it failed?

    The problem remains, I think the key is in the worsening of the quality of journalism. Online advertising could work, if there was a reason to visit the sites.

  2. audent Says:

    Advertising. Ads pay for content. There’s no need for the consumer to pay for anything at this stage… the costs of providing the data are tiny compared to printing a newspaper…

  3. Mysterious Dave Mather Says:

    Alright, that’s your view, but Mr Whittaker writes on the page you link to:

    “The argument that in the future we can support large-scale reporting through online display advertising alone has been lost. It’s time consumers paid up.”

    He is for selling content, advertising alone can’t pay for it all. Obviously, you have found something to contradict him on.

  4. audent Says:

    Yes, I really should read what I link to.

    He’s quite wrong. The reason you have two sources of income (advertising and subscriptions) in newspapers (magazines are different) is simple: you can. And you need to, your costs are so high (printing, distribution etc… very costly business). Those costs are reduced in an online world yet they’re still trying to retain huge incomes. I think it’s mostly down to the problem of big real world publishers trying to move online versus small start up online only publishers offering content.

    The big publishers have the reputation so score the advertising dollars, but they’ve just spent hundreds of millions on content management systems to deliver the goods to a website so the online advertising doesn’t deliver enough $$ to make it worth while.

    The small online only guys would be able to live off the $$ because they don’t have those massive overheads that real-world publishers bring with them (mahogany row etc) but they don’t have the clout, so don’t get the advertising, so don’t have the content.

    It’s a vicious cycle that will be broken by an online publishing house that finally breaks through with real journalism (yay) and low costs (yay) and starts to get traction with the advertising agencies (staffed universally by people who are shit scared for their jobs and don’t understand Niche Publishing or Online Publishing at all).

    I liken it to the airline industries today. Old School Air wants to offer low-cost alternatives, but is saddled with huge overheads because it’s a big company. New Player Air (eg Ryan Air etc) offers cheap flights because it has no overheads (they all work in a warehouse, no exec-only lifts etc), rents its aircraft instead of buying them and generally speaking doesn’t have to make $$$ just $ per customer.

    Fun and games…


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