When I see stories about the newspaper industry trying to save itself, I picture the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail were a man is walking down the street of a plague-stricken town with cart, hitting a small cymbal and yelling, “Bring out yer dead.” One man tries to put a body on the cart but the man over his shoulder says, “I’m not dead.” That not-quite-dead man is the newspapers.
The increasingly fast decline of the newspaper business is the clearest sign of how rapidly technology is changing and how it changes business.
Last week, newspaper executives
colluded, er, met in Chicago and came up with a strategy to keep the industry alive. Here are their “five doctrines.”
- True Value. Establish that news content online has value by charging for it. Begin “massive experimentation with several of the most promising options.”
- Fair Use. Maintain the value of professionally produced and edited content by “aggressively enforcing copyright, fair use and the right to profit from original work.”
- Fair Share. Negotiate a higher price for content produced by the news industry that is aggregated and redistributed by others.
- Digital Deliverance. “Invest in technologies, platforms and systems that provide content-based e-commerce, data-sharing and other revenue generating solutions.”
- Consumer Centric. Refocus on consumers and users. Shift revenue strategies from those focused on advertisers.
Problem is, they are starting with the wrong premise. The newspapers aren’t loosing readers only because the content is free online. The problem is that the newspapers publish yesterday’s news. That makes it even less valuable.
We subscribe to the newspaper for one reason. Coupons. We don’t read any of it. By the time I get the paper in the morning, I’ve already seen the news online. My wife is the coupon queen. We currently save more money with the coupons than we do on the subscription price for the paper. That may soon change.
Lately, we have been getting the grocery store weekly circular in the mail. Not much need to pay to get it again. And last Sunday, there was no coupon section in our paper. There are also now plenty of places to get grocery coupons…online.
On top of all that, newspaper publishing is just not economical. Business Insider figures that the NY Times could save money by giving every subscriber a free Amazon Kindle rather than deliver a printed version for a year. Printing newspapers is not a viable business model in the electronic age. They are going the way of the Dodo and the 8-track tape.
I hope someone tells the Teamsters that a vote to strike is a vote to lose their jobs. Talk about biting your nose to spite your face. The labor and distribution costs are exactly why the newspaper business is not sustainable. The Teamsters are only helping to speed up the process killing an industry.