Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Readers Try To Shred My Newspaper Theory

The war of words on how to save newspapers continues. My post last week has been followed by a provocative piece in the New York Times that follows rather closely my stance that you can't keep giving away free journalism under the premise that nobody under 30 years old reads a physical newspaper.

Writes David Carr in the Times' column "The Media Equation."

1. No more free content. The Web has become the primary delivery mechanism for quality newsrooms across the country, and consumers will have to participate in financing the newsgathering process if it is to continue. Setting the price point at free — the newspaper analyst Alan D. Mutter called it the “original sin” — has brought the industry millions of eyeballs and a return that doesn’t cover the coffee budget of some newsrooms.

The big threat would be that newspapers could lose the readers they have, lots of them. The mitigating factor is that a lot of those readers aren’t paying anyway. And keep in mind that people are already paying for quality content all over the Web: The Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Tiered Web access — from a bare-bones free product to a rich, customized subscription — could be among the solutions.

2. No more free ride to aggregators. Google announced that it would begin selling ads against Google News, with almost no financial accommodation to the organizations that generate that news. The book industry — of all Luddites — has extracted cash from Google, as did the wire services. Google, The Huffington Post and Newser have built their audiences and brands on other people’s labors.

Most aggregators are not promoting newspaper content; they are repurposing it to their own ends. Newspapers’ audiences are harvested and sold divorced from the content that attracted them in the first place. The risk would be making Google, the kingmaker on the Web, angry.

It's a thought provoking column, and one worth reading, even though I am not paying the NY Times a red nickel for it, and I probably should! I am also using it for content on MY site, also without a nickel of compensation.

Do you see how nuts this is?

This has spawned predictable pushback from some readers/listeners who think that a dumb-dumb sports talk radio host can't/shouldn't have opinions on anything more complicated than batting averages and shooting percentages.

Here's an email exchange from George Lambiris...


You are as dumb as you are stupid. You keep talking about newspapers abandoning the internet and boldly sticking to their printed product. That is incredibly short-sighted. It's important to realize that internet news and newspaper news hit two completely different audiences. It's not like one trumps the other.

Printed papers appeal to the baby boomers and even to many of us Gen-Xers, because that's what we're accustomed to. Baby boomers, by the way, make up the majority of news hounds solely because they make up the majority of the US population. But that doesn't mean you abandon the internet, because again internet news mostly appeals to a completely different generation/audience.

Those news hounds 30 and under use the internet for everything….EVERYTHING: dating, news, fun, entertainment, movie watching, gaming, homework, libraries, and the like. There will be a transitional period that will last a few more decades and then there could be a time with those who use the internet for news outnumber those that are accustomed to reading news from a newspaper.

At that point, it might make sense to abandon print….and subsequently charge for internet based news and up the cost of advertising. However, I strongly believe that majority of eyeballs that read papers rarely cross over onto the internet and that's because the Boomers still make up the vast majority of the population and this 50+ crowd is used to using papers.

How would Kodak have done if they had stuck to their film-based camera business and not embraced digital. What if the Post Office only allowed stamp buying at the post office and not via the internet. There are several other business examples where businesses were forced to adopt and morph over time or die.

Also, having people pay for internet news is not a bad idea, but you wouldn't expect anyone to pay more than the 50 cents per issue: the cost they can get a newspaper for. And if you think that papers make money off the 50 cents they collect for a paper…well I can't imagine you think that. The bulk of the revenue is made from ad money. Papers are having a hard time in this economy…like everyone else….because companies can't afford to advertise like they once could.

It has nothing to do with the free internet news. Also, it is much, much cheaper to put news on the internet than to print it on paper, load it into trucks, deliver it to the thousands of newspaper retailers than to post it on line. They may not make as much for internet news ads, but the cost isn't nearly as much either.

The fact that the NY Times sold part of their building has nothing to do with how their business is doing. Sale lease backs are a common practice across all industries. My company just did that, because we are not in the real estate management business. We are in the consumer products business. We should focus our efforts on that and not on maintaining property. They probably only sold part of their building because no one wanted the whole building. Otherwise they might have sold the whole building and leased it back.

Another thing you have been spouting off about lately…that is driving me crazy… is the blasting of overpaid NBA players. There are as many underpaid professional players as overpaid players. Look at Ryan Howard until this year…or Maurice Jones Drew. There are several people I work with that don't deserve more than me and peole under me probably say the same about me. What about your salary vs that of a school teacher or cop? Are you saying you're more valuable than those professions? I say no.

If it was a problem for the pro team owner, they would fix it. But they probably realize that is all about evens out because few of them are trying to fix those great players who are underpaid. Just like many of us will continue to let you make the money you undeservedly make.

I love listening to you because you are opinionated, but you need to realize that you are wrong much more than you are write. I think Scott needs to get a pair and challenge you more. But seriously, keep up the good work. You are definitely getting a reaction from your listeners. At times it's only when I'm red with frustration at your comments and opinions that I know I'm alive. Thanks

from the 703


Dear George,

Some good points.

However, your misconception about the "under 30" crowd is way exaggerated by you and others. I know plenty of under-30's who very much like to read the newspaper, and many of whom who do NOT own the latest, fanciest, text messaging phone.

Besides... those types aren't reliable NEWS readers in the first place, they are narcissistic dopes who will likely end up at Starbucks for their "career." They are texting, downloading YouTube videos, or emailing pics of their girlfriend to others.

Newspapers are confusing their product (news) with a delivery system (the internet.) They think (incorrectly) that their alt delivery system (web) IS their new "product."

It is not.

I think the Kodak analogy is off, because film is a physical product that was rendered obsolete by 1's and 0's. Journalism is a human endeavor, that takes time and money to produce, no matter if you receive that product via a printed page, or the internet.

Until you can create a self-sustaining computer program that PRODUCES journalism at ZERO cost (the equivalent of digital cameras) then the analogy falls apart.

A more apt analogy is of businesses that branch out into areas that are WAY beyond their expertise. What do newspapers know about "the web"? Nothing, really. They aren't web companies, will never be, and can't compete with more nimble enterprises.

Plus, it's insane that they are giving away their PRODUCT (journalism) for repurposing and repackaging by their competitors (Google News).

As for the NBA argument, I am a free marketeer in that "good for them" when it comes to stiffs nobody cares to see play can make $8 million a year. You are correct. They are "worth" that much, because somebody paid them that.

As for my salary vs. a teacher or cop, come on, you are smarter than that, right? Different industries create different pay scales, based on totally different criteria. And I can assure you, my employers are ALWAYS looking for the next guy who can do what I do, for less money. So I am hardly immune or ignorant to that search.

My point about the NBA (and believe me David Stern is right there even though he won't say it) is that the closed loop system (30 franchises competing against each other for limited talent) needs to be restructured or torn down to better allocate salaries. The Cuttino Mobley's of the NBA are necessary, but not inherently valuable. Therefore, they should be paid much less than the stars, because they are essentially bongo players in a Jimmy Buffett concert.

I would much rather see Dwayne Wade make 40 million a year (because he's truly worth that much in home and away gate receipts) and many other veteran roster pigs make a decent (but much less) $2-3 million per year.

All that said, a similar dynamic exists in all sports where salaries are guaranteed. The NFL is the only league that approximates a logical pay scale for the stars vs. the jobbers.

Now, chew on that for a while.

Stupid, eh?

Try getting that from another sports radio host.




I was obviously jabbing at you to get a response...and I appreciate the response by the way.

Your points are very good ones, especially the one on the news "aggregators", but sadly there is no way to stop that. Newspapers can just hope to make it harder to aggregate the news for free or try to charge. But once it's printed is out there, it's hard to keep people from using it. I rarely cite the Post when debating someone with information I gleaned from one of their articles.

I appreciate your show and insights...and yes, you are are worth more money than my 6th grade teacher or the cop that recently pulled me over.




I am not AT ALL trying to "beep bop and scat" on newspapers and their plight. I am a newspaper man at heart, having a short, but very cherished career at the student paper at UC Santa Barbara.

I loved working at the paper, and it was my social circle in college. Maybe not as fun or wild as being in a frat house but I'd say it was certainly more worthwhile for my educational development and ultimately my career.

I am rooting for newspapers to stay alive, vibrant, and relevant. My favorite week of the year, comes at the beach in the summer with my family at the Outer Banks.

A local bagel shop, has a news-stand outside. LOTS of newspapers. Expensive, yes. The NY Times and other northeast papers cost upwards of $2.50 each for a M-F edition and don't arrive until 9 a.m.

I don't care.

I buy about 8 of them, and me and my dad, brother, sister and family go through them throughout the day. It's awesome. If only I had the time to do so every day at work.

I repeat for the last time: you can NOT replicate this experience via electronic devices. You can't. I hope that day never comes in which we are forced to squint at little screens to read the sports page.

As one newspaper writer said to me the other day after an edition of "The Sports Reporters": "If they just invented the print newspaper a year ago, people would be saying: 'This is the greatest invention ever!"


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