Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Progress and polarization

An interesting analysis of the death of the American newspaper:
Traditionally, a U.S. newspaper relied upon three revenue streams, roughly one-third each: subscriptions, commercial advertising, and classifieds. First, the Internet ate the classifieds (see Craigslist), then moved on to some of that display stuff. It is this which is blamed for the decline of the industry and the associated calls that Google and or Facebook should cough up some money to revive it.

Much more important, though, is geography. The U.S. is a big country. You could drop the average European country into it and not really notice. A result of this is that U.S. newspapers were, largely speaking, a series of regional monopolies. This was down to the same network effects that people use to complain about Facebook today. Once you’re getting the majority of the classifieds in an area, for example, you’ll end up getting almost all of them. People read the section because that’s where the ads are, people advertise there because the readers are there, and so on. And as above, classifieds were a very important part of newspaper financing.

But note my point here about those regional monopolies. Apart from the very largest cities, there was usually only the one major paper. And there was another one of those every ... well, that’s the geography-dependent part. The U.S. rail network has never been very fast at the distribution of either goods or people. It's optimized for bulk commodities like coal, iron ore, and the like. But getting something printed this evening to somewhere 400 miles away before breakfast? Not so much. Thus, each major urban center, perhaps some hundreds of miles from the next, had its own newspaper ecology.

Now along comes the Internet. Our local monopolies created by geography are now broken. It’s that, much more than the loss of one or more revenue streams, which is leading to the change. We simply do not need 50 or 200 major newspapers all trying to tell their readers about everything. It can be, and therefore will be, managed with very much fewer than that.
In other words, journalists now in the position of the buggy whip manufacturers they always used to enjoy mocking as people whining about inevitable progress. And here I thought journalists were supposed to be progressives!

This means that we're not actually seeing a development of an Alt-Media so much as we're simply seeing the centralization and polarization of the media play out as it has in Britain. Whoever makes the shift to be the national conservative newspaper will survive, almost all of the others will eventually be devoured by the Left Opinion Leader paper (The New York Times), the Establishment Government paper (The Washington Post), and the Establishment Business paper (The Wall Street Journal).

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Blogger Unknown February 07, 2018 4:25 PM  


Blogger Longtime Lurker February 07, 2018 4:32 PM  

From Big Media to Fragmented Media back to Big Media. The more things change . . .

Blogger Craig Cousins February 07, 2018 4:36 PM  

What about the Establishment Reader for Dummies (USA Today)?

Blogger Ingot9455 February 07, 2018 4:40 PM  

Sigh. Where will I get my free snake cage lining?
I'll have to hope those little local alt-weeklies stick around.

Blogger Ron Winkleheimer February 07, 2018 4:46 PM  

Way back in the before time a city didn't need to be huge to support two papers, but the papers had to differentiate themselves. So you would have the Democrat paper and the Republican paper. Then the seventies hit and all the papers became converged. Since at that point there was no difference between the two, one would die.

Blogger Hammerli280 February 07, 2018 4:46 PM  

Oh, I suspect the local papers will survive. Not thrive, but survive. The big I-95 Axis papers don't much care for anything outside of their leftist fantasyland.

Blogger Jeff aka Orville February 07, 2018 4:52 PM  

Go to an airport and bus station and you won't see a bunch of people reading a newspaper. Go to a grocery store and the local paper has a table set up outside the front door to beg you to subscribe.

I toured the KC Red Star as a teen back in the 70's and it was a huge busy operation putting out a morning and evening paper. Now, they can't even keep their new multi-million dollar printing plant busy, not even printing out all the newspapers for the smaller towns around the area.

Blogger Ninny Mouse February 07, 2018 4:56 PM  

Does not touch on the trust-worthiness issues of news. Though, in fairness to the author, that issue is throughout news not just newspapers.

How do the UK papers get revenue? Subscriptions? If so, I can imagine the internet is causing problems there.

Blogger Chesapean February 07, 2018 4:59 PM  

By the same analysis, local newspapers might see opportunities to prosper by specializing in local content. People like to know what the neighbors are up to and delight in stories which make them proud of their communities.

I looked at starting a local paper in my area, but found three major barriers to entry as a poorly-funded start-up:

* Printing and distribution of hard copy (hard copy being a necessary form of packaging).

* Obtaining high-quality comics, puzzles and commentary from syndicated sources.

* Sustaining the large staff needed to produce and manage daily content both electronically and in print.

My idea was to aggregate material from citizen producers, from school newspapers to business press releases and everything in between. Professional writers would develop commissioned stories on local topics to balance the amateur work. Letters to the editor online and in print would be a primary emphasis.

My thought was that any square inch of Earth -- any square inch in my own backyard -- contains all the stories in the Cosmos, if you have the right bucket for capturing them.

But alas, those three barriers to entry are extraordinarily expensive to overcome. And I'm old.

Blogger DJ | AMDG February 07, 2018 5:11 PM  

Prepare for severe disappointment, then.

“Local” papers are all already dying. Many are dead. Their daily cost continues to increase while their daily volume continues to decrease. The vast majority provide only three things to the “locals” who actually purchase them: high school sports stories and printed store coupons being two. The third thing is related to many county ordinances and state laws demanding legal notices be published in related local news papers.

The surest sign of a local newspaper’s demise is when online news aggregators link more to text based reports published by local radio and TV sources as opposed to the paper sources, combined with those radio and TV sites’ news pages getting more views than the paper sites’.

Blogger Akulkis February 07, 2018 5:11 PM  

1. Hire some others paper to print your paper

2. Crowdsource as much as possible. Syndicate VD, and Heartiste. Even if women hate the opinions, they will still gobbled them up and come back for more.... They can't stand not knowing what men say about them.

3. Weekly. Volunteer staff. Work in conjunction with a couple high schools. Get some athletic and tech types involved.

Anonymous Anonymous February 07, 2018 5:12 PM  

Speaking of newspapers:

Does anyone know of the politics of Dr. Soon-Shiong, who recently bought the LA Times?

Twitter and some Fake News outlets were having conniptions because Soon-Shiong

1) met with Trump
2) was buying a newspaper.

A Duckduckgo search came up relatively blank, and I was wondering if anyone else knew anything.

Blogger James Dixon February 07, 2018 5:19 PM  

> Printing and distribution of hard copy (hard copy being a necessary form of packaging).

I believe this is the point where it's breaking down. There's no reason any of the things you want to do require a physical copy. Good blogging software or even a Facebook page could probably do the job.

Blogger DJ | AMDG February 07, 2018 5:25 PM  

In Chicago almost no one bought both papers. You were either a SunTimes guy or a Tribune reader. It had nothing to do with politics (both were in bed with the Dems) and instead everything to do with socioeconomic status (or the status you wished to project, anyway).

Blogger Unknown February 07, 2018 5:43 PM  

Speaking of the UK papers, the Torygraph notes that (((George Soros))) is putting his weight behind a new anti-Brexit campaign:

(Paywall unfortunately)

Blogger korbin ransley February 07, 2018 5:45 PM  

I hope pro white, christian, omninationalist who reject anti semitism and don't studiously ignore the dark enlightenment fill the national right wing paper void.

Alt West for the win.

I don't like the false choice between anti semitic pagan socialist, and civic nationalist, churchian, cuckoldry.

Blogger RobertT February 07, 2018 5:49 PM  

turns out progressives are regressive

Blogger daddynichol February 07, 2018 5:50 PM  

Here's another major issue with newspapers; very few people actually read content of more than 250 words. Twitter, Snapchat, instagram, Facebook reinforce fastfood writing and reading.

Blogger Astrosmith February 07, 2018 5:53 PM  

And so Gary Hobson was finally relieved of his duty to set things right each day after receiving tomorrow's newspaper when the Chicago Sun-Times ended its print edition.

Blogger Rough Carrigan February 07, 2018 6:03 PM  

I'm sure part of this is my bias living in Massachusetts but what other even somewhat conservative big city newspapers are there besides the Boston Herald and New York Post?

Blogger Wynn Lloyd February 07, 2018 6:07 PM  

He's sickening. He needs to be apprehended.
The 2%'s worst devil.

Blogger HMS Defiant February 07, 2018 6:08 PM  

Most signed their own death warrants when they opted to use the AP for the news blurbs they stuffed into the huge blank spaces between adverstisements. AP in US never has a recitation of the facts of a story. Never. One never gets the who, what why, where or anything like it. It's like a harassment claim and the reader is left ignorant of what, if anything, happened.

Blogger Cataline Sergius February 07, 2018 6:24 PM  

Question: What if we are facing bigger monopolies than regional newspapers ever held?

Ten years ago the internet was the Wild West of the Blogosphere.

But ask yourselves this; today how much of the internet ISN'T being filtered through Facebook, Twitter and Reddit?

And unlike the internet buggy-whip era of the blogospere, ALL of the above mentioned can and will cancel your account for the Thoughtcrime of being a Rightwing Extremist.

Please understand I am not a defeatist, we have certainly come a lot farther, a lot faster than he did in the days of that saddest of protest gestures, the weekly political newsletter.

Hell, we made Donald Trump president and that wouldn't have happened without the internet.

But we today we are facing information monopolies that are much more powerful than the old local newspapers ever held.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd February 07, 2018 7:00 PM  


Blogger James Dixon February 07, 2018 7:05 PM  

> But ask yourselves this; today how much of the internet ISN'T being filtered through Facebook, Twitter and Reddit?

Well, if you add Google, not much. But none of it *has* to be.

Blogger Johnny February 07, 2018 7:05 PM  

Question: What if we are facing bigger monopolies than regional newspapers ever held?

My answer is not yet, but they are obviously trying to corral it.

On the face of it starting a print addition paper looks like an uphill struggle. There are a lot of people who could feed off of their internet presence and I don't know of any that are starting a print addition.

Blogger Sterling Pilgrim February 07, 2018 7:08 PM  

A Churchian Responds to the 16 points...

Blogger Lazarus February 07, 2018 7:14 PM  

Does anyone know of the politics of Dr. Soon-Shiong, who recently bought the LA Times?
A Duckduckgo search came up relatively blank,...

Sometimes you just gotta give the devil his due (Goog search)

An audit of Soon-Shiong's $12 million donation to the University of Utah found several legal violations. As part of the donation, the university was required to use Soon-Shiong's company for the services required for the research, at a total cost of $10 million. NantHealth set the price for DNA sequencing at $10,000 per sample, while auditors found that other companies charged between $2,900 and $5,000 for the same service.[29] Legal experts referred to it as money laundering.[30][31]

His politics is money.

Blogger mark auld February 07, 2018 7:32 PM  

My concern is when the left regains control of the government, it will mean the end of the free and open internet.

Blogger Txdino February 07, 2018 7:37 PM  

Speaking of British papers:

With decentralized printing, Would the British model work here as each paper caters to a niche viewpoint?

Blogger Ominous Cowherd February 07, 2018 7:38 PM  

@23: That's not just a churchian, it's a thorough-going cuckservative. Neither Christian nor Right, and mostly wrong.

Blogger Ben Cohen February 07, 2018 7:45 PM  

It's part of the Trump dimension. Trump baited and trolled the media and sped up their demise.

Blogger Robert What? February 07, 2018 7:46 PM  

I still think there is a place for small town newspapers that focus on the local area.

Blogger TheMaleRei February 07, 2018 7:54 PM  


I'm wondering if this cuckian locks his doors at night - if so, is he not denying the rights of other humans to benefit from his shelter, goods, and existence? After all, he believes in the unfettered free movements of peoples, which eliminates the very concept of a nation-state, then why does he discriminate on who can and cannot enter his humble abode?

/ / / / /

Let newspapers suffer the fate they deserve. If the organizations cannot or will not adapt, let them fall.

I can, however, envision a time where newspapers and news organizations in general will beg for government funding, much as many feminist and other progressive organizations are. (Isn't that what's happening in Canada with some of their newspapers and such?)

Planned Parenthood, NOW, etc...

Blogger Ceerilan February 07, 2018 8:38 PM  

Does anyone now read the WSJ now that it's shown itself to be so thoroughly converged that it shamelessly defamed PewDiePie for the SJW'S?

Blogger Were-Puppy February 07, 2018 9:18 PM  

Coupon clipping is about the only reason I would consider buying a paper.

Blogger szopen February 08, 2018 1:40 AM  

@21 Cataline Sergius
[b]ALL of the above mentioned can and will cancel your account for the Thoughtcrime of being a Rightwing Extremist.[/b]
I hear you, man. Quite recently Facebook blocked more than 300 Polish rightwing pages. It appears that one of the local top fishes in FB is sympathizer of KOD (basically, something like BLM, not in slogans and goals, but in terms of relevance and tribal signaling).

What's funny (or maybe "funny" is a wrong word here), the rightwingers decided enough is enough and created their own site,

I encourage you to visit the page just to see it. It's, it's... dissapointing, let's say.

But it still valuable, because it shows mistakes to avoid in future, I guess. Like, for example, don't overdo. Especially not in the homepage.

Anonymous Anonymous February 08, 2018 3:30 AM  

This analysis is correct, I think. It's a sad development for those of us who are newspaper people.

One of the pleasures of my pre-Internet time in college was the local serious news and books store, where you could find everything from the local daily to The Times (London), Le Figaro, El Pais, Times of India and even the occasional Sydney Herald, as well as a wall of magazines.

A copy of the Sunday Times, for example, would set one back 8 dollars (this in 1989 money) and would be something like 5 days old. But you could march through it, a glimpse into a foreign land.

Now, it's right there, and, frankly, none of it is very interesting anymore, the global elite being what and who they are. The Post, Le Monde, Die Presse, L.A. Times, S.F. Chronicle, Toronto Star - they all run the same stories with the same line.

After a while, if one is good at it, one can tell where an entire news article, "news analysis" or op-ed piece is going simply by reading who the author is and the first two sentences. Why anyone *needs* to read the Washington Post is beyond me.

Blogger Thucydides February 08, 2018 12:27 PM  

While I see the gathering up of major newspapers and news organizations, here in Canada there seems to be a multitude of tiny niche newspapers flourishing in communities.

Some of it is due to Canada's incredibly counterproductive immigration policies, for example at least half of these tiny newspapers are for local "ethnic" communities, like the Chinese, Lebanese, Guatemalan and indian diasporas. The remaining ones are essentially print "blogs" about community arts events, showcasing clubs, bands, movies, plays and other artistic endeavours. As you probably guessed already, much of the content is "progressive" in nature, but they are self supporting through advertising and generally given away as free copies through street corner dispensers.

I have no idea how much longer these boutique print papers can last. I'm not clear if the owners are making any attempts to replicate their platforms in electronic media (and in Canada, at least, they would have to be readable or accessible via Smartphones, since that seems to be the largest platform, with obvious issues translating from print media to tiny screens).

Curious if there are similar observations in other countries? Where do the niche papers come from, and who are they targeted at?

Blogger Richard Gadsden February 09, 2018 8:29 AM  

This does miss a couple of things about the UK newspaper market.

First, most classified ads are of local interest, and local newspapers continue to exist to carry them. Local papers are mostly weeklies. They used to be vast things with thousands of ads in, but are being completely hollowed out in exactly the same way the US newspaper market is by classified ads. With being local to a small town or a district of a larger city, they carried very little display advertising in the first place (mostly coupons, listings from estate agents and car dealerships). They only ever carried local news - no national or foreign news, no syndication, no comics or crossword. The local paper where I grew up literally didn't mention an IRA bombing that killed two children about ten miles away - because it was in the neighbouring town, and none of the victims was local to the paper.

Second, the distribution system on trains made it much harder to nationally distribute an evening paper than a morning one. The upshot was a market for regional evening daily papers. All the major cities have one (London has the Evening Standard, Manchester the Evening News, Liverpool the Echo, Birmingham the Evening Mail, etc). These, again focus on regional news but do tend to cover national issues if they can find a regional angle. They now often distribute free copies (often of a cut-down edition) to commuters as they board their train/bus home (British cities have many more commuters on public transport than US ones), and that large captive audience means that they do pretty well for display advertising.

Rupert Murdoch is a real newspaper man. I wonder if he will decide to try to create a print version of Fox News - he's got a powerful brand, much of that audience is of a generation that reads newspapers, the website is already full of written content, so he wouldn't necessarily have to hire many more reporters (which are the expensive bit). The business logic would be to contract printing and distribution to each of the various city newspapers and send the layout across the internet.

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