Newspapers have not been blessed with the best and the brightest managers. Why? The executive editors sabotage real management and have purged MBAs from their ranks. Kill off the competition.
This is from the WSJ Deal Journal column, a Q&A with Mr. Knee, a highly respected investment consultant
DJ: What would be your advice to newspaper owners?
Knee: You have seen people outsource everything from printing to editorial and indeed, any kind of journalism where your scale in the local community does not provide you with an advantage should be gotten elsewhere. If you find out how many people the large papers sent to the national conventions, you would wonder whether that’s economically justified. You have to focus on your competitive advantage, which is local. When the smoke clears, the local newspaper, which may not be the sexiest part of the newspaper industry but is overwhelmingly the largest and most profitable part of the industry, will be a smaller and more-focused enterprise whose activities will be directed to those areas where their local presence gives them competitive advantage and they will continue to generate as a result better profits than the supersexy businesses in the media industry asking for government or nonprofit help like movies and music.
The newspaper industry has not been blessed with the best managers, and generations of monopoly profits do dull the senses. On the journalism side, I think many managers would rather have avoided a fight with journalists than actually force them to think harder about what their readers want, rather than what they want their readers to want. In the economic environment we’re in, newspapers can’t afford to do every six-part investigative series they could have done before.
Meanwhile, the rank and file newspaper reporters who were busy covering their beats, don’t make much compared to the executive editors.
Moma don’t let you’re kids grow up to be newspaper reporters. Have them study business, engineering, law or sales, even bar tending would earn them a better living. The executive editors who scratched their way to the top make big bucks for a while, until the host dies from bad management anyway.
Ever wonder what kind of money the nation’s top newspapers pay their best journalsits? The top rung of the latter is set by the Newspaper Guild. Once you’ve lasted five or six years after about four years at a small daily and tuition of at least $20,000 a year at a respected J-school, this is it.
New York Times pays the most, $1,675.28 a week after two years. But that’s where it stays fixed until the next Guild negotiations. Of course, New York City has the highest cost of living expenses in the U.S.
Reuters pays $1,587.93 a week after six years.
The San Francisco Chronicle pays $1202.24 a week for six years of journalist experience. I know that is top for the Guild scale, but many of the hard workers, who put in more than 38 hours a week get additional pay above scale.
Consumer Reports takes the No. 1 position with $1,80410 a week scale after four years of experience. The union-biased “non-profit” magazine pays more that the New York Times or San Francisco Chronicle for their pro-union advertorial reports on products.
Can new online newspapers chage for its content? Jeff Jarvis of the LA Times says “No!” And he explains himself very well:
How’s that for a direct answer? Every rule has its exceptions — this one only a few: The Wall Street Journal (paid by expense accounts), Consumer Reports (which serves reviews, not news), iTunes (we may play a unique performance over and over, but I don’t read even my articles more than once) and porn (which is suffering the same problem newspapers are thanks to free competition from, uh, amateurs). But the rule of the new, post-scarcity economy is clear: Charging for news online is dangerous folly. Why? Let me count the reasons if not the dollars:
Once news is known, that knowledge is a commodity and it doesn’t matter who first reported it. There’s no fencing off information, especially today, when the conversation that spreads it moves at the speed of links.
There will be no limit to competitors. Readers, like water, will follow the path of least inconvenience. It’s impossible to compete against free. Have papers learned nothing from Craigslist?
In the old-content economy, one could make much money selling many copies of a product. In today’s link economy online, we need only one copy, and it is the links to it that give it value. So rather than complaining that Google should pay them for aggregating their headlines, news organizations should be grateful that Google does not charge for the links it gives and the readers it sends. Indeed, we should be spending our effort figuring out how to get more links to original reporting to support it.
Putting your content behind a wall cuts it off from the conversation and robs it of influence. Just ask New York Times columnists how much they disliked the pay wall the paper finally demolished.
Not all newspapers are going bankrupt. Many, in small monopoly markets are among the most profitable businesses in America with profit margins much higher than oil companies, Apple, EBay, Cisco, Sprint, AT&T, Google or Microsoft. Gannett has the lion’s share of these markets. And also the highest ratio of MBAs in the media business.