Newspaper editors purged MBAs from management years ago

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. 

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Major city newspapers will go nonprofit to keep influence

Major cities such as San Francisco, Washington D.C., LA, Chicago, New York, Houston and Philadelphia may convert the serviving newspapers into nonprofits to keep their political and philanthropic status. 

The San Francisco Chronicle will be the first to test the entity. 

San Francisco investment banker Warren Hellman and other prominent SF  lawyers and investors made an informal proposal  last week to Hearst, owners of the San Francisco Chronicle about helping the troubled daily paper become a nonprofit, San Francisco attorney Bill Coblentz told the SF Business Times.

Hellman and Coblentz discussed the idea, then Coblentz conveyed it to former San Francisco Examiner editor and publisher William R. Hearst III, who is a Hearst Corp. director and an affiliated partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. William is one of the working Hearsts who lives in the Bay Area and keeps touch with The Chronicle on a daily basis. It’s unofficially the Hearst flagship, though in money making ability, their Houston Chronicle is by far the financial headquarters. 

“What happened after that, I don’t know,” said Coblentz, who is out of town.

The proposal would be for a nonprofit corporation “to take over the Chronicle,” with Hearst Corp. continuing to provide some philanthropic support, Coblentz said. Details remain sketchy. It’s unclear if the proposal is being seriously considered.

 

Editorial-wise they are already PBS in print, aren’t they? 

 

More Layoffs at the Denver Post

Updated Feb 26:

Note to “journalists:”  Your socialist views promoted Obama and the Democrat Party take over of Colorado. Businesses small and large are the enemy of Democrats. They were your advertisers. Does Big Brother spend advertising in your newspaper?

The Denver Post announced the layoffs of six newsroom managers Wednesday as part of a cost-cutting effort. Big deal, you think? After hundreds have been “let go” over the past two years? Yes. It is big for them.

Dismissed, effective Friday, were Gary Clark, managing editor of news; Mark Cardwell, managing editor of online news; Erik Strom, assistant managing editor of technology; Ingrid Muller, creative director; Cynthia Pasquale, assistant city editor; and Stephen Keating, online special- projects editor. Keating will continue to work on a project for Post owner MediaNews Group.

The layoffs come as dozens of newspapers across the country are cutting staffs and budgets to deal with steep declines in advertising and circulation.

“These departures were forced by budget cuts I have to make,” Post editor Greg Moore said in a memo to staffers. “I think you all know the financial challenges facing this industry and this newspaper.”

MediaNews Group is negotiating with union-covered Post employees for $2 million in wage and benefit concessions.

Rocky Mountain News owner E.W. Scripps has put that newspaper up for sale, and may close it, because of mounting financial losses.

Scripps imposed companywide pay and benefit cuts Wednesday at its newspapers and television stations, although the Rocky Mountain News reported that the cuts will not apply to the News.

The reductions, announced in an e-mail from Scripps chief executive Rich Boehne, were reported in several Scripps newspapers. Scripps declined to publicly release what it described as an “internal employee memo.”

I wrote about Times Mirror pulling the plug on The Denver Post, Dallas Times-Herald, and Houston Post, some 13 years ago, next they sold the family jewels, the rest of Times Mirror to the Tribune Co., and we all know about Zell’s offer to take the company private.

This is what is in store for all the former Times Mirror papers:

Layoffs, cuts to the bone.

Memo from Denver Post editor Greg Moore

To The Staff:

On Monday, April 23, in the auditorium on the first floor, we will have two very important staff meetings. I don’t think there is any secret that our newspaper and others have been facing some challenging times.

Even though just a year ago we went through buyouts in an effort to reduce costs, the financial situation facing the paper and the Denver Newspaper Agency requires additional measures be taken. At meetings at 11 a.m. and again at 4 p.m., we will explain details of another round of buyouts in an effort to cut expenses without having to do layoffs. These buyouts will be offered to Guild and exempt employees. I really hope we are able to achieve the savings we need and every effort has been made to construct an offer that will help us get there. The meetings will give us a chance to share details of the offers with you and answer questions. I know this is tough and introduces more anxiety in already difficult times. But we will get through it.

See you then,

Greg

While the Chandlers live like royalty in California.

 

Singleton should be praised for saving the Denver Post. It very easily could have been the Post shutting down today instead of the weird, tabloid Rocky Mountain News.

McClatchy about to be kicked off the New York Stock Exchange as stock falls below $1 dollar.

The elegant McClatchy stock certificates for Class A stock are worth more than the stock itself. *

 

This report is directly from a McClatchy press release. The McClatchy Company today (Feb. 5) reported a net loss from continuing operations in the fourth quarter of 2008 of $20.4 million, or 25 cents per share.

McClatchy also announced that it was notified by the New York Stock Exchange  that it is not in compliance with the NYSE’s continued listing standards. The NYSE’s notice dated February 4, 2009 indicated that on February 2, 2009, the company’s average share price over the previous 30 trading days was $0.98, which is below the NYSE’s quantitative listing standards.

The NYSE listed companies must maintain an average closing price of any listed security above $1 per share for any consecutive thirty trading-day period. McClatchy plans to notify the NYSE of its intent to cure this deficiency and has six months from the date of the NYSE notice to cure the non-compliance. The company’s Class A common stock will continue to be listed on the NYSE during this interim period, subject to compliance with other NYSE listing requirements and the NYSE’s right to reevaluate continued listing standards. In reality, the stock is now considered a “penny stock” and things had better shape up in the next six months. 

There was no report on what McClatchy was doing about its carbon footprint and efforts to slow climate change. 

Revenues in the fourth quarter of 2008 were $470.9 million, down 17.9% from revenues from continuing operations of $573.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. Advertising revenues were $388.3 million, down 20.7% from 2007, and circulation revenues were $67.0 million, up 1.4%. Online advertising revenues grew 10.3% in the fourth quarter of 2008 and were 10.9% of total advertising revenues compared to 7.8% of total advertising revenues in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Using cash from operations and proceeds from asset sales, the company repaid $30 million of debt in the quarter and $433 million for all of 2008. Debt at the end of the fiscal year was $2.038 billion, down from $2.471 billion at the end of 2007.

Restructuring plan to calm banks and other investors

McClatchy noted in a press release that the duration and depth of the economic recession have taken a severe toll on its advertising revenues. Given the unprecedented deterioration in revenues and with no visibility of an improving economy, the company is continuing to reduce expenses. McClatchy announced that it is developing a plan to reduce costs by an additional $100 million to $110 million, or approximately seven percent of 2008 cash expenses, over the next 12 months beginning later in the first quarter of 2009.

Details of the plan have not yet been finalized. In addition, the company will freeze its pension plans and temporarily suspend the company match to its 401(k) plans, effective March 31, 2009. The company will extend a salary freeze for senior executives in 2009 that was implemented in 2007. The company previously announced that it had implemented a company-wide salary freeze from September 2008 through September 2009. Gary Pruitt, McClatchy’s chairman and chief executive officer, also has declined any bonus for 2008 and 2009. In addition, other senior executives will not receive bonuses for 2008.

 

The loss from continuing operations for the entire year of 2007 was $2.73 billion, or $33.26 per share, including the effect of the non-cash impairment charges taken in 2007. Adjusted earnings from continuing operations(1) were $110.9 million, or $1.35 per share, in fiscal 2007 after considering the non-cash impairment charges and adjustments for certain discrete tax items. The company’s total net loss, including the results of discontinued operations, was $2.74 billion, or $33.37 per share.

 

Management’s Comments

Commenting on McClatchy’s results, Pruitt said, “2008 was a difficult and disappointing year. We faced troubled economic times and structural changes in our business.

 

“But the economy remains mired in recession and our industry is still in a period of transition. The advertising environment continues to be weak and we expect print advertising revenues to continue to be down. While we do not have final advertising revenue results for January, we know that the month was slower than the fourth quarter. We don’t have any better sense than other market observers as to how long the current recession will last and we do not yet have visibility of revenue trends.

“We must respond with both continued rigor in driving our revenue results as well as permanently reducing our cost structure. At McClatchy we are quickly becoming a hybrid print and online news and information company.

“Evidence of our cost reduction efforts can be found in our results. Excluding severance and other benefit charges related to our previously announced restructuring plans, cash expenses were down 14.4% in the fourth quarter and were down 11.5% in all of 2008.

“This necessary transition to a more efficient company is especially painful in a horrible economy and we have had to make some very difficult decisions to keep the company safe,” Pruitt said. “Even so, we are determined to treat our employees well and secure their retirement as best we can. So while we have announced that we are freezing our pension plans and will temporarily suspend 401(k) matching contributions as of March 31, we will continue to offer competitive benefits for our employees. We expect to offer a new 401(k) plan later this year that will include both a matching contribution (once reinstated), plus a supplemental contribution that is tied to cash flow performance. I recognize the sacrifices our employees are making to help us get though this difficult time and I appreciate their loyalty to McClatchy. I am confident that the McClatchy team is up to this challenge and we will see brighter days when the economy finally turns.”

Pat Talamantes, McClatchy’s chief financial officer, said, “Our new cost initiatives, combined with our 2008 efforts, are designed to save approximately $300 million annually before severance costs. Approximately $60 million of savings has been realized in 2008, and $44.7 million of severance costs associated with these programs has been expensed in 2008 and largely paid.”

“Despite the downturn in advertising revenues, we still continue to generate significant cash and are using it to repay debt,” Talamantes said. “Our debt at year end is $2.038 billion, down $433 million from the end of 2007. Based on our trailing 12 months of cash flow, our leverage ratio is currently 5.1 times cash flow and our interest coverage ratio is 2.8 times cash flow as defined by our bank agreement — well within the allowable covenant thresholds. We have $159 million in availability under our bank credit lines, and have no significant debt maturities until June 2011. We believe that we can work through this difficult environment, and we expect to make further progress in paying down debt in 2009.”

Other Matters

McClatchy also announced that it was notified by the New York Stock Exchange (the “NYSE”) that it is not in compliance with the NYSE’s continued listing standards. The NYSE’s notice dated February 4, 2009 indicated that on February 2, 2009, the company’s average share price over the previous 30 trading days was $0.98, which is below the NYSE’s quantitative listing standards. Such standards require NYSE listed companies to maintain an average closing price of any listed security above $1.00 per share for any consecutive thirty trading-day period. McClatchy plans to notify the NYSE of its intent to cure this deficiency and has six months from the date of the NYSE notice to cure the non-compliance. The company’s Class A common stock will continue to be listed on the NYSE during this interim period, subject to compliance with other NYSE listing requirements and the NYSE’s right to reevaluate continued listing standards.

Consistent with the growing industry practice, McClatchy will discontinue issuing monthly revenue and statistical reports after this release. McClatchy is among the last newspaper companies to report advertising results monthly, and without comparable industry information, management does not believe monthly revenues are as useful to investors. The company will continue to provide revenue trends and other statistical information on a quarterly basis with its earnings releases.

*Class B stock is the stock held by the family, so that has voting rights and much more value when the assets are finally sold. It’s the same model used by the New York Times.

Will terrorists strike again? Why is the U.S. pouring 20,000 troops into cities? There must be some ‘chatter’

UPDATE:

The Washington Post reports that the Pentagon has issued the marching orders to mobilize 20,000 millitary troops to secure unspecified cities within the U.S.

Homeland Securtiy issued warnings of a terror attack on New York City’s mass transit system from Nov. 28 through the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah) the mainstream media doesn’t even have the intellectual honesty to report which holidays. Commuters and vacationing shoppers are supposed to be uneasy and many may even put off their trips to buy gifts. This, as we watch to bloodbath from Nov. 26-28, in Mumbi, India where the death toll has reached 200 from a group of 10 terrorists.

Who did it? We know the terrorists hate Jews. That narrows it down. 

What do the learders of Iran, Palistine and Syria have to say about the bombings? 

A Brooklyn rabbi and his wife were found among the dead in a series of terrorist attacks in India that have claimed more than 150 lives. In response to the attacks, the NYPD beefed up patrols around large hotels and Jewish centers, including the Lubavitcher headquarters, said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

The department already was on alert because of a warning earlier this week of a possible al-Qaida plot to strike the city’s rail systems over the holidays.

“The threat is serious, the threat is significant, and it is plausible,” said Congressman Peter King, R-Long Island, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, who ran the Chabad-Lubavitch local headquarters in Mumbai were killed during a hostage standoff at the center, said Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, a spokesman for the movement. 

On Wednesday, federal authorities warned New York police of an unsubstantiated (but reliable) report that al-Qaida operatives discussed an attack on New York’s subway system or rail lines like Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road.

A spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he had no plans to comment. (Keep shopping sheelple). 

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said additional resources were being deployed in the mass transit system in an “abundance of caution,” a common response when police receive new information about a threat.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s 468 stations and 6,480 subway cars, released a statement saying there was “no reason to be alarmed.”

The terrorists have been weakend from eight years of George W. Bush as Commander and Chief. 

We can be thankful for that time.

Newspapers send thousands to ‘cover’ the Democrat National Convention

This is called journalism? Thousands of newspaper reporters are in Denver to “cover” the party and coronation of the Obama/Biden ticket.

In fact, 15,000 “journalists” are flocking around the DNC convention. For the Republican convention? Not so much.

Did you know that several of the Democrat delegates are reporters and publishers?

Here is one. I’m not kidding. His name is Thomas Martinet.

It’s all rehearsed, fluffed up press conferences, electronic press releases and speeches read off teleprompters on unity and “toned down” socialism with a mix of religion and race thrown in. And the press laps it up. Of course, more than 90 percent vote exclusively for Democrats. This is amazing considering they have no problem picking up stories from wire services for most of their other news.

Meanwhile, back at the dilapidated newspapers, they continue to cut jobs to try and slow the red ink. How could they afford to send reporters to Denver? I wonder how many of the schmucks are on their own dime. It’s like their visit to Mecca every four years. The reporters are among old friends who still believe they have power.

Is there ever a report of the fall off in the number of reporters at the Republican convention? How about questions on how many houses John Kerry owned? Or a question on Obama’s life in Chicago and Hawaii while his brother lives on a dollar a month in shack in Africa?

This report is one of the best I’ve seen on the state of newspapers. It comes from digitaldeliverance.com.

Ignorance isn’t bliss to the dying. Witness the pathos of American daily newspaper companies. Most have finally begun to realize that the deterioration of their businesses isn’t cyclical but grave. Yet few, if any, understand why. Almost all grasp for the reasons.

Some attribute their grave condition to advertisers suddenly switching huge portions of spending from print to online – an excuse that ignores more than 30 years of declines in those newspapers’ printed editions’ circulations and readerships. Some others attribute their deterioration to not having transplanted their content into online quickly enough -an excuse that ignores not only the dozen years they’ve spent transplanting it but how their online editions are now read even less frequently and less thoroughly than their printed editions.

Most of the print newspaper experts who diagnose these companies’ condition still prescribe stale nostrums such as more consumer focus groups, subscription price incentives, more stylish typography, or shorter stories. Meanwhile, most of the experts who diagnose these companies’ Web sites prescribe balms and accessories such as giving blogs to reporters, adding video, or having the readers themselves report the stories. American daily newspaper companies have long been too financially impatient to submit themselves to anything but ostensibly quick cures and they’ve even longer been too conceptually myopic to perceive the real reasons for their declines.

I’ll declare the real reasons. There are but two and neither has anything to do with multimedia, ‘convergence’, blogs, ‘Web 2.0’, ‘citizen journalism,’ or any ancillary topics you may have heard presented at New Media conferences this millennium.

Nor is either of the real reasons advertisers’ abandonment of printed newspapers. Their abandonment is a symptom, not the reason for the decline. To understand the real reasons why the American daily newspaper industry is dying, first understand why more and more Americans are no longer reading daily papers and how their abandonment of newspapers has been wrought by changes in their own media economics. Also comprehend why the epicenter of the newspaper industry’s problems in post-Industrial countries is America and exactly how grave the situation is there.

The Fate of American Daily Newspapers
More than half of the 1,439 daily newspapers in the United States won’t exist in print, e-paper, or Web site formats by the end of next decade. They will go out of business. The few national dailies — namely USA Today, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal — will have diminished but continuing existences via the Web and e-paper, but not in print. The first dailies to expire will be the regional dailies, which have already begun to implode. Those plus a very many smaller dailies, most of whose circulations are steadily evaporating, will decline to levels at which they will no longer be economically viable to publish daily. Further layoffs of staffs by those newspapers’ companies cannot avoid this fate – not so long as daily circulations and readerships continually and increasingly decline. (Layoffs are becoming little more than the remedy of bleeding that was used in attempts to cure ill patients during the 18th Century and cannot restore the industry’s health.)

‘Hyperlocal’ news startup companies, whose services will be delivered not on newsprint but online, might replace many small dailies, but not most, and certainly not before the printed products’ demise. The deaths of large numbers of daily newspapers in the U.S. won’t cause a new Dark Age but will certainly cause a ‘Gray Age’ for American journalism during the next decade. Much local and regional news won’t see the light of publication. (America alone won’t suffer this calamity. Many other post-Industrial countries’ newspaper industries will suffer or, at best, skirt a version of this disaster.)

Is the Situation Really That Bad? Yes. Look at the numbers.

Last year, the most authoritative newsletter covering the American newspaper industry intentionally went out of business. The Morton-Groves Newspaper Newsletter, in a front page editorial entitled ‘Passing the Inflection Point,’ co-publisher Miles Grove, the former chief economist of the Newspaper Association of America, politely stated:

“The market momentum guiding the future of newspapers is especially brutal in the larger markets. Many have already passed the point of opportunity as it is too late for newspapers that have not successfully adopted marketing practices needed to support the core product and integrate with alternative distribution channels …For those who have not made the transition, technology and market factors may be too strong to enable success.”

Last month, Goldman Sachs equity analyst Peter Appert put it more bluntly in a Reuters in a story about the dwindling number of equity analysts who still covering the deterioration of this $40 billion industry:

“If I covered only the newspaper industry, first of all I would have been fired a long time ago; secondly, I would have had to kill myself.”

Among the largest American newspaper companies, the losses of equity have been titanic. On the August day in when I write this, stock in the Journal Register Companyis trading for less than four pennies per share, down from $3.25 a year ago, a loss of 99 percent. Any of the buildings housing any of its 22 daily newspapers is worth more than the company’s current stock market capitalization (currently $1.4 million). Journal Register reports that it has $77 million in assets, $719 million in liabilities, and lost $102 million last year. Standard & Poor’s, which downgraded its rating of Journal Register’s stock to junk, has now withdrawn any rating of it. Meanwhile, stock in Gatehouse Media, which publishes 97 dailies, is trading at 57 pennies per share, down from $22.00 two years ago, a 97 percent loss. That company faces delisting by the New York Stock Exchange and the equity research firm Morningstar this week declared its stock to be essentially worthless, valuing the fair price as zero.

Meanwhile, stock in the McClatchy Company, which publishers 30 dailies, has dropped from $74.30 three years ago to $3.78, a 95 percent loss. Stock in Lee Enterprises, which publishes 51 dailies, has dropped from $48.57 to $3.83, a 92 percent loss during the past four years. Media General, which publishes 25 dailies, has seen its stock price drop 83 percent in the past four years. Stock of The New York Times Company, which publishes 17 dailies, has dropped 75 percent during the past six years, from $51.50 to $12.98. Stock in Gannett Company, which publishes 85 dailies, has dropped 65 percent, from $90.14 to $17.40, during the past four years. Despite these results, Morningstar still calls newspapers, “the market’s most overvalued stocks,” according to the newspaper industry trade journal, Editor & Publisher.

The American newspaper industry’s losses of advertising revenues have been so well reported elsewhere that I see no need to outline those here. Likewise the industry’s losses of weekday and Sunday circulations, except that the industry maintains the façade that its overall circulation losses during the past three decades have been relatively minor. Weekday overall circulation was 62 million in 1970, dropped to 55.8 million at the turn of the century, and is approximately 53 million today. An overall loss of 9 million or 14.5% isn’t paltry but doesn’t seem that bad in the span of 38 years.

However, those absolute numbers fail to account for population growth during that time. The American population was 203 million in 1970 and 304 million today. Had the American daily newspaper industry at least kept pace with population growth, its weekday circulation should be 93 million today, not 53 million. The industry’s weekday penetration proportionate to population dropped from 30.5 percent 1970s to 17.4 percent to today, a relative decline of 43 percent.

To combat news of these declines, the industry has stretching its yardstick of readership plus begun conflating daily print circulation and monthlyonline usage. Its readership estimates vary from 2.3 people to 2.5 people per printed copy, numbers which, if true, would also mean that the majority of people who read a daily newspaper don’t themselves purchase it. More likely, the industry is stretching readership to mean the number of people who might live in a household where at least one person happened to buy or subscribe to a newspaper. But the other 1.3 to 1.5 people haven’t necessarily read it.

An independent survey released this month by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported that 46 percent of Americans a newspaper ‘regularly‘, down from 52 percent two years ago and as high as of 71 percent in 1992. Moreover, only 34 percent say they read a newspaper ‘yesterday‘, down from 40 percent two years ago.

Meanwhile, the industry has begun combining its Web sites’ total number of monthly users and its printed editions’ daily circulation totals – even though the average monthly unique user of the average American daily newspaper Web site use the site on only four to seven days per month. The resulting muddle of daily and monthly vastly overstates the number of people who use a newspaper daily, whether in print or online.

Despite those financial, advertising, circulation, and readership declines, an article of faith among newspaper companies has become that the cure lay online. The most widely prescribed remedies are multimedia (also called ‘convergence’) and interactivity (mainly in forms of ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘citizen journalism’). The companies hope that adding those attributes to what their newspapers have always done will reverse their industry’s fate.

Yet adding multimedia, convergence, interactivity, Web 2.0, and ‘citizen journalism’ to what their newspapers have always done aren’t cures but merely balms and accessories. No matter how well intentioned those New Media prescriptions are, no matter how much more animated or responsive multimedia and interactivity can make daily newspapers, adding those will prove to be little more than analgesics.

The absences of multimedia or interactivity aren’t why the circulations and readerships of American daily newspapers have been declining in relation to both population and households for more than three decades. Half of American newspapers’ declines in weekday circulation and readership relative to population occurred before the Internet opened to the public in late 1991, prior to popular awareness of interactivity or multimedia. Although Americans nowadays expect all media to have multimedia and interactive attributes, the absence of those attributes clearly aren’t the major causes of the deterioration of the newspaper industry nor will adding those reverse those declines.

So, what are the two reasons why the American daily newspaper industry’s is dying?

The major one is simply that American newspaper companies have violated a specific part of the Principle of Supply & Demand when consumers’ supply of news and information radically changed in the past 15 to 30 years. The other and more reasons why American newspapers are dying is because of how far too many of them have deviated from their local roots).

The major reason alone is a mortal wound for the industry, but the minor reason exacerbated it due to a corollary effect of newspapers’ violation of a Principle of Supply & Demand.

The editor-managed newspapers are a prime example of sad bastards.

A look at the mind set of newspaper columnists and journalists as security boxes their belongings

By Mick Gregory

After the spring break/Easter holiday retail promotions, newspapers have a long, low period of advertising drop off, followed closely by subscription and single-copy sales declines. That’s when the next big wave of head-count cuts usually hits. It’s as predictable as a 2-hour commute in So Cal. The newsrooms don’t see it coming any better than hogs at a Bakersfield slaughter house. I take that back, hogs do get the picture about five minutes before the drill.

UPDATE:
(CAN YOU IMAGINE? WRITERS COMING UP WITH THEIR OWN HEADLINES?)

Word out of the Los Angeles Daily Journal newsroom is that the legal paper lopped off its copy desk last night — the whole thing. I’ve heard it from a few sources, one of whom emails that deadlines will be pushed earlier in the day, writers are being asked to suggest their own headlines and line editors will back read each other’s edited copy. The editor staffing was already thin, with recent departures not replaced. Emails one staffer:

Honestly, how do you put out a paper without a copy desk? We’re all very shell-shocked. The lay-offs included a veteran copy-editor who had been at the paper for 15 years, and who was completly unaware she was on the chopping block. We’re all scrambling around, trying to figure out how we’re going to keep doing our jobs without copy editors. — Kevin Roderick of the LA Observer

TIP TO PUBLISHERS: TRY USING WEB-BASED CONTENT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE AND HAVE COPY EDITORS IN PUNE, INDIA DO THE EDITING FOR 20 PERCENT OF THE EXPENSE. THOUGH, GIVE YOUR WRITERS A CHANCE. ALL THEY NEED IS ABOUT A WEEK OF PRACTICE.

Here are the latest cuts:
The Seattle Times –175 to 200.
The Dizzy Dean Singleton cuts in California — bottomless.

Here is some open grieving from what was once a real fluff position, sports columnist in Southern California. Free food in the press box, jokes about the sports stars, great seats for all the best games, somebody had to do it. Well, not any more.

I have a suggestion for your exit interview, say “Pull my finger!”
And blow one a burrito/beer fart that they will remember.


‘We’re Eliminating the Position of Sports Columnist’
It took me, oh, about three seconds to process the meaning of the call from the newsroom secretary.

“Steve wants to see you in Louise’s office.”

Steve would be Steve Lambert, editor of The Sun/Bulletin/Titanic. And Louise is Louise Kopitch, head of personnel for the same foundering entities.

These days, your editor wants to see you (in tandem with the HR boss) for one reason only. And it’s not to congratulate you on being named Employee of the Year.

It was about noon, and I was in the new, north San Bernardino offices of The Sun to do my weekly IE-oriented notes column. I was going to lead with several paragraphs on Don Markham, the mad genius of Inland Empire prep football who, at age 68, is attempting to put a maraschino cherry atop his “mad genius” credentials by starting up an intercollegiate sports program (and, more importantly, to him, a football team) at something called American Sports University (current enrollment, about 30). A school planned and created by a Korean mad-genius businessman who either is about to fill a niche in academe or lose a boatload of money.

As it turns out, American Sports University is located in downtown San Bernardino in the very same collection of buildings occupied until October of 2006 by The Sun. The same buildings I reported to for my first day of work, Aug. 16, 1976, and then spent the next three decades of my working life. Later, I found that meaningful.

When the phone rang, my colleague, Michelle Gardner, had been talking to me about Cal State San Bernardino basketball, the aspect of her beat that most interests her. As usual, she was highly animated and barely paused for breath as I took the call, said, “OK,” and hung up. Michelle resumed describing the permutations of the CCAA basketball tournament and what it meant for the Division II NCAA playoffs. She was just getting warmed up. I basically had to walk away from her to answer the summons. Michelle does love her beats, and I admire her for that.

I may have laughed aloud as I went down the stairs. Certainly, I smiled. It seemed so silly. “They come for me at a random time and a random day. A Thursday. At lunch. Huh.”

I walked down the hall, looking for the personnel department offices. All the doors were closed, so I had to glance through the glass to find one occupied. I noticed a guy sitting across the walkway, a guy whom I once had worked with on a daily basis, when he was in the plate room and I would run downstairs to build the agate page. Mark Quarles. I remember wondering if he knew what I was doing down there, Thursday afternoon, and whether he might actually call out to me. Or whether it’s politically dangerous to acknowledge a Dead Man Walking.

I pushed open the door to Kopitch’s office, was invited in, and there was Lambert, looking smaller and thinner than I recalled him. Not that I had seen him often the past year, between my doing so many L.A.-oriented columns and him doing whatever it was he does. Corporate stuff, meetings off site, whatever.

I said, brightly, “I’ve been trying to think of a scenario in which this meeting is a good thing.”

Lambert said something like, “It’s not a good thing.”

I sat on the other side of Kopitch’s desk. As did Lambert, but he was turned slightly toward me and was about six feet away. Maybe that’s the way you do these things? On the same side of the desk but a bit removed? I remember a managing editor, name of Mike Whitehead, telling me, 20-odd years ago, that you never fire someone in your own office because if they insist on talking/complaining you can’t get up and leave. It’s your own office, see? So you fire people somewhere else.

Anyway, Lambert had a bit of a preamble. Something we hate to do, forced on us by economic realities, sorry … “but we’re eliminating the position of sports columnist for the Inland group.” I remember that fairly clearly, and I recall thinking “hmm, they leave it to me to grasp that I am not just a columnist but “sports columnist for the Inland group,” a title I’d never heard, let alone used. There was a flicker of “what if I were really dim, or contentious, and made him say it more directly? Like, “you’re fired.”

Lambert may have said he was sorry another time or two. How often he said it doesn’t matter because I don’t believe he meant it in the least. He could have said it 20 times or not at all and it wouldn’t have mattered. The guy hasn’t liked me since, oh, 2004, and I bet whacking me was the easiest call for him, of the 11 Sun newsroom people he fired that day. Dump a big salary (by Singleton standards) and a guy you don’t like at the same time? Easy. Fun, actually.
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