Reprise: Who Will Report the News?

For my e-zine swan song, I figured I might as well go way out on a limb and divine the future of regional and community media. So, here goes…

Newspaper profitability is imploding. Here is the latest round-up, as summarized in “Who Will Report the News?“:

Media General’s Virginia newspaper group, which includes the Richmond Times-Dispatch as well as papers in Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Danville, Bristol and other locations, saw month-to-month revenues plunge 17 percent in July. While Media General reported a nominal loss in the second quarter, the once-formidable Washington Post Company racked up a $2.7 million loss, reflecting $133 million in early retirement write-offs for the Washington newspaper and Newsweek magazine. Print advertising revenues at the newspaper sank 22 percent. Privately owned Landmark Communications does not report its financial results, but the fact that the Virginian-Pilot and Roanoke Times are still for sale after months and months on the market suggests that they aren’t faring much better.

Newspapers are all shifting to an Internet-based model as fast as they can. But newspaper websites can’t possibly support the volume of news generated under the old print media model.

For metropolitan newspapers, the end game is a business model as an online publication… a publication with lean staffs and paper-thin profit margins… a publication that produces a small fraction of news content that it did in its heyday.

The citizens of Virginia have to face the prospect that their traditional sources of news and information about state, regional and community affairs may well dry up and blow away.Where, then, will people get their information? I foresee four sources:

  • Paid content for information of a highly specialized nature, such as newsletters, market analysis and business intelligence articulated by industry gurus.
  • Public relations content dressed up as press releases and journalism-style articles.
  • News aggregators that comb the Internet for content from news articles, press releases, blogs and other sources, digest it, repackage it and comment upon it.
  • Superstars, the Oprahs and Rush Limbaughs of the world, who are such huge phenomena they can break through the clutter and capture the economic value now provided by networks, broadcast stations and other bundlers of cable, television and radio content.

It ain’t pretty, folks. I’m not saying that it’s a better world — I’m just calling ’em as I see ’em. I was hoping that Bacon’s Rebellion e-zine might last long enough to feast upon the decomposing remains of the Mainstream Media, but I just ran out of steam. More on that subject in the next post.

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2 responses to “Reprise: Who Will Report the News?”

  1. Although we had some disagreements, Mr. Bacon, I am sorry to see the blog take a breather. It offered some worthwhile discussion.

    In the meantime, an answer to one of your questions:

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    IMHO, much, but certainly not all, of the MSM’s pain is self-inflicted. Too many newspapers simply operated to satisfy their needs/egos instead of those of their readership. Not everyone things the same way as the editorial staff of a big paper. It is a huge mistake to operate that way.

    There is much more diversity of opinion and story content on this blog than in many newspapers, especially the WaPo. Lots of big news stories are missed because they aren’t politically correct or will offend a big advertiser or run contrary to the paper’s political philosophy. Meanwhile, fewer and fewer read the big papers. We’ve been WaPo-free for almost two years. Don’t miss it. I catch what I want online and read numerous other publications.

    As a kid, I read both the morning and evening papers in St. Paul, MN virtually every day. When we still subscribed to the Post, if my kids looked at the paper once or twice a month, it would be shocking.

    Small local papers do a much better job of reporting local news. But they seem to be hurting also.

    There still is a market for good local news reporting. Who will find a successful way to meet that demand?


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