Perhaps it’s because we were headed down to Long Island for a day-long visit to a journalism school today, but an opinion piece in the Loyola student newspaper got us riled up about the state of journalism education when we came across it yesterday.

Michael GiustiIn it, Loyola journalism professor Michael Giusti (right) makes a misguided assumption that the print media model is going to be just fine, basing his conclusions on the assumption that the worst is over, advertising activity is starting to pick up again and that his own reading habits can be projected out to the general population. We hope this isn’t what he’s teaching his students, but we suspect otherwise.

Giusti does have some interesting figures from Lee Enterprises to support his point. They show a 50% drop in classified advertising revenue compared between 2006 and 2009, compared to just a 20% decline in display advertising. Giusti finds reason for optimism in this fact, based on the assumption that a recovering economy will stimulate the latter category while the worst is over in the former. Even better, newspaper publishers have largely completed their cost-cutting initiatives and will learn to make due with smaller staffs.

“With their leaner personnel roles, newsrooms can continue operating within their tighter post-Craigslist budgets. Most publicly traded newspapers are now posting positive numbers, and many are even on track to post profits for the first quarter of this year.”

This conclusion appears to assume that nothing will change in the future, but evidence indicates otherwise. The Internet  recently became the world’s largest advertising market and it’s going nowhere but up in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, newspapers who  have lost the young audience are focused mainly on milking whatever revenue they can out of an aging reader base while doing little to prepare for a digital future other than trying to charge for the content they now give away. This is not a healthy state of affairs.

It’s disturbing to see such blind optimism from someone who is supposed to shape young minds. For starters, the core problem for newspapers isn’t Craiglist but efficiency. Advertisers now have vastly more leverage in the way they invest their dollars than they did a few years ago. What’s more, the online competitors that newspapers face operate far more efficiently than print publishers do. The cost of advertising is only going to decline further in the future. Publishers are enjoying a respite right now because of the slowly recovering economy and the benefits of cost-cutting over the last two years, but to believe that the worst is over and the future is bright is to take a dangerously optimistic point of view. The business model is anything but “solid;” it is on very shaky ground.

Also, Mr. Giusti’s statement that “I plan to read my newspaper in its paper edition long into the future” demonstrates that he is out of step with his students. We addressed a class of public relations seniors at a major university last week and asked our usual question: How many of you have read a print newspaper in the last week? Out of a room of 25 students, one hand went up. This is par for the course in our experience with young communicators and it indicates that while Mr. Giusti may plan to read his newspaper far into the future, very few of his students will.

Online News Readers are Tech-Savvy

Alan Mutter quotes new research demonstrating that visitors to newspaper websites are more technologically savvy than many of us would believe. The research by Greg Harmon found that online newspaper readers are about the same age as their print-focused counterparts but are 1.5 times more likely to own a smart phone. He also quotes Harmon characterizing as “stunning” the finding that 30% of these readers are hungry to buy an Apple iPad.

It seems that the usual pattern in consumer gadget purchase is that about twice as many people plan to buy a gizmo at any give time as actually own it at that moment. But Harmon discovered that in the case of the iPad, five times as many online newspapers readers plan to buy it or some other kind of e-reader as currently own one.  This suggests that newspaper enthusiasts are keen to embrace the new technologies, a finding that should encourage news executives to get off the mushrooms on which they’ve been sitting since late January and start figuring out how to turn these loyalists into e-reader subscribers.

Sadly, the whole newspaper industry has been gloomily silent in that time. Perhaps they’re waiting for the population of iPads to reach critical mass – by which time someone else will have captured the market – or maybe they don’t know how to offer a differentiated product on a portable digital platform. Here’s an idea: regional aggregation. And there’s more where that came from if you’d care to give us a call.

Miscellany

The Financial Times must be thinking it has figured out the paywall model. The British business daily has completely eliminated free access to its content, except for readers who arrive from Google. Previously, FT.com visitors got five articles per month for free and 25 if they filled out a free registration form. Now those thresholds have been reduced to 0 and 10 stories, respectively. Annual subscriptions cost as much as $550.


Gannett's Craig Dubow, Newspaper Death WatchCurrent and former employees of Gannett Co, who aren’t known for reticence with their opinions, are likely to be royally steamed to learn that CEO Craig Dubow took home a $4.7 million paycheck last year even as revenue declined 22%, the company laid off 6,000 people and shut down the Tucson Citizen. However, those employees should keep in mind that the market capitalization of Gannett increasedby about $3 billion during the year. As far as shareholders are concerned, Dubow’s bonus is cheap.


Only 544 newspaper employees were laid off in the first two months of 2010, says the blog News Cycle. indicating that the blood flow may be slowing. That compares to more than 30,000 newspaper jobs that were lost between 2008 and 2009, according to Erica Smith. Smith’s 2010 numbers are less optimistic than News Cycle’s: she  counts more than 1,650 lost newspaper jobs this year, but that may include the 600 people at the Honolulu Advertiser who have yet to receive their formal termination notices. We’re inclined to trust Erica, who has documented this trend with unerring discipline for more than three years.


Speaking of Erica Smith, her latest blog entry is about Paper Haters, a blog that documents the more outrageous and ignorant complaints that newspaper editors get from readers. “The blog is intended to point out the irrationality and sometimes utter ignorance of newspaper readers and their often misplaced anger,” blogger Maggie Jenkins tells Smith. “It’s all at once funny and frustrating.”

A scan of the site reveals that readers do complain vociferously about seemingly ridiculous things. Jenkins, who fields reader letters as part of her job, estimates that only about 1% of communications from readers are positive. The most common complaints: alleged favoritism toward a particular restaurant/school/candidate and the classic “You’re just a bunch of bleeding-heart liberals” accusation. She invites you to submit your own favorites, whether from print, broadcast or online.

And Finally…

Reporters are editors disagree all the time, but rarely do you see their differences erupt in the way they did between these two TV newsmen in a recent exchange. We assume these guys don’t often go out for beers after the evening newscast.

Comments

comments

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 at 10:42 pm and is filed under Best/Worst, Business News, BusinessModel, Future of Journalism, Journalism, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers, Paywalls. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

8 Comments

  1. March 25, 2010 @ 1:40 pm



    I know I’m not typical, but I haven’t read an actual paper in years.

    I have access to more news by going on-line than I could find by picking up one or even two papers here in NYC.

    On top of Google news, I read Al Jazeerah, the BBC, the CBC, Huffington Post, the NY Daily News, the NY Times, Digg, Slashdot, this blog and the magazine death pool.

    Michael Giusti is full of it if he thinks I could get all of the news from his rag.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  2. March 26, 2010 @ 12:49 am



    Try reading up on some real statistics. If you look at the college explorer put out by alloy media and marketing, you will find that college students are reading their college newspapers in massive numbers. It isn’t print that the college students don’t like… it is bad journalism.

    Posted by Student
  3. March 26, 2010 @ 6:01 am



    You’re right, and we’ve noted that fact several times in the past. Yet the fact remains that the average daily US newspaper reader is between 55 and 57 years old. I don’t buy your “bad journalism” theory. It’s hard to argue that the journalism at college newspapers is superior to that of major metro dailies. More likely it’s the hyper-local nature of college journals combined with other factors, like subscription costs.

    Posted by Paul Gillin
  4. March 26, 2010 @ 5:14 pm



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  5. March 28, 2010 @ 11:38 am



    The TV exchange was stunning. As in, a cow being stunned just before being killed. If I were the manager of these 2 guys, I would discipline them both. Severely.

    Now, onto newspapers and their impending doom.
    Ask yourself: What would happen to existing newspaper classified ad revenue if Craigslist improved just a smidgen?
    Now, ask yourself: How much would it cost Craig to make that improvement?
    It is only a matter of time. Someday Craigslist will get better and when it does. Boom.

    Reporters always love to put anecdotal evidence into a story. So, here is mine.
    In 2008 we sold our 1998 BMW Z3.
    I placed an ad on Craiglist for $zero and one on Cars.com for $55. Nothing in the Denver Post (I am old, but not retarded.).
    I got 4 phone calls immediately. All from people over the age of 45.
    Four people called because they saw the ad on Craigslist and one also saw it at Cars.com.
    I sold the car within 3 days of placing the ad.
    I was shocked. I had no idea that people over 30 looked at Craigslist. Now, I know better.

    Posted by Dave Barnes
  6. March 29, 2010 @ 9:51 am



    Hello all:

    I did an audit of my website (News Cycle) versus Erica’s (Paper Cut) this morning. I’ve added about five layoff events that I did not have. I’ve also added an editor’s note (see the bottom of this post) to help explain the discrepency.

    The bottomline is that we are not in competition with each other. Sometimes I have items she does not have and will send her a note, and there our times I will check her site for items I do not have. (OK, if it were a competition she would beat me the vast majority of times!). We have collaborated on various layoff numbers and will continue to do so.

    But the goal is the same; we are both trying to publicize the fate of our colleagues.

    Best Regards

    Jeff

    EDITOR’S NOTE: There have been questions concerning the discrepency between our layoff numbers with Paper Cuts. Some large layoffs were counted in News Cycle in late 2009 when they were announced, most notably with USA Today, Gannett’s Journal News in upstate New York, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Fresno Bee and the Oregonian. These total almost 400 people in News Cycle’s 2009 number, but appear in Erica’s count in 2010, when people were actually laid off. In addition, the expected layoffs of more than 600 people from the Honolulu papers have not been added to the News Cycle 2010 count.

    Posted by Jeff Pijanowski
  7. May 19, 2012 @ 7:38 pm



    Hard to increase Gannett’s market cap by $3 billion when it is now $3 billion. How cheap is that?

    Current and former employees of Gannett Co, who aren’t known for reticence with their opinions, are likely to be royally steamed to learn that CEO Craig Dubow took home a $4.7 million paycheck last year even as revenue declined 22%, the company laid off 6,000 people and shut down the Tucson Citizen. However, those employees should keep in mind that the market capitalization of Gannett increasedby about $3 billion during the year. As far as shareholders are concerned, Dubow’s bonus is cheap.

    H

    Posted by Steve Auslander
  8. May 19, 2012 @ 9:07 pm



    At the time this post was written (March, 2010), Gannett’s share price had increased from a little over $2 a share a year earlier to about $16.50 a share. That equated to a $3B increase in market cap. The stock has done little since then, but two years ago we could only look at the past, which showed a nice appreciation under Dubrow’s tenure.

    Posted by Paul Gillin