By paulgillin | April 4, 2008 - 8:22 am - Posted in Fake News

John Duncan analyzes the recent decision by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) to allow publishers to declare as paid circulation copies of their products that sell for as little as a penny and sees this as the beginning of an expensive and mutually destructive price war. Previously, publications couldn’t claim as paid any copies sold below 25% of the cover price. The urge to discount will now be irresisitible, Duncan believes. Newspapers will launch money-losing promotions to drive up circ, but advertisers won’t buy that the circ has any quality. In the end, newspaper costs will increase while ad revenues won’t. Everyone’s a loser. Except, of course, the consumers who get their newspapers for one cent. Incidentally, E&P reports that a share of Journal Register Co. (JRC) closed last week below the price of a single copy of the Lorain, Ohio Morning Journal. We don’t think the Morning Journal has anything to fear, though, as JRC stock doesn’t include a sports section.

Or Free is the Enemy

Doug Fisher comments on Chris Anderson’s theory that digital information is rapidly moving toward being free (If you haven’t read Anderson’s recent Wired piece, which is the foundation for a forthcoming book, it’s worth checking out) and sees the challenge for newspapers are being one of finding a new value proposition beyond wrapping content in a daily package. The wrapper is no longer an important differentiator, he points out, and since newspapers have done such a poor job of innovating from their positions of monopoly dominance, they have nothing left to fall back upon when the value of the wrapper disappears. “We are not going to solely ‘write’ our way out of this,” he states, implying that giving readers more great content isn’t the tonice. News has little intrinsic value any more and the only solution is to find a new value proposition. That probably involves incorporating the work of the community into some kind of an aggregation model, he suggests.

Prominent Newspaper Columnist Cancels Newspaper Subscription

Steve OutingSteve Outing, whose Editor & Publisher columns are always worth reading, is canceling his daily newspaper subscription. You wouldn’t expect a 51-year-old writer who specializes in the newspaper industry to take such a step, but Outing explains in rather exhaustive detail why his daily newspaper no longer plays an important role in his information needs. Quoting: “We’re flooded with information — most of it free — from the Web, e-mail, RSS feeds, podcasts, phone alerts, TV and radio news. Most of the information that comes in the daily print edition is not new to me.” He proposes a model to reinvent newspapers as community resources, an interesting idea that also sounds very difficult to pull off. And he suggests a “fremium” newsletter model might actually generate some subscription income.

E&P readers share their reactions in prose that is at times frightfully twisted for a publishing audience. Most are just pissed at Outing for abandoning the cause, although none offers a convincing counter-argument to the columnist’s reasoning. The letter-writers are hung up on how to get people to pay for online news, which isn’t even an argument any more. Like it or not, that concept simply hasn’t worked. Recovering Journalist has the most cogent commentary we read, noting that the editor and publisher of the newspaper Outing canceled were given a chance to comment and declined to do so. It must be nice to have the luxury of being so cavalier about losing a prominent subscriber, Mark Potts notes.

So Tax the Bastards!

Ex-Washington Post editor Craig Stoltz proposes that newspapers that continue to run stock tables should have to pay a “tax” that subsidizes nonprofit journalism foundations. His reasoning: anyone who actively trades stocks is online already. The only people served by stock tables are a small group of cantankerous old pensioners who make a lot of noise but who don’t represent the reader base. He suggests that the reason papers keep this practice is that they’re afraid of offending this boisterous constituency. Josh Korr adds that this is much the same thinking that keeps unfunny comic strips running in perpetuity.

And Foolishly…

The Raleigh Chronicle celebrates April 1 with news that the editor is leaving his newspaper job to become an arctic explorer. “The hours will probably be better and the pay is certainly higher,” says R. Gregg.



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