Monday, March 2, 2009

Czaban is a genius...a way to save newspapers...check out this hottie

I hate being serious on this blog. It's not really the point of it, especially on a Monday, when we all need a laugh. So I promise a funny take at the end. If you just drop by to laugh every now and then, you can skip this. If you have ever worked for a newspaper or read one..feel free to humor me. I promise, it will be the last thing I ever write about newspapers on this blog.
Every now and then I have that pang of sadness about my former life. I have no regrets about leaving the business, but I hate sitting on the sidelines watching as people say the newspaper business is dying.
The sad truth? It's already dead.
The Rocky Mountain News is gone. The San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle PI are likely next. These are not fly-by-night operations. These are papers that have been part of the fabric of this country for decades. They have rich, even majestic histories.
Like many newspapers, they have been doomed by a changing news dynamic, a shaky economy, and -- more critically -- bad management and foolish decisions.
Unless someone wakes up, we will be lucky to have more than 10 major newspapers left by the year 2020.
However, to paraphrase Miracle Max...newspapers are only mostly dead, not all dead. And we all know that means barely alive. And barely alive can be saved. (OK, had to get a movie reference in, even when I am being serious).
I heard the uniquely brilliant Steve Czaban throw out a concept on his show this morning, and it made perfect sense to me.
Side note: If you like our shows at all, you would love Czaban. He is smart, funny, caustic. He has one of the most entertaining shows on the planet. Unfortunately, I only get to listen to the first hour each morning on my way to work as I make your local sports updates safe for America. He is terrific. I would settle for being 1/10th as talented. Here is his Web site.
Anyway, I don't know if he was serious or not, but here's his idea:

Newspapers should kill their Web sites.

Something about it struck me as perfectly viable. While I am sure this has been discussed by others before, it's the first time I have heard it. Maybe it's a huge topic these days and I am just so out of touch with newspapers now that it seemed unique.
Unique or not, the more I considered it, the more plausible the concept became.
Since the mid-1990s, newspapers have struggled with how to deal with the Internet. At first, Web sites were marketing tools. Now they are the newspaper.
Remember what management used to tell us? "We have to do it. We have to increase our presence on the Web."
So we all proceeded to make the core product obsolete. Give away what we tried to charge for elsewhere.
We did it so well, that there was no reason to buy a newspaper for news anymore.
Readers get everything they could possibly want from the Web site long before the paper hits the ground.
Newspaper Web sites aren't profitable. If they were, people would not be getting laid off.
They are also a paradox -- the better the Web site, the more obsolete the print product becomes. And the better the Web site, the more it is pirated -- and profiteered -- by other, more effective sites.
Newspaper Web sites can't compete with Yahoo, MSNBC, ESPN. Those sites essentially aggregate the best news. So if you do great work, they pick it up. But if the important news is going to show up on Yahoo, why would I read it on the newspaper's Web site?
I get almost everything I need these days from ESPN.com and Yahoo. By the time I pick up a paper -- if I even do anymore -- there is absolutely nothing unique that I haven't read elsewhere or seen on the paper's Web site.
Killing the Web sites would make newspapers relevant again. If that's the only place I can get John McClain, Jerome Solomon, Richard Justice...of course I would buy it.
"Yes, but people will read other Web sites instead of us."
Really? Then you are doing a bad job. People want their newspapers. They want a free, independent press. Joe the blogger down the street can't do what you do.
An educated society knows that.
It's time to stop trying to be Joe the Blogger and be real journalists again. Joe the Blogger isn't an independent press. Real journalists are losing their identity by trying to be everything but journalists.
Because that is what they are being told to do by managers who don't know any better.
I've said this before: running a newspaper is like owning a sports team. It's a public trust. People are passionate about it. They want to love their teams. They want to love their newspaper, too.
People will pay to see Lance Berkman. They will also pay to read Richard Justice.
Think about it: what are the most successful remaining newspapers? Community papers with little or no Web presence.
Newspapers should get back to being what they were. When the ESPNs and Yahoos can't get their information from newspapers until a day later -- and have to retype it instead of link it -- people will have to go back to the print product. Will there be as many readers as we used to have? Of course not. The world has changed.
But an awful lot of people would come back.
Circulation can be turned around. The business can be turned around.
As for the Web sites? Kill them. At worst, go back to what they started as -- a marketing tool that touts what is in the paper but doesn't give ANYTHING away.
Find out if you really have more readers than ever before. Make them leave the Web to come to you.
The biggest hurdle -- as always -- would be ownership and management. It would take someone with vision and guts to make a decision like that. Space would have to be increased in the newspaper to get the quality of information back in print. That costs money. You would have to hire real talent again that people would want to read. That costs money. You would also have to actually cover events again. That costs money.
Yes, you would lose some Web advertisers, but in truth, much of that is piggyback business.
In this economic environment, it would take unbelievable courage to try something like that.
And no, there are no guarantees.
Will it work? Who knows? What is being done now damned sure doesn't.

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So I lied about being funny. What the hell did you expect? It's Monday. I've been blogging about gargoyles, spider monkeys, evil clowns, wheelchair prostitutes, elephant women, oompa loompas, foreign freaks and sexy mannequins with no arms for weeks. I can't be serious for one day? I can't have one blog entry that's about an important topic?

Just blame Val. We haven't done that in a while.

OK, so I made up the mannequin thing. For the record, though, if they have a goth look and no arms, I am all over them. Why not? I've gone out with more shallow women.

The plastic burns can be a bit much though.

Oh, come on. You think she's sexy. And I will never tell what happened to the legs...

2 comments:

Brandy Rose said...

You're all over them? FRED, thats just not right! hehehe, I apologize.

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