Success in businesses is not the result of highly mysterious factors.

To be successful an enterprise must offer a product or service that people want; it must provide it with better quality and service than other providers—or at a lower price than competitors; it must change with the times and demand; and it must never forget to focus on customer needs rather than its own. And a limited number of competitors helps. Duh.

Many journalists have trouble understanding these principles, however, and we were treated to 2 classic stories in which journalists breathlessly announced this discovery over the weekend.

The New York Times told us about the “resurgent” Seattle Times. The Times is starting to reap the fruits of monopoly caused by the demise of the print edition of the Post-Intelligencer and the stabilizing economy. It has picked up most of the print readers from the P-I, raised its circulation prices, and been able to keep the higher ad rates that were charged when ads were put in both papers. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/10/business/media/10seattle.html

The Associated Press told us “Small is beautiful” and that local papers do not feel competition for big players like CNN, metropolitan television, and Craigslist because they focus on local news and advertising not available elsewhere. “Less competition means the print editions and Web sites of smaller newspapers remain the focal points for finding out what's happening in their coverage areas.” http://tech.yahoo.com/news/ap/20090809/ap_on_hi_te/us_small_newspapers_1

Journalists are also starting to discover that the industry might not be as dead as they have been portraying it to be. A number of stories have reported that the drop in advertising due to the recession appears to be near bottom, that profits and share prices are rising, and there is no wholesale rush to the web by print newspaper readers.

These “surprises” are developing, I believe, because journalists have never covered their own industry with the same interest and vigor that they have covered other industries. This is partly true because they have adamantly and publicly expressed distain for the business side of the news industry and because they tend to accept and endlessly repeat the views of publishers without critical fact checking or seeking better understanding of the business dynamics of news. Whatever happened to the old journalism adage "If your mother says she loves you, check it out!"

Perhaps they will learn.


Jo Diaz said...

Isn't evolution interesting to watch?

Until recently, no one ever had the platform to criticize newspapers, so I'm afraid that the publishers and editors lived in ivory towers.

With a mirror turned upon them, and an alternative offered, it's put that whole industry on its toes, because it had simply become very flatfooted.

It's refreshing to have this new mindset of "OMG... We've got to pay attention to our readers." This isn't to say that they didn't offer that in the past; just not in the same way they are now thinking.

And, I do believe that they will survive.

I had the thought of a "green" world without paper/papers, when one of my blog readers reminded me how much energy it takes to power up my computer, in order to read the news, research material, post my blog stories, etc.


Interestingly, too, no one has said that books are a dying breed. They're living along side the Web versions; however, we're creatures of habit, and no one wants to take a good computer into a hammock to curl up for a good read. At least, not any generation yet born.

There's room for it all.

Newspapers have just one more competitor. They've had to adjust to losing advertising dollars to radio stations. Then, they had to adjust to their advertising dollars being shared with television. Now, their having to adjust to sharing advertising dollars with the Internet.

They'll all get over it, soon enough.

Thanks for your great OMG read!

Tony at CSUF Comm said...

Dr. Picard, I think I laughed as hard with your use of OMG as I did when my wife used LOL on a Facebook comment!

Indeed as an editor at a newspaper, I observe that we're on our toes seemingly day-to-day about expenses, workload and available resources - and the politics involved in how a newsroom presents the situation to a publisher.

I often invoke the theatre analogy in this situation, noting how there is still demand for live performances - even if they are no longer the primary media for reaching mass audiences and far less efficient than the Internet.

Interestingly, it's big theater (Broadway, West End) that thrives, along with small or community theatre often run by volunteers or small staffs with few who are paid.

That mirrors somewhat the forecasts of the newspaper market of the future - a handful big papers in the United States and many very small ones. Curious coincidence.