Monday, March 16, 2009

Why (most) newspapers are doomed

The people running newspapers have the information to diagnose the problem. Why can’t they act? Too blind to see? Too scared to take action? Too unimaginative to formulate a solution?

Some revealing results in this Pew research survey:

Stop the Presses? Many Americans Wouldn't Care a Lot if Local Papers Folded

Only 55% of the people who read their local paper would “miss it a lot” if it shutdown. I. e. barely half of current customers care very much. Among non-customers only 12% see the paper as important.

Among those who think that the loss of the paper will not hurt civic life, fully 20% say it is because the “quality of the newspaper is poor.”


There is also an intriguing example of the disconnect between the Audience and the Deciders.

The survey asked respondents to note the story they were following most closely. Number 1 was Obama’s plans to reform health care (26%) followed by unemployment and the stock market with 18% each.

And how much attention did these topics get from the MSM?

The stock market got 6% of the total coverage. Unemployment received 5%. Health care reform (#1 in audience interest) only received 4% of the coverage.

Way to appeal to the customers.

One story dominated the coverage. It received more attention than all three economic stories. Yes, that’s right—Rush Limbaugh. The Deciders devoted 8% of their attention to El Rushbo.

Only 4% of the audience thought this was the most important story.

Two obvious points stand out about this disparity.

First, the Limbaugh story was born and bred within the White House. It was a political strategy by Obama, Emmanuel, Carville, et. al. The skeptical MSM, the people who pride themselves on cutting through the BS of official Washington, fell in line and carried water for the Administration. They devoted twice as much coverage to political talking points as they did to the story their audience was most interested in.

Tell me again why they are a vital watchdog for democracy?

Second, David Frum poses as a conservative leader who wants to rebuild the Right so it can win again.

Yet, DF did not take to the pages of Newsweek to analyze the weaknesses of Obama’s health care program. Nor did he offer a conservative plan to rebuild investor confidence and speed economic recovery.

No. Frum went with the White House playbook and attacked Rush Limbaugh.

How exactly do you build a majority movement around an issue that few people care about. At a minimum, this raises questions about eDF’s political acumen.

Makes you wonder which is more important to Mr. Frum: creating a new majority or grabbing a resercon franchise like his buddies Brooks and Carlson.

UPDATE: Kathleen Parker is determined to win recognition as the most airheaded of all the airheads in the media. In her special little world, Rush Limbaugh and his fans are the reason newspapers are failing and that is a bad thing.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Parker is that editors PAY FOR her kind of clueless punditry.

Maybe it is just a giant terrible trick on little Kathleen. Maybe the cool kids are letting her play "elite opinionmaker" for a little while just so they can pull the rug out from under her. (Sort of like Carrie being elected Prom Queen.) That would be cruel, but at least it would show some intellegence on the part of the movers and shakers in the MSM. Right now, they just look stupid when they run her insipid stuff.

It's things like putting Kathleen Parker on your op-ed page that make readers say “the quality of the newspaper is poor” when asked why they do not read it.

UPDATE 2: One sure fire way NOT to win back dissatisfied customers is to hold them in such contempt that you see them as "a public that has been conditioned, like rats in a Skinnerian dystopia, to hate us."

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