Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The future of some newspapers isn’t what it used to be

The collapse of the Freedom Communications newspaper conglomerate in the States has a few topical lessons for us here in NZ.  Freedom Communications had followed the thinking that “going local” -- delivering good local dailies – might save papers from internet-induced oblivion.  But Freedom Communications’ bankruptcy, along with titles like the Orange County Register and the Colorado Springs Gazette, might cause a rethink on that theory.

But political scientist Ryan McKaken reckons that there is one model that’s still working in the internet age, and as it happens it’s the one National Business Review publisher and blogger fanboy Barry Colman is following: While “the very structure and model of the daily newspaper prevents it from functioning in a world of instant electronic news, if we look at the weekly business journals that dot the landscape . . . we see that they are doing quite well at the electronic news game.”

    “They all have daily email updates which go out to readers and contain the latest news tailored for their readers. Business journal updates contain the latest news from the wire, but also contain local business stories, which are the best part of any local business journal.
They can put out news as it happens, while dailies cannot. Dailies must constantly worry about scooping themselves. For example, when a new business story turns up, many of the dailies aren't willing to publish the story online right away because then the reader will have already read the story by the time it turns up in the paper the next morning. Obviously, advertisers don't like self-scooping because they want the news in the paper edition to be all new to the reader so he feels the need to look at every page. And, a paper filled with old news will eventually be deemed unnecessary altogether, which is definitely bad for the newspaper company. True, it might be possible to produce an online version of the story, and then a longer more in-depth version for the paper, but that requires more time and more staff.
So, while the weeklies crank our daily stories online and disseminate them through email and other means, the dailies often hold back on news so that the news in the morning paper appears fresh. It's not hard to see who will win this game.

Just ask Barry.  He seems to have hit on something that even local analysts have missed.


  1. Speaking of Barry Coleman and the NBR, they have a great editorial in the latest NBR (dated 28 August).

    Best lines:

    " The time is arriving for the business community to assert itself against a government proving itself on a range of issues to be as bad as its predecessor and, in some cases worse."

    "The worst offender is Climate Change Minister Nick Smith. Rightly regarded as being in the wrong party, he is colluding with the Labour party...."

    Good to hear the business community questioning the credentials of this National/ACT government. There really is no difference.


  2. Thanks Julian. I might comment on that later this avo.


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