Saturday, October 31, 2009

Evolution and the newspaper business

Rex Smith, editor of the Albany Times-Union writes a guest editorial at ChronBlog's "Texas on the Potomac" sub-blog today in which he comments on the seeming inevitable collapse of the newspaper business, but like so many before him, he fails to recognize the primary problem.

There are factors that were not addressed that are major drivers for the loss of newspaper readership. The issue was briefly touched on in his mention of new technologies that are more reader friendly. But the printed page is not the only thing that is reader unfriendly. The simple fact of the matter is that the political demographic in the newsroom is vastly out of sync with the political demographic of the population at large, and especially of the demographic that has the capability and/or desire to read the news. When the editors and reporters stop trying to antagonize their readership, they might find that there is a vast untapped readership available to them.

Look at CNN vs Fox News for an excellent example. CNN actively antagonizes conservatives, whereas Fox courts them. Who is on top and who is on the bottom? Here is a hint, CNN is the one taking it in the ass without benefit of proper lubrication. Who is the "tea-bagger" and who is the "tea-bag-ee" now eh? The US is far more conservative than most polls would indicate, this is proof positive. You cannot daily demean and castigate the political and social beliefs of your readership and expect them to continue to shell out their hard earned money paying for your product. The people will vote with their wallets and get their news from other sources. Don't give me the "no bias"or that there is an "editorial firewall" bullshit line, because you know you are lying and I know you know you are lying, so let's stop lying to each other ok? Oh, wait, I haven't been... it's been you all along. How's that helping with your integrity issues, hmm? Probably not so much....

That was the problem with the dinosaurs, they failed to evolve to a changing environment and they died out. Like the captain of the RMS Titanic, Edward Smith, Hearst corp, and it's subsidiary, The Houston Chronicle, has shoved the engine telegraph to "all ahead full" despite the obvious icebergs ahead. They've been given NUMEROUS warnings of the danger that lies ahead but yet they refuse to change course or even slow down. Instead they rearrange the deck chairs. When Hearst sinks with all hands, it will not be the readers that were at fault, it will be the editors and managers that refused to see the obvious. Newspapers as we know them today will go the way of T-Rex and The Dodo. Enjoy your unemployment, you will have deserved it. If you are lucky, Trent Seibert might hire you to run the copy machine and fetch coffee.

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