Want to save local news? Kill off local newspapers. Really.

Consider this verdict based on the evidence of economics: Local print newspapers ought to die. Now. That’s what one observer believes, and he’s pretty convincing.

CATEGORY: JournalismNewspapers are on their deathbeds now, burdened by several diseases associated with print. Their physical infrastructure — printing presses, distribution means such as delivery trucks, the large buildings that typically house them (and heating, cooling and electrical costs), news stands, and single-copy racks — is too expensive to maintain. The advertising revenue that system once gleaned in bucketloads is now merely a trickle.

Newspapers’ core product — presumably valuable local news — is insufficient to fill the space around the ads, so fluff of little or no value to local readers — wire copy, advice columns, national and international news, crossword puzzles, sports agate copy, and so on — occupies the remaining space.

Ben Thompson, who writes and speaks about strategy and business, argues to save local news, everything not associated with local news ought to be stripped away. A journalist entrepreneur focused solely on local news could fund that operation with subscriptions — not advertising, he says.

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Journalism’s new (not really) vehicle for delivering news — email newsletters

CATEGORY: JournalismI don’t read The Washington Post any more. I don’t see a hard copy. I don’t go prowling around its website.

Instead, I read four of its newsletters delivered by email every day. In fact, WashPo offers 68 newsletters culled from the work of its journalists and pundits. So it’s easy to select the kind of news anyone might want (rather than have an algorithm do it).

These newsletters are well-crafted and not necessarily hastily churned-out hodgepodges of factoids. For example, the Daily 202 (all about news from the American capital), begins like this today:

10 important questions raised by Sally Yates’s testimony on the ‘compromised’ Michael Flynn

Sally Yates’s Senate testimony in three minutes

THE BIG IDEA: Sally Yates’s riveting testimony Monday raised far more questions than it answered. Most of all, it cast fresh doubts on Donald Trump’s judgment. [boldface in original]

Each Daily 202 from WashPo is designed to be quickly read. Each item is one or two paragraphs and contains a link or two for further consumption.

WashPo’s not alone in the newsletter game. Continue reading

Newspaper circulation falls again: Expect more cuts

If you were a newspaper subscriber last year, there’s a 10 percent chance you aren’t this year.

That’s because paid circulation of daily newspapers nationally fell more than 10 percent from a year ago. Some papers suffered truly horrendous daily circulation losses: the San Francisco Chronicle (down 25.8 percent), The Boston Globe (down 18.5 percent) and The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger (down 22.2 percent), reports Rick Edmonds on his Poynter Biz Blog. USA Today, hit by a slump in travel, fell nearly 18 percent. The circulation of 400 daily newspapers has fallen to only 30 million readers.

This hemorrhaging of circulation — the worst ever — will have serious consequences. Expect newspaper staffs, already slashed below the minimum necessary to adequately cover their turf, to be cut further. Expect more shallow, one-source stories. Expect more stories laden with anonymous sources because the poorly paid, younger, inexperienced reporters left on staff won’t have the skill to persuade sources to speak on the record. Expect more wire-service content because local stories won’t get done. Expect corporate newspaper management to continue to stall on finding a business model that enhances the public-service mission of journalism. Expect more style than substance.

Just expect less of what good newspapers used to be. Continue reading