Newspapers are in trouble. Readers are straying in record numbers as papers become less essential to their lives. This blog will explore where we've gone wrong and what we're doing right, with an eye toward REWRITING THE FUTURE of newspapers.
This adventure into journalistic ideas and sausage-making brought to you by a group of journalists with ties to the Newspaper Management Program at the Medill School of Journalism:
MO | Meg O'Brien is associate business editor at the Chicago Tribune. She's dabbled in online, keeps her hand in design, did the metro reporting thing and teaches occassionally at Medill.
DS | A copy editor at The Daily News Hole, a Midwestern major metro daily. As an 18- to 34-year-old, he is highly sought after by media outlets and advertisers. When not shoveling copy, he enjoys traveling, cooking and spending quality time with his iBook or TiVo.
Finding Rewrite! Actual search terms used to find this site:
+ Mike Tyson's Tattoo Pic
+ Medill any good?
+ adult movie Fashionista
+ "Take cover, here come Mediasaurus"
+ sausage making receipts
+ Bat Boy T-shirts
+ "spark interactive" comic creator
+ selling a sunday newspaper to a media planner
+ elvis costello t-shirts
+ pictures of operations at hospitals
+ "Dixie Redfearn"
+ Washington Post pressman union strike
+ gannett thrive boise
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+ today's front pages
+ "typography musueum" london
+ lynn upshaw usa today
+ chicago rewrite service
+ francois dufour, editor
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+ research paper-interesting topics
+ why rewrite papers
+ blog fashion hosiery
+ "Chicago Tribune" "youth publication"
+ mediapost kids
+ "societal influence" AND newspaper
+ dirty tattoo pic
+ free copy of Marijuana Growers Guide Deluxe
+ status update evan and zora
+ "mon quotidien" pay bac
+ newspaper sun for san bernandino
+ Enquirer Bat boy T-shirts
+ Rich Ramhoff
Thursday, January 30, 2003
IS INFLUENCE OUR PRODUCT? | In trolling around the Web tonight for signs of newspaper innovation, I ran across The Quality Project being run by Philip Meyer at the University of North Carolina.
The most interesting piece, for me, was the 'Societal Influence Model for the Newspaper Industry' shown above. It argues that a newspaper's primary product is influence -- commercial influence is for sale (ads) while societal influence is not.
The Quality Project site says a 1970s-era Knight Ridder executive developed the original model. I've never seen it before but the more I look at it, the more I like it. They are trying to study the validity of the model. I for one hope they can prove its thesis, making that little drawing more than a fleeting oasis in a desert of we-sell-eyeballs-to-advertisers thinking.
[ 11:48 PM | Posted by Ms. M ]
Tuesday, January 28, 2003 GOOD IDEA: A READERSHIP EDITOR | The Union in Grass Valley, Calif. is putting some money behind its efforts to readership by hiring a dedicated readership editor. Here's a job description.
Dixie Redfearn got the job. She will spend her days as a central contact point for all readers with story ideas and submissions, while also leading newsroom planning on proven readership-driving topics like health, local news, government, business, health and fitness, public safety, home, food and fashion.
I think this is a great idea and I commend a 17,000-circulation paper for dedicating resources to it. I think bigger papers could take this idea and make two jobs out of it-- a full-time readership-driving story planner and a full-time funnel for community news.
In our case, we've got three community news folks representing different territories -- releases come in from all over and get sent to dozens of people in the newsroom. No one knows who's doing what and readers who submit items can never get a straight answer. That angers readers and, I think, stops them from sending us things in the future.
I was reared at a paper where the publisher's mantra was, "What comes in, gets in." I think we routinely underestimate the importance of submissions -- people love this stuff and buy mulitple copies for friends and family. One of the most valuable lessons I took from my online days was that "reader-generated content" was often more popular than what our team of "professionals" was laboring to create.
Newspapers are notoriously one-way. It will be interesting to see if the Union's approach translate to any quantifiable gain in readership.
[ 12:14 PM | Posted by Ms. M ]
Wednesday, January 22, 2003 TOO FUNNY | Normally, I might find this little game a bit cynical, but I had *one of those days* in the newsroom today.
[ 8:33 PM | Posted by Ms. M ]
Monday, January 20, 2003 WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE | Who needs angry readers when your teammates across the hall can't find much good to say about you?
This column from the Akron Beacon-Journal's public editor runs down a list of complaints from advertising, circulation and office staff.
Surprising, but good to see. Employees are readers and members of the community. Why not seek their input on how we're doing in the newsroom?
In fact that reminded me of a long conversation I had with a pressman I bumped into and began chatting with at a mall. He seemed sad about his job, suggesting that he planned to just go through the motions the next couple years until he could retire.
His biggest lament was how corporate newspapers had become -- in his case, he meant the growing separation between departments. In the old days, when he was a pressman at the Chicago Sun-Times, guys in the pressroom used to know a lot of people in the newsroom who would sometimes come down to chat. Conversely, pressmen would go upstairs with tips and report things that they heard out in the community. At one point, there was even a program to pay non-editorial employees a cash bonus for good tips.
Now, he works at one of Hollinger's printing facilities which is miles away from any newsroom. The workers print several different newspapers, and feel no particular connection or loyalty to any one of them.
With the readership slide, newspapers spend a lot of time worrying how to bring people back -- pondering how they can cover their community, be an integral part of it and also how they can leaders in it. Ironically, they are doing this all while they're destroying their own internal communities with off-site plants, cutbacks, etc.
I think learning to connect, involve and communicate with the people in your own company -- people who are supposedly working toward the same goals -- is our first step. The staff is a microcosm of our readership. If we can't connect inside, how can we hope to reach hundreds of thousands of others on any meaningful level?
[ 1:37 AM | Posted by Ms. M ]
Sunday, January 19, 2003 IDENTITY CRISIS | Our newspaper, like virtually every other in the country, doesn't know how to explain or sell itself to its readership. For a business that makes its money selling advertising and convincing clients they need to advertise each day so they may create brand awareness, it's shameful how poorly we do it for ourselves.
Our paper, which has decided to redefine and reinvent this year, has taken the drastic step of reaching for outside help. We hired Lynn Upshaw & Associates and this week its namesake dropped by to meet us and start the process.
I hope this helps. Something like this, done internally, could help us sort out who we are and who we want to be -- not knowing this I think is our most significant problem at the paper. But I don't know that going outside, and having our identity decided in some conference room in California is going to be as effective.
So far, we've been the subject of the consultant's research. He spent all day in different meetings with staff, asking us a series of questions about how we think people perceive us and what we would do as individuals to change the paper if resources weren't an issue. He's supposed to come back in a few weeks.
I hope he returns with more information than we gave him.
[ 2:41 AM | Posted by Ms. M ]
Thursday, January 16, 2003 'LESS SPENDING ON LESS' | That was demographer Peter Francese's disturbing summary of newspaper household spending for the Newspaper Association of America's conference on the future of newspapers last week, as reported here.
Only 43 percent of households are paying for newspapers. And those households are only averaging $56.81 a year -- that's significantly less than what the average household spending for online access. Talk about a shift.
Francese said it wasn't hopeless and that there were changes newspapers could make in delivery and in the product that may help. He suggests improving subscriber service, providing more service journalism, interacting more with readers and providing greater context for local news.
Other reports from the conference lauded papers for trying new things right now. They included:
The Asheville Citizen-Times provides game-day coverage of the Asheville Altitude, the area's minor league basketball team.
New Jersey's Bergen Record has invested in its Herald News acquisition to build readership among recent immigrants and blue-collar workers.
I think it's interesting that all industry eyes are on specialty approaches like these, niche publications or micro-zoning. Newspapers spent decades creating an omnibus vehicle to serve the masses -- is the answer going back?
Likely not. I think the answer is learning to be both. We need to give people the big picture and a shared experience. But, we also have to find ways to fill their special, deeper interests, too.
[ 11:27 PM | Posted by Ms. M ]
Tuesday, January 14, 2003 BOMBS AWAY | The ominous, methodical clicking has stopped for the RedEye which this week handed its fate to gravity.
Free at newsstands, gas stations and special newspaper boxes since launch, the paper will now cost a quarter. Not to be outdone, or accused of having an original idea, the Chicago Sun-Times announced, it too, will start charging.
It's been interesting to watch the papers dabble in this experiment, but this is the part of the ride where we hold on, kids. It's gonna be a steep one.
I thought this statement by Earl J. Wilkinson, executive director of the International Newspaper Marketing Association was particularly insightful:
"Culturally conservative, newspapers have a history of avoiding innovations and new products that don't have a 20 percent profit margin, immediate return on investment, and 99 percent chance of working."