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
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+ pictures of operations at hospitals
+ "Dixie Redfearn"
+ Washington Post pressman union strike
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+ today's front pages
+ "typography musueum" london
+ lynn upshaw usa today
+ chicago rewrite service
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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
Meanwhile, newspapers are spending some serious money exploring ways to hold on to readers. The percentage of U.S. adults who read a newspaper on any given day has dropped from nearly 80 percent in 1964 to 54 percent in 1997. Don't have more recent numbers, but we have not made notable progress, if any, in reversing the trend.
Interesting that the industry's major studies and the small sampling of weblogs above come to pretty much the same conlcusions. Readers get annoyed with us when we: are inky and smudgy, rehash old news, are too thick and too hard to wade through, behave unethically, overwrite and waste people's time, aren't engaging or interesting or don't deliver on time. They especially dislike us when we call at dinner to ask them if they want to subscribe.
Columnist Dave Barry was able to gather some additional free market research from an 8th grade class in this classic column on newspaper readership and young people. These students advised us to:
''I don't like reading about death, war and government. Write about things that we can relate to.''
''Make the newspaper more humorous, it is soooo boring. Talk about skateboarding, it is so huge now you don't even know.''
''Talk about not boring stuff. Like the peace thing. It's very important, I understand that. But it's boring.''
''When you talk about this stuff make it interesting. Like when we kill a terrorist, don't just say he died, say he blew up in a million pieces."
OK, so not all market research can be done through blogs. But when's the last time a newspaper got really useful information from a $100,000-plus consultant research project?
At least this advice is free.
[ 2:57 PM | Posted by Ms. M ]
Thursday, August 28, 2003 WHAT NEXT? A 33? | Headlines in UK newspaper The Guardian this week posed a couple of wonderfully titillating questions: "A newspaper revolution? Could the idea change the press forever?"
The paper's Big Idea is to toss a CD containing supplemental information in with the paper -- which makes the answer to these questions a resounding "no."
What with all the boasting, The Guardian's plan to circulate an additional CD-based "section" in the paper the last Sunday of each month at first blush almost seemed like an innovation. But, of course, it's not.
The disc, which will be called "The Month," will contain extra material, including 25,000 words of text, movie and music clips, filmed interviews, DVD offers, games previews and listings -- things the newspaper can already provide online for a lot less money.
The Guardian is also quite late to the party. Last year the Chicago Tribune gave away a CD time capsule to commemorate the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. While it was well-done and successful -- it boosted single copy street sales by 100,000 -- I haven't looked at it since. I can't imagine what people would do with something like that every month. I've got a drawer full of CDs that came with the guitar and computer magazines I've bought throughout the years. Never use them, never will.
[ 2:03 AM | Posted by Ms. M ]
Thursday, August 07, 2003 IDEA DROUGHT? | Each year I look forward to the results of the Tomorrow's Newspaper design contest sponsored by the University of Missouri.
The contest solicits entries for prototypes of ideas that would make newspapers better. Some interesting ideas have emerged during the five years the contest has been around, but the well appears to have run dry.
This year's pickings were slim. In fact, there were no winners in the professional category because "the judges felt none of the entries exhibited the innovation necessary for recognition." What's worse, then contest has been cancelled for the future.
How depressing is that? Nobody working in the business had one idea this year to make newspapers better? Sell any stock you have in non-diversified, convergence-averse newspaper companies -- we're doomed.
In looking back at the winners, I do see a common, alarming theme: news put on other products, not newspapers. Students and professionals suggested news on pens, watches and ATM receipts. One contest entry may have even been the inspiration for the short-lived, widely mocked CueCat experiment.
But, there were some good newspaper-focused ideas, like this flip paper, too. And that's why I hate to see this contest go. Surely, there must be ways to shake out ideas each year on how to retool the presentation and content of newspapers.