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July 29, 2008 / Toby Dayton

Twin Cities Down To 1.5 Daily Papers

The St. Paul Pioneer Press announced today that they were scaling back their print edition and combining sections to save money. The paper will no longer print a local section of the paper but will, instead, cover international, national, and local news in the ‘A’ section of the paper each day. As well, the paper will not print a separate business section on Tuesdays. And the paper will stop printing stock listings in the paper altogether.

The stock listings decision makes complete sense, and papers should have stopped printing those a decade ago. But eliminating the local section of the paper is another sign that daily newspapers simply do not understand their own value proposition. I cannot imagine that too many people read a local paper to get national and international news – there are just too many online sources for that information, especially considering that the Pioneer Press is not doing anything except reprinting the AP feed. What matters for daily newspaper readers today is the local news – the unique, value-added local coverage that they cannot get anywhere else in print or as effectively on the web today. And that is precisely where dailies are making cuts in their coverage. It just makes no sense to me at all, especially considering how basic and seemingly obvious the concept is.

With every cut made in local coverage, the dailies lose another component of their unique, defensible, and highly competitive value proposition. It’s just mind-boggling to me how misguided these decisions are. Rather than cutting the local coverage, dailies should realize that they are part of a broader mix of the average reader’s daily media consumption. If cuts are necessary, and they most certainly are given the realities of the business today, they should be eliminating all national and international news coverage and focusing entirely on state and local news. Stop trying to serve all things to all people and focus on where value can be added. Running AP stories or yesterday’s New York Times stories is not adding any value to anyone’s media consumption (or certainly not enough people). Make the local paper an essential component of people’s daily media intake. It’s just not that hard. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why that is so hard for newspaper people to see, understand, and execute against. It’s sad to say, and I am inexplicably addicted to daily newspapers, but almost without exception (WSJ, NYT, Washington Post), they all deserve to go out of business.

7 Comments

  1. Lief Larson / Jul 30 2008 1:49 pm

    I believe it makes total sense. The local daily can regurgitate the national news, but creating local news costs money in the form of original journalism, reporters. Burying local news in a local newspaper signals the beginning of the end. The more interesting question that comes up (I’m putting my journalism hat on) is with the contraction of local daily newspapers, how will the negatively impact the larger publications ability to get local and regional news pushed up to them? Nothing against independent citizen journalism, but the daily newspapers have always done a good job of tackling the big local stories, the biggest of which made it into the national newspapers (WSJ, NYT, Washington Post).

  2. Lief Larson / Jul 30 2008 8:49 am

    I believe it makes total sense. The local daily can regurgitate the national news, but creating local news costs money in the form of original journalism, reporters. Burying local news in a local newspaper signals the beginning of the end. The more interesting question that comes up (I'm putting my journalism hat on) is with the contraction of local daily newspapers, how will the negatively impact the larger publications ability to get local and regional news pushed up to them? Nothing against independent citizen journalism, but the daily newspapers have always done a good job of tackling the big local stories, the biggest of which made it into the national newspapers (WSJ, NYT, Washington Post).

  3. Anonymous / Jul 30 2008 2:29 pm

    Toby,

    You are right on here! I could not agree with you more. To take it one step further, I recently interviewed with Media General for an Advertising Director position for a group of local dailies and several niche weeklies. Toward the end of the interview, the regional publisher said to me, “You seem ideal, except that you do not have the ten to twelve years of newpaper experince we are looking seeking.” I responded with, “Well, I must say that if that is what you truly want, not only do I not qualify, but I am no longer interested in the position.”

    The interviewer was taken aback…he asked why that was. I told him that ten of fifteen years of newspaper experience has gotten them where they are today…just in the last year stock down 60%, bleeding advertising revenue and subscribers. If they are looking for more of the same, I cannot help them and furthermore woulfd be out of a job in just a few years due to further liquidation of Media General’s assets. However, if they were looking for a forward thinking individual who can help them trasnition to a local focused media source that leveraged online advertising revenue streams to support their mission, then I was their guy.

    I have not received a call back for a second interview….I continue to watch their stock plummet…this is what I call a self-fulfilling prophecy!

    I think I may call back in a year to tell them, ” I told you so!”

    Nice Post!

  4. Anonymous / Jul 30 2008 9:29 am

    Toby,

    You are right on here! I could not agree with you more. To take it one step further, I recently interviewed with Media General for an Advertising Director position for a group of local dailies and several niche weeklies. Toward the end of the interview, the regional publisher said to me, “You seem ideal, except that you do not have the ten to twelve years of newpaper experince we are looking seeking.” I responded with, “Well, I must say that if that is what you truly want, not only do I not qualify, but I am no longer interested in the position.”

    The interviewer was taken aback…he asked why that was. I told him that ten of fifteen years of newspaper experience has gotten them where they are today…just in the last year stock down 60%, bleeding advertising revenue and subscribers. If they are looking for more of the same, I cannot help them and furthermore woulfd be out of a job in just a few years due to further liquidation of Media General's assets. However, if they were looking for a forward thinking individual who can help them trasnition to a local focused media source that leveraged online advertising revenue streams to support their mission, then I was their guy.

    I have not received a call back for a second interview….I continue to watch their stock plummet…this is what I call a self-fulfilling prophecy!

    I think I may call back in a year to tell them, ” I told you so!”

    Nice Post!

  5. Lief Larson / Jul 30 2008 1:49 pm

    I believe it makes total sense. The local daily can regurgitate the national news, but creating local news costs money in the form of original journalism, reporters. Burying local news in a local newspaper signals the beginning of the end. The more interesting question that comes up (I'm putting my journalism hat on) is with the contraction of local daily newspapers, how will the negatively impact the larger publications ability to get local and regional news pushed up to them? Nothing against independent citizen journalism, but the daily newspapers have always done a good job of tackling the big local stories, the biggest of which made it into the national newspapers (WSJ, NYT, Washington Post).

  6. Anonymous / Jul 30 2008 2:29 pm

    Toby,

    You are right on here! I could not agree with you more. To take it one step further, I recently interviewed with Media General for an Advertising Director position for a group of local dailies and several niche weeklies. Toward the end of the interview, the regional publisher said to me, “You seem ideal, except that you do not have the ten to twelve years of newpaper experince we are looking seeking.” I responded with, “Well, I must say that if that is what you truly want, not only do I not qualify, but I am no longer interested in the position.”

    The interviewer was taken aback…he asked why that was. I told him that ten of fifteen years of newspaper experience has gotten them where they are today…just in the last year stock down 60%, bleeding advertising revenue and subscribers. If they are looking for more of the same, I cannot help them and furthermore woulfd be out of a job in just a few years due to further liquidation of Media General's assets. However, if they were looking for a forward thinking individual who can help them trasnition to a local focused media source that leveraged online advertising revenue streams to support their mission, then I was their guy.

    I have not received a call back for a second interview….I continue to watch their stock plummet…this is what I call a self-fulfilling prophecy!

    I think I may call back in a year to tell them, ” I told you so!”

    Nice Post!

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