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June 10, 2009 / Toby Dayton

Answers For Newspapers Are Starting To Emerge

Taking a few weeks off from posting the latest headlines concerning the plight of the dailies has created a massive backlog of items to list. I am not sure if the pace of noteworthy events is accelerating or if it just seems that way due to my short hiatus, but I have about 3 blog posts worth of items to try to get through this week, so here’s the first batch:

• The saga of the Boston Globe continues, with growing acrimony between management and the unions.

Global readership of newspapers continues to rise, and readership of and traffic stats surrounding newspaper websites continues to lend hope that there is an answer for some dailies who are smart enough with their web offerings.

News that Craigslist’s revenue will soon top $100M provides further proof that while the site has certainly played a role in stealing classifieds away from the dailies, the credit the site receives in the mainstreams press’ coverage of the death of the dailies is massively overblown.

• Given the recent public statement from Google that they will not be the savior for newspapers, perhaps Apple will step in to carry the day. Or maybe it’s the gaming industry. Or maybe it’s the oft-mentioned ‘user-generated content’ that is helping Hearst’s TV station sites.

• Newspapers are finally catching on to the power and appeal of online video. It seems to be working for Philly.com.

• What a shock! Sam Zell might lose control of his not-so-beloved Tribune. I hope the holders of the $8.6 billion in Tribune debt have fun with their new prize.

• For a preview of what’s coming for almost every single major metro market in the U.S., check out the battle in San Diego between a non-profit online news company (Voice of San Diego), a local for-profit online news site (San Diego News Network), and a cratering daily (San Diego Union Tribune) that was purchased by a private equity group with no experience in publishing primarily because of the daily’s real estate holdings. (Sounds pretty similar to the situation in Minneapolis, although we’ve swapped the local online-only, for-profit website for another daily over in St. Paul).

True/Slant, the latest entrant into the for-profit, online news & journalism fray offers another possible glimpse into the future of online journalism.

• Right on the ball just like they were in accurately assessing credit risk in the housing, mortgage, and banking sectors over the past decade, Moody’s has released a report on the daily newspaper industry. In the report, John Pucalla writes:

“Ultimately, we expect the industry will need to reverse the vertical integration strategy through cross-industry collaboration and outsourcing print production and distribution processes,” said Puchalla. “Although newspapers may lose some of their in-house control over press time, they would also release resources to beef up investment in content and technology.”

In English, that means newspapers are over-leveraged, crippled by unions, and suffering tremendously due to chronic under-investment in value-added journalism and online technology. What timely and prescient insight.

• In a non-daily related story, the Computer History Museum has posted two fascinating documents that provide some visibility into the earliest days of Apple. These should be heartening for every entrepreneur and early-stage company that’s had to make use of their magic crystal ball to gaze into the future with perfect clarity.