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June 17, 2009 / Toby Dayton

More Evidence Of The Obvious: Online Classifieds Are Soaring But The Dailies Are Struggling

Here is the last day (finally) of cleaning out my backlog of stories relating to the dailies, traditional media, new media, advertising, etc. Some of these headlines are slightly outdated, but so be it.

Village Voice Media is stepping in to capitalize on the opportunity completely missed by the dailies in creating a local advertising network. This may turn out to have been the biggest whiff of all the missteps of the dailies over the last decade. And while that may be arguable given how badly the dailies have handled their fortunes of late, there is no arguing that in these late innings, the creation of a local ad network (both online and offline) represents perhaps the last great hope for local newspaper franchises.

• Unfortunately, the local ad play has also taken a beating in the current downturn, so maybe it’s not the immediate fix everyone believes it to be. (Though long-term, the hype over local ad networks, local search, local media, and local advertising is more than justified). Even local TV, which has also whiffed on many of the opportunities they’ve been presented, is showing signs of innovation and change in the new media landscape.

Online classifieds are soaring these days (as if anyone needed more evidence of how badly the dailies blew their monopoly in that arena).

Tucson has lost its daily. And again, while some say enough with the obvious and tell me something I don’t know, the pace of death and destruction in the industry is staggering and is still worth endless commentary and observation. Anytime an industry can lose $18 billion in 3 years, it’s worth commenting on.

• …another article to add to the mix on whether or not micropayments will or won’t save the dailies. And despite the arguments against charging for content, MediaNews is forging ahead anyway.

• Some believe the Kindle won’t save the dailies either (though I’d argue that it might).

• Maybe public subsidies are the answer (even Congress is jumping on the bandwagon)…or maybe the dailies can follow the example set by the Huffington Post and start auctioning off internships and even higher level jobs on ebay.

• Also in the obvious category, the trend with the dailies over the next few years will be local billionaires and/or real estate developers buying their local daily from debt-holders. It’s already happened in San Diego, and next on the list will be Boston, L.A., and possibly even New York. (Something has to happen with the Times as it’s too valuable to be run down to zero and the Sulzberger family is eventually going to riot as their fortune continues to be decimated…). But eventually, most large metro dailies will be owned by local individuals or groups of individuals and we’ll be back to where we were 100 years ago.