Monday, April 21, 2014

Why should you pay money for newspapers?

Glancing at a copy of The Post-Star in Stewart’s today, I got a good insight as to why the industry is struggling. 

Grand pooh-bahs like Ken Tingley, so eager to pat themselves on the back, intone that newspapers are still valuable because of one thing: editorial judgment. You can get news for free in countless places. But what distinguishes the newspaper from the “Internet” is editorial judgment. That vaunted editorial judgment of the paper allegedly ensures that’s what's published in a newspaper is not only accurate and verifiable but also relevant to its audience. Editorial judgment is why they charge you a dollar.

The editorial judgment of the local Post-Star deemed worthy of front page coverage four stories today. One was about whether 4/20 should be a legal holiday in Colorado. One was the Vatican welcoming an Easter crowd. And one was about the Zimbabwe regime seizing land.

This is what the paper’s leadership thought would be relevant enough to entice upstate New Yorkers to view their product as good value for money.

The only local story was about a historic clock in Saratoga Springs.

Suffice it to say, I did not view this as worth a dollar of my hard earned money.


ADD said...

I read it for free; not online, someone left one in the cafeteria at work. You're quite right, I felt it was a waste of my time even for free. The Chronicle does a better job covering local issues than The Post-Star, and it's free. They could rule the internet locally, I wonder why they don't make the leap.

Brian said...

I think the content was more important than the form. I’ve always said that local papers like the Post-Star need to re-invent themselves to the modern age. If you want people to pay for your content, you have to offer them something worth paying for. What does a local paper offer that readers can’t get a million other places for free? There is only one answer to that question: local content.

You can get your national sports scores and standings a million other places and more up to date. You can get your national and international news free a million other places, probably in more depth and with higher quality. Puzzles? Comics? Dear Abby? George Will? 30 word news briefs? Ditto.

You want people to pay for your product, give them something UNIQUE, something they can’t get elsewhere for free: local reporting, local in-depth journalism, local sports, local features. But the more money they spend on wire and syndicated content, the less they have to spend on these things that truly provide value for their product.

The physical print newspaper is fundamentally the same as it’s been for my whole life, yet the media landscape has changed dramatically. That’s why the industry is failing. Adapt or die.