Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I know - a NEWSACRE program...

As the print media continue to struggle - especially newspapers - some interesting observations are being made and one analogy to agriculture. The hardship is not imagined.

The persistent drought in advertising has forced publishers to cut jobs, wages and sections, and boost newsstand prices to preserve cash. Ad sales make up more than half of revenue for publishers including New York Times Co. and Gannett Co.
Industrywide print ad revenue fell 30 percent to $6.16 billion in the second quarter and online-only advertising plunged 16 percent to $653.1 million, NAA data show.
Job recruitment ad sales declined 66 percent, the most among classified categories, followed by the 46 percent drop in real estate ads and 43 percent for automotive ads, according to the data. Publishers narrowed the declines in every category except real estate, compared with the first quarter.[More]

First, it would seem media have yet to fully accept the future unrolling in front of them.  And for good reason: it ain't pretty.
Business model! Business model! All they care about is business model. I am excited about the way the Web is transforming society and all they care is how to save their jobs! I get it - they should care. The new media ecosystem can support a much smaller number of professional journalists than the old one. So many (though not all) will lose their jobs. I don't have an interest in that aspect of the media business at all. If they have any other expertise besides scribbling, they will find other jobs once their media houses lock the doors. If not, tough. But I am really not interested in their livelihoods. Just like blacksmiths found jobs in car factories, the journos will find something else to do. I am interested in the ways new media channels are changing the world, not the parochial or individual insecurities of those whose world is changing. I am an interested observer of the revolution and saving the inevitable victims is not my job. [More]
In fairness, agriculture has been going through a similar shift with not-too-different responses. When it's not just your job, but an entire career disappearing, we may not have any emotional tools to do other than hang on.
Often, when an industry faces decline, management and ownership will opt to take door number three; rather than reinvesting profits in new businesses or redistributing them to shareholders, they'll direct them to legislators and lobbyists in an effort to buy themselves protection from competition. This has been the strategy used by agricultural and manufacturing interests, often, though not always, with success. I'm actually a little surprised that journalism has not been more aggressive or successful with appeals for government help. I don't imagine that a tecnology as revolutionary as the internet could have been quashed by government interventions (though its development could have been checked in important ways). But I would have imagined that the press might have been able to win public support for its operations based on the "public interest" role it plays.
One wonders if the effort to spice up copy to compete with online sites by focusing more on horse-race journalism, entertainment news, and tabloid stories, at the expense of quote-unquote serious journalism—investigative reporting and the like—compromised the news business' ability to argue for such support.[More]
Ah yes - the traditional (since 1932) farmer response to hard times: lobby Congress.  And as mentioned above, it has seemed remarkably effective except for the actual farmers.  (Nothing seems to slow consolidation, for one thing.)

But in desperation, more sectors will be seeking to emulate our example, making the demands for government dollars immense.  How will we make sure we get ours first?  Better still, as grain prices plummet, how will we get more?


Anonymous said...

Ah....John? I can't eat my newspaper.
Anybody in there?

John Phipps said...


I have pointed out ad nauseum that farm subsidies aren't about food - and the corn growers have backed me up that by proving corn prices don't affect food prices, which means subsizing corn won't either. We don't subsidize potatoes and yet nobody worries about a french fry shortage, to name one of hundreds of other food examples.

They are political subsidies - we get 'em because we can. so I think newspapers could argue for something on similar grounds.