Monday, August 18, 2008

The Newspaper Industry

David Warsh has an interesting article on the role of newspapers in society, and he has a unique take on what newspapers should do to keep pace:

They must keep their paper editions strong. ... Those enormous rolls of newsprint, tank-cars of ink, long lines of presses and fleets of delivery vans are the newspaper industry’s best friends. Among business strategists, they are known as barriers to entry. The capacity to print and deliver the paper product from cities around the world is what makes newspapers different from everything and everyone else in this media-sodden world.
The standard argument is that to keep pace in an increasingly web-based world, newspapers must embrace and shift more of their attention to the Internet. Newspapers shouldn't cling to a dying medium, the argument goes. Warsh's argument that newspapers should focus more on improving their print editions is refreshing. Personally, I have no opinion on what newspapers should do to keep pace, or on the (tired) debate over what the decline of the newspaper industry means for society. I've never worked at a newspaper (or any similar publication), so I have no special insight into that industry, or how the massive cutbacks will affect the quality of reporting. I still get the Financial Times delivered every day, even though I get most of my news from the Internet. I like reading print editions of newspapers because it allows me to stumble on interesting stories I would have never read online. The FT only has 2 regular sections—although most days it has a "special" section dedicated to a discrete topic as well—so it's small enough that I can at least browse through the whole paper most mornings. And, of course, quality-wise the FT is far and away the best newspaper in the world. The only drawback to the FT is that you're constantly having to answer the question, "Why is your newspaper pink?" My standard answer to that question used to be, "It's just their signature," but that drew too many follow-up questions. Now my standard answer is, "It's a London paper." For whatever reason, everyone seems satisfied with that explanation.

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