Re: How to Sink a Newspaper

In response to an article written in the Opinion Journal I wrote:

In the 1980’s I stopped subscribing to the local newspaper because I only read the Sunday paper for the comics and the sports page. Many of the articles in the newspaper that I would be interested in came from sources other than the local paper. Television and radio typically recognized the good stories of the day and repeated them on the air. A few of the stories were local news stories but many stories came from sources other than the local journalists(e.g Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal). As a result the “news” in the newspaper was typically old news. There was little value added by reading the local newspaper. My fill of local news was handled adequately by watching television or listening to the radio.

In the 1990’s I replaced my paper subscription to the WSJ with the online edition. WSJ was still a leader in creating good stories about business but the competition was fierce. WSJ was rapidly losing their position as the source of the good business stories. Increasingly I found that other sources were creating the good business stories of the day and I could read them from my Yahoo page for free. As an experiment I dropped my online subscription to see how often I missed the WSJ content. For me at least I found that I did not miss the content often enough to subscribe again.

Now I am confronted with the dilemma. I have enjoyed my free ride reading quality journalism paid by others. At the same time I am disappointed with what appears to be an increasing trend in journalism to print the story and let the bloggers check the facts. As a fan of objective journalism and the good that journalism can provide to the community, there is a price I am willing to pay. As a potential customer I haven’t seen the business model I am willing to accept but I remain hopeful. Your business model is a step in the right direction but I do not think it goes far enough to draw customers like me in. There needs to be something special going on in a local newspaper. In the early 1980’s in a MBA class on competitive strategies our team predicted the demise of the newspapers. The competitive pressures on the newspaper industry were in place well before the rise of the Internet. Somehow newspapers adapted and survived. I think they can do it again but the clock is ticking. The customers for journalism are changing, too.