A series of somewhat-related, somewhat non-related newspaper-oriented items in the news.
Today, I will note some newspaper-related thoughts that have been banging around inside my head, of course inspired by things I’ve read and heard recently.
New York Times reportedly going to subscription model
Last month, New York Magazine ran a very interesting article about the internal debates within the New York Times that has apparently culminated in the paper moving to some type of subscription model for their online edition in the near future.
As advertising revenues plummet, newspapers are feeling more and more pressure to identify new sources of revenue. Whether or not a subscription model is the solution remains a very open question.
Post-Dispatch parent shows profit again
That led me to recent reports regarding Lee Enterprises, parent of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and publisher of 53 daily newspapers in 23 states. Last month, Lee announced its second consecutive quarterly profit, certainly good news on the heels of some tough times for the Davenport, Iowa concern.
Still, there was a double digit revenue decline. Profit was possible due to cutting costs faster than ad revenue shrunk. Lee eliminated 1,000 jobs in its fiscal 2009 on a base of 8,200. Their ad revenue dropped 16.4 percent from the same quarter a year earlier.
After reportedly outsourcing printing and delivery operations, Lee wants to cut expenses even deeper.
“Acrimonious” negotiations for new union contract
Since at least last May, Lee has been negotiating with the St. Louis Newspaper Guild on a new three-year contract. A key tenet of Lee’s ongoing position, as reported by the Guild, is what amounts to a 23% wage cut over three years – 15% in the first year, 5% in the second year and 5% in the third.
Last week, the Guild noted the involvement of a federal mediator and reported Lee “has turned more acrimonious in its negotiations with the Guild.”
There was speculation the matter could come to a head in a matter of weeks.
Post-Dispatch Cardinals coverage defended
Next up is P-D baseball writer Derrick Goold, who appeared with Mike Claiborne on KTRS 550 Radio Hot Stove Show on Wednesday. Goold was there to promote his new book, “100 Things Cardinal Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die,” now on sale at retailers such as Amazon.com.
During their chat, Claiborne suggested that the Post-Dispatch’s investment in Cardinals coverage – “three writers and two columnists – is unusually high these days.” Goold doesn’t see it that way.
“I think it is reasonable to put those kinds of resources behind a team like the Cardinals,” Goold replied. “What the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald put into the Red Sox is very similar, or the Chicago Tribune puts into covering the Chicago Cubs…
“I think you see that in towns where they have franchises that are part of baseball royalty…”
Goold went on to note the “insatiable” demand Cardinals fans have for news about their favorite club. That opportunity inevitably leads to competition…
Though this is not baseball-related, it seemed worth noting. As the story of the sale of the Rams evolved over recent weeks, the Post-Dispatch and Globe-Democrat seemed to be taking swipes at each other over who was in the bidding and who wasn’t. It came to a head in a dispute between the two papers over who broke the story of the sale to Illinois businessman Shahid Khan and how.
Blogging for spring bucks
That leads me to my sixth and final item. Baseball writer Mark Zuckerman was among those fired when the Washington Times recently discontinued their sports section. Limited to blogging to reach his Washington Nationals-focused audience, Zuckerman recently ran a fund drive with readers that netted him $5,300 in less than two weeks to cover his trip to spring training.
In return, Zuckerman offered his sponsors special content and the opportunity to suggest questions to players and officials. He modeled his idea on a similar approach charted by a laid-off former newspaperman from Cincinnati.
My first thought was that Zuckerman lives much better in spring training than I do, but the far more important point is that his readers obviously like what he does enough to let their wallets do their talking. Impressive.
Taking this post full circle, the Zuckerman plan seems to offer readers the opportunity to pay for exactly what they want to read, rather than an entire entity like the New York Times.
One thing for sure – there will be continued evolution in how we receive our news. It should be fascinating to watch and be a part of.
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