Newspapers: That Giant Sucking Sound

black-holeWe are witnessing , before our very eyes, the utter collapse of the giant American newspaper.

I never thought its demise would be this fast, or so deep. The layoffs, the incredibly fast drops in circulation – 6% in just six months. It’s unbelievable.

The newspaper business model is dead, but journalism is not. Really – we need good journalists more than we ever did.

And traditional media isn’t dead yet.

I am currently reading Paul Gillin’s new book, Secrets of Social Media Marketing. Early (on page 24), he reminds us that social media is not well suited to several important marketing projects:

  • Branding
  • Channel relations
  • Direct marketing
  • Business to business
  • Targeting audiences over age 50
  • High ticket items

Sure, social media could help here. Gillin’s not arguing that social media is totally ineffective for these projects. He says social media is currently insufficient to get the whole job done.

So in the middle of this newspaper Armageddon, let’s not get carried away with the “social media is everything” thing. It’s not. Traditional media still has a job to do, even if part of its role now is to feed the insatiable social media beast.


4 thoughts on “Newspapers: That Giant Sucking Sound

  1. Frank,

    I agree with you that it is really stunning what is happening to newspapers. I am curious to learn more about what you mean when you say the business model is dead? Do you mean people paying for a print publication that is delivered to their home and the expense to produce the paper being covered primarily by advertising but also by subscription fees? Or do you mean that the need for a print paper is literally going away due to lack of desire by consumers? Personally I lean toward the first of those statements as I believe there is always going to be a significant number of people who want a printed newspaper. I guess the big challenge is for the publishers to figure out the financials to allow them to continue to serve this market.


  2. Scott,

    The business model I was referring was exactly your first thought: Cheap subscriptions, expensive display advertising, and especially, expensive classified advertising returning a gross profit margin of 90% or more.

    For a long time, newspapers and TV stations were licenses to print money. They enjoyed incredibly huge operating profits, seducing them into building an enormous capital-intensive infrastructure. But then they got competitors. At first, newspapers responding by boosting their CPM, even as they became less and less effective. That only worked for a short while.

    But now they’re stuck. If they didn’t have such huge sunk costs, they would have figured a way out of this already. The Christian Science Monitor is trying all-web. Maybe that will work.

    But I’m afraid that for many, the only way out is bankruptcy.

  3. Let me know how you like Gillin’s book? I have a backlog of books to read – I need help prioritizing!

    Niche newspapers seem to be springing up more and more, no? Is the future of the newspaper in the long tail?

  4. Liking Gillin’s book so far – but haven’t gotten much further than page 24! :p

    Long tail & newspapers? Maybe – as long as they purchase access to someone else’s capital investment – kind of like how most websites buy space on someone else’s server farm.

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