Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Newspaper death watch

Posted on | April 28, 2008 | No Comments

AdAge puts its imprimatur on the decline of American daily newspapers today by kicking off a series called The Newspaper Death Watch. We might suggest that they’re dead already, as evidenced by the “news” coverage of the Miley Cyrus green bra-gate “scandal” making the rounds. More on that later.
The AdAge series title has an ugly finality to it, when in fact it’s more a transition than anything else (unless of course we want to abrogate all responsibility in a democratic society and just not pay attention to civic events to make informed decisions).

The newspaper industry, that is, must say goodbye to the double-digit profit margins that made it the darling of Wall Street, to its old unsurpassed authority, to its central place in American conversation and commerce.

True, but the AdAge story does what almost every piece of coverage of the decline of newspapers does: Viciously pound on the known problem and skate blithely around the industry’s options. To wit:

Newspaper websites are growing fast, but there’s no certainty that online advertising will ever match the rates achieved by newspaper ads in print.

Lines like this are always buried in these stories. This one is the penultimate graf. I’ve been there: If there was a robust online advertising model for news and information, someone would have found it (especially in B:B publishing, which grappled with this problem starting eight years ago).
The story really needs to be more about the Death Watch for News. Do we really want a world where news is defined (and monetized) as Miley Cyrus bra-gate photo shoots in Vanity Fair and the surrounding hoopla? This isn’t news; it’s a massive and cynical PR game in which Annie Leibovitz, underage Miley Cyrus, Vanity fair and thousands of pedophiles win and win big. Most self-respecting newspapers would avoid this like the plague, perhaps at their peril. It’s not the stuff that fuels democratic societies. Then again there seems to be little appetite for information that REALLY FRIGGING MATTERS.
And we wonder why this country is in trouble?

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No Responses to “Newspaper death watch”

  1. Loring Wirbel
    April 29th, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

    Precisely. And it’s astonishing how many people have yet to realize that the real problem is not the chosen medium, but the dwindling appetite people have for anything outside prurient info-tainment. Go back and check out the lyrics to Natalie Merchant’s/10,000 Maniacs’ “Candy Everybody Wants.” If the world clamors for candy and you offer them nutrition, you’re toast.

  2. dark_faust
    April 30th, 2008 @ 9:34 am

    Have the readers really changed that much? Most folks I know still want substance in the news. Is the younger generation of readers the problem? Is it that the older generation has less time to read? Where have all the real readers gone?

  3. Loring Wirbel
    May 1st, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

    I had not watched CNN Headline News since the days of Lynn Whats-her-name, the sultry 40-year-old put out to pasture for not being young and perky enough. Lynn’s show had its share of fluff, to be sure, but you could always depend on a serious foreign or Washington story to break up the monotony. I was dimly aware that Headline News had added Glenn Beck and Nancy Grace to shake up the 30-minute repetition blocks, but I didn’t realize the show’s content decline.

    My neighborhood YMCA just put in new ellipticals with built-in TVs, so I sampled a couple evening’s worth of Headline News. What tripe. Random home invasions in Phoenix. Fake pleas for Stacey Peterson to call home. Unusual sex practices. And of course Miley Cyrus. No foreign news whatsoever. Almost nothing from Washington. This is an embarrassing stew of gossip that dare not call itself news.

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