It’s time for an end of the year wrap-up of the news delivery biz. We have a new and interesting topic –-should newspapers AVOID putting content on the Internet?
This past year was arguably the worst in history for American papers.
The New York Times owes approximately $400 million on credit lines and is considering refinancing its 8th Avenue building. The Tribune Company has filed for bankruptcy. The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune are restructuring debt. Cash-strapped McClatchy Company is selling The Miami Herald.
The knee-jerk analysis is that the Internet is killing the old inky broadsheet. This view was bolstered by a Pew Research study published last week that found more Americans are getting news from the Internet than from newspapers.
The zombie-like mantra of newspaper experts for 10 years has been that the road to success is to put your newspaper on the Internet.
“But that’s just suicide” said the mouse that roared. A small weekly paper out of Asbury Park, N.J. called the triCityNews has seen double-digit growth every year for the past 10 years. Their business model: AVOID PUTTING ANY CONTENT ON THE INTERNET! So successful is the triCityNews model that the paper has not raised advertising rates since 1999, and their ad sales have skyrocketed every year.
Web sites dedicated to media have been ablaze since last week with the topic, when the The New York Times media reporter David Carr did an expose on triCityNews, highlighting their “screw the Web” philosophy, making triCityNews publisher Dan Jacobson the modern-day boy who cried the emperor (the Web) has no clothes.
Full Disclosure: I started my career in journalism with triCityNews, penning the “Justified Right” column there for 7 years.
The Web resistant philosophy of publisher Dan Jacobson is easy to understand. Newspapers make money selling their content to readers and/or advertisers. Why in the world would you give you content away for free on the Internet? Duh!! Of course your business will fail if you give away your product for free!!
There is, however, more to the success of triCityNews that The Times’ Carr didn’t cover. Every paper in the country should take note.
The triCityNews is also on the cutting edge of how the news is presented. It is actually like the Internet in many ways: Its philosophy is that middle of the road objectivity by a reporter is a myth. Honest reporters will share their partisan views with you right up front, allowing the reader to better gauge fact from fluff. Just as Congressmen are identified on television with a D or an R after their names, the triCityNews reporters are identified by political philosophy as well.
I take pride that this week the Columbia School of Journalism picked up on triCityNews being a “plog,” — a word I invented. If a “blog” is a “Web log” triCityNews is a “printed-log. In other words… a plog. All the news is presented through partisan opinion pieces, not by reporters with phony claims of objectivity.
Fairness and balance at the triCityNews is achieved in the same way it is achieved at FOX News –- by making sure the entire political spectrum is given a chance to speak. Like FOX News, if there is an issue, triCityNews will make sure advocates for both sides of the issue are heard.
The entire news delivery industry has been moving in that direction on television for some time now. Harkening back to older cable TV shows like “Crossfire” right on up to today’s shows like “The O’Reilly Factor” or “Hannity & Colmes,” news is no longer a partisan posing as a non-partisan (like Dan Rather) telling you what to believe. The new way is to let advocates present their points and let the public decide who is right.
News delivery is starting to mirror how our legal jury system works, and it’s better for it.
On the Web the “jury” aka the public is given instant access to news articles in the comment sections underneath news articles. The public instantly gets to say yea or nay on a news story.
The triCityNews is also like the Web in that way. When that paper does a piece involving a person or business, that person won’t just get a letter to the editor to respond. The triCityNews will often allow that person to write a guest column the following week and they will display it as prominently as they did the column was that was written about them. –Try getting that much fairness out of the New York Times or any other paper when they target you.
What the recent Pew study about the Internet luring readers away from newspapers failed to report is that it is it is the partisan Web sites that are taking away readers, not newspaper Web sites.
For instance, it was recently reported that Michelle Malkin’s conservative Web site HotAir.com received about a third as many hits as did the entire L.A. Times Web site. — Further proof that people want news from reporters who are honest about who and what they are. They don’t want to be spoon-fed information and told what to think, they want all sides of an issue presented by advocates, so that they can decide what to think.
So what’s the moral of the story? Newspapers should act like newspapers and sell their content on paper. If they want to attract the Internet readers, start reporting in the papers like it’s an Internet Web site –- with partisan viewpoints competing to let the public decide the truth.
I’ll end with triCityNews publisher Dan Jacobson’s motto: “We’re the triCityNews. We’re here to help.”
Happy New Year.