Oh, so it turns out it’s Dave’s fault

Former Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry takes the blame for the demise of the newspaper industry (not dead yet, btw). Mostly, this is just funny. But I wonder if he might not just be right about the lack of business acumen among newspaper managers.

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7 Responses to Oh, so it turns out it’s Dave’s fault

  1. Theresa Berens says:

    I fully appreciate Dave Barry’s sass, but I have to wonder: If Google or a company with “with expertise in extracting money from the Internet” is going to be the one to save the journalism industry, does majoring in English (or in our case, journalism) have a purpose, in his point of view? Does he believe we should focus our attention on developing emerging technologies instead of learning fundamental techniques of journalism, which we can apply to emerging technology?

    For the record, I’m in favor of the latter.

    • reedkath says:

      I am also in favor of the latter: learning fundamental techniques (which now includes gathering audio and images and data, etc.,). I don’t know what he would say but I am among those who think that a journalism degree is valuable no matter what you do in the future. At the same time, jobs are popping up all the time and I have found myself thinking more than once lately, who can I recommend for that? And then I realize that all of my good grads are employed. How about that? The business is changing really quickly, but new things are being created as others are dying. It’s interesting to watch.

  2. Christina Stiehl says:

    While entertaining, that brief interview was also a bit disheartening for me to read because I am constantly worried about the future of the print journalism industry and Barry offered no tangible ideas. As a magazine sequence major, I would love to believe that the print, glossy magazine (my personal preference) will be around forever, but the truth is that everything is switching to digital. However, I found it interesting that he didn’t mention advertising at all. Clearly the information online is “free” but how much money do print newspapers make from circulation as opposed to advertising anyway? (Hint: that was an actual, not rhetorical question. I have no concept of what those figures are). It seems the entire online news industry is going to have to rely solely on advertising (and with little economic knowledge, I have no alternate ideas).

    • reedkath says:

      I’m sorry you were disheartened by the interview; I shared it because I thought it was funny. I should have realized that for a journalism student, it might be hard to laugh about the future. I should say right off, I am not one of the doomsayers. There are a lot of funding models being tested right now. I have faith that the free market will find a solution (I honestly worry more about readers and how Internet reading habits are shortening attention spans and how to hold reader interest in longer, more in-depth kinds of stories — like magazine stories! — but then I look at the tablet present/future and think good things may be in store). I do think that some publications will have to erect pay walls around some of their content because clearly, online advertising revenue won’t make up for what has been lost in print ad revenue. I’m going to post something on the blog to help answer your question about ad revenue versus subscription revenue. Stay tuned. It’s a good question.

  3. Krystin A. says:

    I think Barry had it at least a little right when he was talking about English majors trying to dig themselves out of a financial hole: I never bonded more with the journalism kids on my floor last year as when we were struggling through statistics and math together. Left- and right-brained aside, it scares me a little that managers are just now scrambling to figure out how to make money off of something given away for free (as Barry puts it), but it’s also reassuring that there’s options in the works. For example, the NY Times is going to start charging for content next January. They announced it a year out, perhaps to give other papers a bit of a shove in that same direction. I’m in the camp that if anyone can do it, the Times can – but with so many free alternative news sources available, will people actually continue to pay for content? What I imagine to be the resulting domino effect – of newspapers trying to charge for content, only to have readers turn to less legitimate sources to avoid payment – makes me a little nervous for the future of independent, objective journalism.

  4. Dan Everson says:

    I found Dave Barry’s analysis of the situation quite entertaining. But I think he makes a legitimate point when he jokes that “our approach is trying to figure out how we can make money giving away our product for free.”
    A thought that runs through my head as I read about new pay walls is ‘Why didn’t we do this before?’ Folks have always paid to read the newspaper. Why should they not have to pay for the same content online? In fact, why should they not have to pay for better content — considering the fancier graphics, interactivity, etc. — that is accessible online?
    I think Krystin offers a possible answer to my question. Perhaps newspapers did not charge for online content from the get-go because, on the Internet, alternative news sources — legitimate or not — are just a click away.
    I know personally, if ESPN decided I had to pay to access any of their content, I would find another source for my sports news. And I’m a newspaper reporter. If anyone should be willing to pay for quality sports journalism, it’s me. And yet, as I said, I would do what I could to get my news for free. So it’s no wonder that regular readers would do the same.
    Krystin makes a valuable point, then. It is risky to put up a pay wall, since it very well could push readers to less legitimate news sources.
    It will be interesting to see how readers respond to the changes at the NY Times (and at the London Times, which is also putting up a pay wall, according to the sidebar with the Barry article). Will the pay-wall structure be a disaster for newspapers? Or will it prove to be something we should have done all along?
    I hope it’s the latter.

  5. Dan Everson says:

    Just listened to that American Public Media story on the London Times: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/06/07/pm-newspapers-watch-times-pay-model/

    I should have listened before my previous post. Porter Bibb, of MediaTech Capital Partners, points out that readers will pay for online content if it provides for a reasonable price something that no other site can offer. A good point.

    And Assistant Editor Tom Whitwell says the paper is prepared to deal with the loss of readers who don’t want to pay. The Times is hoping, anyway, that a smaller but more loyal readership will be better than a large mass of readers who only briefly stop by the website.

    It’s an interesting theory. I look forward to seeing how it pans out.

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