It’s not just the Internet that is killing newspapers. Newspapers are killing themselves. As the newspaper dies, it struggles to remain profitable…causing an inevitable death spiral.
Right now, newspapers could hold on longer if they could throw a lifeline to their local news reporters. Instead, to save money, newspapers are buying content from news wires. Unfortunately most people can get the same articles for free online. Making me pay for something that I can get for free isn’t really a sustainable business model.
Let me give you an example with my own daily newspaper The Record. The Record has always been part of my life, and I do not want to see it go out of business.
But here’s how the content from today’s (March 23. 2009) newspaper breaks down. I counted each homegrown article and each wire story article on every page. The newspaper was very thin today (46 pages), so it was pretty easy.
My apologies for the lame graphic. I input all the data into a Zoho.com spreadsheet. It may give advanced chart design features, but I just couldn’t figure it out. I felt it was more important to share the data, which is embedded in this graph. Feel free to utilize the info in the Zoho chart or spreadsheet.
This is a visual representation of how much homegrown content (56 articles) versus news-wire content (57 articles) is featured in today’s paper. That’s a 50-50 split of original content versus syndicated content.
It’s pretty obvious from the graph that the A section is mostly pulled from sources that I can get for free…and in real time. That’s just not a good way to keep readers. The A section is all available instantly on Google News.
Moving to the B section, things start to change. In the Local section, MOST of the news is relevant to me, based on region. The paper uses some syndicated sources to enhance the local news.
Over in section C, we see more wire content popping up. This is the Entertainment section, so we have a mix of regional stories and bunch of syndicated stuff that I can get just about anywhere.
Finally over in section D, we’re in Sports and Classifieds. All of the Classifieds are local, but none of it requires a reporter.
This isn’t exclusive to my local newspaper. As you read your daily newspaper, take notice of who is writing it. If it says “staff writer” it’s written in house. But if it says “Associated Press” then you can get that article (or one just like it) from Internet news sources.
Ironically, I was planning to write this post, and in today’s Record they printed a letter from a reader who wants more local news reporting.
Saving newspapers will require more than recycling wire stories. It’s about covering local events that matter to readers. And that means throwing a lifeline to the newsroom and paying reporters to create a product that people want to buy.