Valuing News By The Pound

As hard as economic times are for TV, they’re worse for newspapers and other print outlets.

So, what do you do to get the bottom line up? I don’t know, but I suspect it isn’t this. Here’s a story from The International Herald Tribune. Michaels is Randy Michaels, CEO of the Tribune Corporation, now owned by Sam Zell, and heavily in debt.

…the struggling company has looked at the column inches of news produced by each reporter, and by each paper’s news staff. Finding wide variation, they said, they have concluded that it could do without a large number of news employees and not lose much content.

Michaels said that, after measuring journalists’ output, “when you get into the individuals, you find out that you can eliminate a fair number of people while eliminating not very much content.” He added that he understood that some reporting jobs naturally produce less output than others.

He said that The Los Angeles Times produced 51 pages of news for each journalist there, while the figure for two other Tribune papers, The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant, is more than 300 pages.

Michaels had been CEO of Clear Channel Communications. When he left there, Radio Ink reported:

…industry message boards were swollen with vitriolic postings vilifying both him and Clear Channel. Various diatribes claimed that Michaels was everything from “the antichrist of Radio” to “a blight on professionalism” to “representative of the heinous crimes perpetrated by Clear Channel.”

Today, it seems Michaels is valuing content the way a butcher values meat – by the pound. But in the real world content is not equal word-for-word. You would hope some of the LA Times lower word count has to do with the depth its stories contain.

It will be sad to see newspapers disappear. I’m afraid that’s going to happen… and sooner, rather than later.

Right now, TV is incapable of providing the depth and story count papers do (though TV kills print in immediacy, emotion and a number of other categories). Few of the Internet news sites really produce their own content, and those that do seldom produce local news.

My daughter and her generation don’t read many newspapers nor do they watch much TV news. No one has yet figured out how to make traditional news more attractive to them.

It’s all very sad.

One Response to “Valuing News By The Pound”

  1. Gary says:

    The current trend in print media reminds me of how companies like clear channel killed the radio industry.

    Radio has been milked of every last dollar, and is for all intents a dead medium. This give rise to new business models like satellite and internet radio. The same will hold true for print markets. Once they’ve brought the newspapers to the brink of extinction, a new and better way will rise in it’s place.

    I have no idea what this new business model for print media will look like, but I’m optimistic that after it trends to the basement, it’ll come back around. It’s unfortunate that, like radio, it has to drag good talent through the mud during that process.

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