News[paper] journalism: Value chain

The ad-supported model is allegedly broken for newspapers and magazines, and many blame Craigslist for siphoning off classified ads. That’s one factor, but another place to look is edit, the news itself. Now the traitor calls from my fellow j-school alumni start pouring in.

Simply put, consumers want news of various types: national, local, sports, business, entertainment, etc. Newspapers around the country have taken it upon themselves to create a lot of that content. Newswires like AP and Reuters offer a lot of content that any publisher can buy, but “big-city” papers produce plenty of national content that readers consider commodities. How much value do readers in Sacramento, Kansas City or Tallahassee get from national news by their local reporters vs. what the “national” papers do on bigger scales?

I think a few big news companies (ie, newspapers, magazines) should become major players in content syndication, selling national and international news to smaller news companies that should focus on their core competency: local and regional news. The paper in St. Louis, for example, would only produce content that no one could do better – about St. Louis – while buying content from its choice(s) of suppliers, such as New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, plus Sports Illustrated, ESPN, BusinessWeek … you get the idea.

The St. Louis paper could buy from one supplier exclusively or pick and choose every day. It could have branded sections, like national news from Washington Post, business from Dow Jones, sports from ESPN. If going with one supplier, or one per news category, the local paper could become a local edition of that national paper. Or maybe Tribune Company even renames its smaller papers Chicago Tribune, using local writers only for local/regional news.

One of the overall goals is to keep citizens engaged in news, analysis and debate, ideally with the best possible content. If a newspaper can’t meet that commitment for anything but what’s happening in town, it needs to figure out how to do the rest before the audience is gone.

To quell my j-school friends … I still firmly believe in the value of delivering an edited, organized presentation of what’s important for people to know, including topics they didn’t know they should know. Searching your favorite news sites for what interests you doesn’t develop well-read, well-rounded citizens of a democracy. We need dedicated, trained editors putting together newspapers, magazines, etc, whether read in print or online.

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One Response

  1. Um, sorry, this post isn’t fresh. Most news orgs already have ceded national, international news to handful of Bigs — NYT, WaPo, WSJ, LAT, AP, McClatchy. And notion of Bigs selling nat/intl coverage is history — e.g. see vast nos. of subscribers to AP, LATWP and Dow Wires. Tis tragic the local-emphasis content approach ignores globalization, news orgs 1st Amendment roles. As great as Bigs can be, they aren’t going to dog St. Louis’ interests in DC or nation; it’ll be rare they’ll show Mizzou residents how directly the world touches them (from global ag trade to its kids in Iraq). Finally, why would you buy P-D with hodgepodge of others’ sections if you can read SI, WSJ, NYT online for free already? That’s the real rub.

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