March, 2006

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Philip Meyer, prophet

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

I’m long overdue for an update, and for that I owe you an apology. Several posts are in the works–I’m having trouble keeping my internal editor under control. In the meantime, I’m fascinated by this 1995 Philip Meyer essay on newspaper profitability.

It’s about how publicly traded companies are tempted to slash newsrooms, kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, blah blah blah. All quite true, and it makes good reading along those lines. But here’s the crazy passage:

Whether very many newspapers will spend the money to wholeheartedly practice genuine public journalism remains to be seen. The short-term economic pressures are against them. The first scenario produces visible and immediate rewards while the costs are hidden and distant. The second yields immediate costs and distant benefits. …

Take the case of a long term-oriented, nurturing company like Knight-Ridder. With total average daily circulation of 3.6 million, its newspapers would bring a total of $6.5 billion if sold separately at an average value of $1,800 per paying reader. (McClatchy paid the Daniels family more than $2,400 per unit of circulation for Raleigh’s News & Observer, but Raleigh is a better than average market). With 52.9 million shares outstanding at the 1994-95 high price of $61 per share, the entire company, including its non-newspaper properties, is valued by its investors at only $3.2 billion or around half the break-up value.

Dude.

Who is The Medium Run for?

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

Short answer, of course, is that it’s for you. But the long answer is that it’s for my boss.

One of my personal hobbyhorses is that you should always know your intended audience. They don’t have to be the same as your actual audience, but your writing will be better if you’ve got an end-user (as they say) in mind. Some journalists write their articles to their moms. I usually write to my friend Mark, actually.

Well, this blog is written for my editor, by which I mean all his colleagues at small- to mid-size newspapers around the English-speaking world, who are trying to find their way online. And, to a lesser extent, folks who are, like me, in less powerful positions but looking for ways to advocate change.

I don’t expect many of those folks to read me, but frankly, fellow commentators, you’re not the ones who will save my industry, so I’m not going to write with you in mind. Sometimes, though not always, this means that I’ll be writing what’s obvious to those more steeped in this stuff. I can handle that. I hope you can, too.