Why are newspapers screwed? Easy answer: Because ad dollars are shifting from newsprint to the Web.
But papers are also screwed because they’re in a self-perpetuating mediocrity cycle: Revenues decline, so they cut resources, which makes their product lousier, which makes their revenue decline. Repeat.
Unpleasant example: The San Jose Mercury News, a paper that’s been hit just as hard — if not harder — by ad declines as any paper in the U.S., and has seen its staff shrink accordingly. Which is why we assume we just read this story in the paper: A trend story about how much Valley digerati (like the the Google guys) like kitesurfing.
So what’s wrong with that? Nothing — just that it’s not… news — either to Valley residents, or anyone with an Internet connection. For example:
- Valleywag wrote about in January 2007
- Bloomberg wrote about it in April 2007
- Fortune wrote about it in August 2007
- And the LA Times wrote about it last week.
Insult to injury: The Merc’s kite-surfing article? It’s just a reprint of the LAT’s version.
Maybe there really used to be a business model that supported old news about your hometown, delivered by people who don’t live there. But it sure won’t work in the Google News era.