Thursday, October 11, 2012

Is the tide starting to turn?

There are a couple of items of good news floating around. First, we have the decision by the Orange County Register to invest more in local news coverage. Although Orange County is a populous county in the megalopolis known as Southern California, the Register is deciding to act as though it were a small-town newspaper, hiring reporters and photographers to cover all its high school football games. It is also hiring investigative journalists. I found this observation from editor Ken Brusic particularly apt:
“Think about a Starbucks model. If each day you went into Starbucks and plunked down $4 for a latte, and the cups got smaller and the content got weaker, chances are you’d stop going to Starbucks. That’s basically what newspapers have been doing as a way to deal with decreases in advertising revenue. The new guys are attempting to reverse that trend, and are attempting in a variety of different ways.”

I love the comparison. If advertisers are going to continue to abandon newspapers, and readers are going to have to pay for it, newspapers need to become a status symbol, like gourmet coffee, but a relatively affordable one, like a $4 latte.

The next bit of good news comes from the research firm Borrell and Associates, that forecasts revenue growth for newspapers in 2013.  Though Newspaper Death Watch gives us reasons to doubt the assessment, I think optimism is half the battle. If people see newspapers as a losing proposition, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and our companies become fodder for the modern day equivalents of Bain Capital. In the anecdotal evidence department, I am starting to see the frequency of help wanted ads for copy editors increase.

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