MediaFile

How I learned to stop worrying and love bad newspaper news

We had a hard time finding the good news in Monday’s report that U.S. newspaper circulation has fallen more than 10 percent, based on an analysis of 379 daily papers. Thank goodness for the newspapers whose publishers helped them understand why losing hundreds or thousands of paying readers is good.

Most papers acknowledged deep declines in circulation, but explained it in one of the following ways:

    We had to clear out all the bulk copies sold at discount. (I’m still not sure how this one works because I recall publishers saying this a couple of years ago. How many deadwood readers are there?) We shrank our coverage area so of course we lost some circulation. It tells advertisers that they’re getting a BETTER quality of reader. We’re charging more for the paper so circulation revenue has risen, and anyway, who wants to rely on a business as fickle as advertising (the one that lined our owners’ pockets for the past 150 years.)? Readership is rising on the Internet. At least we didn’t get whacked as bad as the next guy.

All these statements are true, and they all are good business moves. What I can’t find among the numbers is what percent of print decline at many of these papers is because of the other reasons that you hear from people. Some are legitimate, some aren’t and some are just silly. All say one thing: Many people don’t pay for the paper anymore, which means there’s less money to keep them in business. (Don’t believe us? Ask the Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer):

    I hate my newspaper My newspaper doesn’t have anything interesting in it News is boring News is free on the Internet My newspaper is biased to the right/left/middle/other Little League team than the one my kid is on My paper stopped running Garfield in the funnies. It doesn’t run Hints From Heloise anymore. You can’t get good TV listings anymore I don’t care about anything that happens in the rest of the world or outside my front door. There’s not enough local/regional/national/world news here. The sports section sucks. It always arrives too early/late for me to read it.

Here are samples of how some papers handled Monday’s news:

San Francisco Chronicle headline: Chronicle’s strategy shift starts to pay off

Could Google buy Twitter? Ask Arrington, then ask Swisher

******We sprinkled updates into this blog. We’re highlighting them like this.******Thanks to TechCrunch, U.S. tech reporters are about to spend another weekend working instead of playing. UPDATE: Or maybe Kara Swisher at All Things D will save them!******Two sources told proprietor Michael Arrington that Google “is in late stage negotiations to acquire Twitter.” He wrote:***

We don’t know the price but can assume its well, well north of the $250 million valuation that they saw in their recent funding.

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Twitter turned down an offer to be bought by Facebook just a few months ago for half a billion dollars, although that was based partially on overvalued Facebook stock. Google would be paying in cash and/or publicly valued stock, which is equivalent to cash. So whatever the final acquisition value might be, it can’t be compared apples-to-apples with the Facebook deal.

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Why would Google want Twitter? We’ve been arguing for some time that Twitter’s real value is in search. It holds the keys to the best real time database and search engine on the Internet, and Google doesn’t even have a horse in the game.

Happy trails, Rocky Mountain News

EW Scripps Co’s decision to shut down Denver’s Rocky Mountain News as of Friday offers an interesting lesson about the value of news.

But first, a bit of background: It is not the first U.S. daily to fail as the economy falters. Scripps already put down two other papers in recent memory (Albuquerque, New Mexico and Cincinnati, Ohio, its home town). Having said that, it’s the biggest daily that I can think of to go under since the newspaper apocalypse crept in like Death in the Bosch painting. Not just bankrupt like Tribune’s papers, the Minneapolis Star Tribune or The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and the whole Journal Register stable — and not just threatened with closing like Hearst has done with the San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It’s really over.

When it goes, William Dean Singleton’s Denver-based MediaNews Group will still publish the Denver Post. Still, half the printed news that Colorado residents have been used to reading will be gone.