Bear with me. This is going to be a long post. It all began after someone sent me a link to an article further explaining why the game is getting really bad for those trying to etch out a living through print media. This time, it’s the New Yorker announcing that the clock is running:
Independent, publicly traded American newspapers have lost forty-two per cent of their market value in the past three years, according to the media entrepreneur Alan Mutter. Few corporations have been punished on Wall Street the way those who dare to invest in the newspaper business have. The McClatchy Company, which was the only company to bid on the Knight Ridder chain when, in 2005, it was put on the auction block, has surrendered more than eighty per cent of its stock value since making the $6.5-billion purchase. Lee Enterprises’ stock is down by three-quarters since it bought out the Pulitzer chain, the same year. America’s most prized journalistic possessions are suddenly looking like corporate millstones. Rather than compete in an era of merciless transformation, the families that owned the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal sold off the majority of their holdings. The New York Times Company has seen its stock decline by fifty-four per cent since the end of 2004, with much of the loss coming in the past year; in late February, an analyst at Deutsche Bank recommended that clients sell off their Times stock. The Washington Post Company has avoided a similar fate only by rebranding itself an “education and media company”; its testing and prep company, Kaplan, now brings in at least half the company’s revenue.
And it goes on and on. Newspapers have been in a slump for decades, but only recently have begun to feel real pressure due to unprecedented competition. And to be fair, they’re getting what they deserve: When you flat-out refuse to compete with your competitors — the “faster, better, stronger, harder” push of online publication — capitalism dictates that your customers will walk away.
In response to free-falling numbers, newspapers are trimming their pages. Cutting back on content. Cutting staff. Inserting more ads. Instead of making their product more appealing, they’re making less product to sell. That may be a good response when demand is high and you’re the only supply in town, but newspapers simply don’t have that kind of monopoly anymore. As they cut back on supply, other sources — from Digg to Fark to blogHarrisburg.com — are rushing in to fill the void. Fewer people find newspapers relevant, fewer people purchase newspapers, more subscribers let their subscriptions lapse, and the cycle continues. And this isn’t even beginning to touch on the whole social news movement.
I have nothing against our local paper. For all the merciless beating it takes, I like the Patriot. They’ve been a good read for the decade since I first became a ‘burger. But, like so many other hometown papers across the nation, they chose to do nothing in response to “this whole Internet fad”. Sure, they slapped together a poorly-designed website and use it to dispense stories that were already published in this morning’s edition (or, on occasion, publish two-sentence teasers of stories to be published tomorrow). But did they actually do anything?
Take a look at what we’re doing over at blogHarrisburg. Look at the liveblogging going on from Jersey Mike. Check out the Harrisburg / blogging forums. Scope out the Harrisburg Wiki. Look at the other contributors, from Beyond Second to Harrisburg Nightlife to Linglestown Gazette to Slow Food Harrisburg to everyone else listed on bH. We’ve all got a passion for our local community, and we’re all doing something about it. Some of us provide news coverage to areas and events too small for the Patriot to pick up. Others provide insight to topics simply not covered locally, period. Still others generate exposure for amateur artists. The list goes on.
All of us doing it for free. All of us doing it for the love of the game. All of us welcoming commentary, be it contradictory or complimentary. All of us doing it without the burden of advertiser conflicts.
And we want your views.
We’ve got a Harrisburg bloggers meetup coming up in April. The exact date will be posted shortly, but expect it to be a Sunday afternoon. It’s going to be open to all Central PA bloggers — anyone who lives in or consistently writes about the region will be welcome to attend. We’re especially eager to hear from people who have news and opinion to share about their neighborhood, band, small business ventures, sports team, civic group, acting troupe, or other community topic.
There’s going to be a lot going on with blogHarrisburg in 2008. Come be a part of it.