Hey, you! Yes, you. I need to see you in my Newspaper.

Everything is lost.

Newspapers are doomed.

You’ve read it on the Internet. You’ve heard it on the TV. You can even read it in the papers (for the moment).

If you weren’t listening carefully, you might even say you’d heard it from me.

But the thing is, I don’t think that’s true. I think newspapers are spectacularly well designed to do what they do- to give you information, entertainment and a sense of commonality with other readers.

I just don’t think that existing newspaper publishers have come up with a way to keep paying for their big buildings full of people with the money collected from selling them.

But, as I hope I’ve mentioned at least once before, I still want to read a newspaper. An exciting, unpredictable current newspaper. A pungent burst of now in my hands. It’s going to have you in it. You’re going to write something for me that I’ve never even thought of. I can’t wait!

Gerald Cunningham wants to deliver it to me. I can feel it. He’s straining to get a lovely, lively miracle of newsprint into my hands. I want him to.

More than that, I think I need him to. Possibly, we will all need somebody to come up with something when (or if) gravity starts to tug the giant graceful zepplins above us.

And even if they stay up there, with their plush lounges and slowly whirring propellers, the rest of us can still enjoy our own lovely balloons on a string.

Go, tell him what you want. Write it on your own blog, or comment on his post. Twitter it. He still needs to know what you think. That’s what makes it better.

5 Comments

  • I really think you keep overestimating the profit margin on made-to-order stuff. If you print the damn thing full-colour, it will cost 15c per A3 double-sided in paper, ink, maintenance and depreciation before you start. Black and white would be 8 or 9c cheaper, but who wants B+W in this day and age? Then distribution. 55c a copy to deliver a specific item to a specific person on a particular day, minimum. That is what An Post charges, and their hit rate is only about 80 percent. They would be doing you a big favour to bother taking it on at any price, because you would mess up all their distribution deadlines. They really want the mail in the sorting centre by 7pm, which is damn all good for a daily newspaper.

    Then selling subscriptions. It is hard to sell a subscription to a newspaper, especially to an Irish person, whose planning horizon is based on how long it takes milk to go off. You will need to reward your sales team very well. I would say you would be looking at paying them 150 euros for getting someone subscribed at a subscription rate of 500 euros/year. So you only actually get 350 euros. And I forgot, there’s VAT on newspapers, so you actually get about 300. How many of these would you ever sell? I’d say you’d be extraordinarily successful if you ever got 10,000 subscriptions, even if the subscription cost were below 50 euros/year. Remember, we are talking niche here, not mass market, in a market that isn’t even that big to begin with. The Week, which is the closest thing to what you are talking about in conventional media, does 500,000 in circ, mainly subscriptions. That’s in a counry of 50m people. Those guys have been doing that thing for years, and it is a really first-rate publication, with proper editorial management and everything (which this wouldn’t have and wouldn’t claim to have).

    If you only go weekly, it gets worse. It will be really hard to sell a newspaper for more than 2 euros, and that won’t deliver much revenue at all.

    Also, this newspaper will lack the key selling point of newspapers – referenceability. Most people couldn’t be bothered with the paper. They only read it so they know what other people have read and so they can engage in social intercourse with them and understand the context of other media coverage. It’s function is primarily social rather than informational. Imagine the social intercourse with this newspaper – ‘Did you read the article in McGarr weekly about the Black Panther group organizing in Poland?’ – ‘No, that wasn’t in my edition.’

    Another key selling point of newspapers is thereness. You go to the Spar shop, and it’s just ‘there’. You look at it and buy it even if out of curiousity, and if you like it, you buy it again. But this is a service, not a product. There is no ‘it’ to be ‘there’. So you lose out again.

    All in all, I think the ‘Newspaper Club’ guys have the right idea. They’ve identified paper newspaper publishing as what it really is – an expensive hobby. -.

    What is the point of this tirade of thinly veiled invective? To set the stage to tell you all about an extraordinary invention – ‘The Internet’. It will do away with the need to print information and to have men running around sticking it into letterboxes.

    Eventually you will actually be able to access all the information you need from a little box you carry around. I believe this invention may even lead to a revolution in publishing. I think this is what you are looking for. Look at the likes of http://www.netvibes.com/, a home page that evolves and takes in the information you are interested in. This might or might not be the future, but custom-printing dead trees in the dead of night is definitely not.

  • Londoner says:

    A cautionary note. Newspapers still sell spectacularly well in Ireland, despite a pretty shocking fall off in quality over 10 years and newspaper publishing remains a profitable business. INM, mar shampla, could easily have ridden out the fall off in advertising in 2008/9/10 if it hadn’t shelled out tens of millions in dividends in 2007. In the UK the FT remains a successful newspaper, both in terms of content and viability, and is genuinely unfishable for a great many readers. There is a crisis in the US newspaper industry but it appears to be a result of overleveraging by private equity owners rather than readership falling below critical levels.

  • Londoner says:

    em – unmissable

  • I’ve posted some more thoughts on this at http://faduda.ie/?p=2139

  • I’ve been reading of the death of the newspaper for so long now it’s almost like a given. I’ve always found that hard to believe too. Newspapers aren’t going away anytime soon. As much as a computer, tech-geek that I am, I do love sitting somewhere comfortable with that wonderful, physical newspaper in my hand, enjoying all that it has to offer. I won’t be giving up mine any time soon.

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