Newspaper no, Newsgathering Yes

What if newspapers transformed themselves into news-gathering operations? That’s one possibility that came to mind when I read a USA Today piece entitled, “Papers take a leap forward, opening up to new ideas.”

The article covers some familiar ground: shrinking print circulation, Web sites eating newspaper’s lunch, yadi yadi ya. Then it notes one media paradox: we can can get streaming video of tsunamis halfway around the world but “people care most about what’s happening in their own neighborhoods” and that’s the news they can’t get.

That leads into a discussion of some “hyperlocal” news experiments, including “Bluffton Today, (a) free, ad-supported, 32-page daily newspaper and associated website … introduced last April for a South Carolina town of about 28,000.” (You can read more on Bluffton and other hyperlocal sites in a recent article in Online Journalism Review.)

USA Today also offered an interesting snapshot of the Naples Daily News, an E.W. Scripps paper in Florida. The following is quoted from the article:

“We offer content over iPod, cellphones, PlayStation, TV, radio and magazine,” says John Fish, president and publisher. “We want to be platform agnostic. What’s the best way to tell that story? Does it need video or audio?”

USA Today also reported that:

” … the Daily News has 20 people working on new media and six more who handle ad sales … (Fish) says new media profits are “a good bit higher than our print margins” and represent a smart investment. “It’s just going to grow in the future. And if we don’t provide the services, someone else will come up under us.”

Thanks to Paid Content for flagging the USA Today piece.

Wall Street approval? I recently noticed that Scripps shares were the best performers on a list of publicly-traded newspaper stocks. The source was a Poynter Online article entitled, “A Bad Year for Newspaper Stocks, A Worse Year for the Gray Lady.” The piece listed 13 publicly-traded newspaper chains. The analysis looked over two years and noted that, in all 13 cases, stock prices were down from their peak, with the New York Times being off 47 percent, the Tribune chain being off 43 percent and Knight-Ridder 21 percent lower than peak. Scripps was off 11 percent from its two-year peak, but its 12-month stock price was even. I wondered why at the time. In light of the USA Today writeup, could its relatively strong stock performance be a market endorsement?

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media