Archive for October, 2008

Another Requiem for the News Biz

By Sally Saville Hodge

In another sign of the times, the venerable Christian Science Monitor announced today that it will cease its daily print publication by next April to focus on its online operations and a weekly print newspaper/magazine hybrid.

With the Monitor’s print circulation, 50,000, a fraction of the 230,000 it had in its heyday in 1970, it’s giving in to the inevitable: Its future – readers and profits – lies with the Web. With 5 million online readers a month, it’s pretty hard to ignore the math.

The question is how long is it going to take before others follow? This Internet-only concept may prove to be a workable model. But what’s long been clear, and the hemorrhaging underscores, is that the vast majority of dailies just haven’t been able to find the right balance between online and print.

Back in early September, The Bad Pitch Blog’s Richard Laermer wrote about traditional media’s demise, positing that any PR folks still aiming for print placements had better scurry. Soon, there’ll be no one left to pitch if they don’t get with the online program.

It’s unclear now how many will be laid off from the Monitor with this new move. But Laermer aptly makes his case with the following list (which I cite verbatim):

• Seventy people cut from the News-Observer in Raleigh.
• A while back over 100 gone from The New York Times including almost all the second-string critics and long-lost colleague Barnaby Feder, a science guy who has been there since, well, anyone was a reporter.
• The Los Angles Times, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, Newsday, Baltimore Sun hemorrhaging crucial staffers.
• The Dallas Morning News cutting 500 jobs in the next month.
• The Star-Ledger says if there are no takers of cuts, the parent will sell!
• Fortune Small Business drops its entire staff, The Wall Street Journal cuts a variety and Fortune kills off dozens. The Record in NJ closes down its (?) headquarters and makes everyone work at home.
• An Atlanta Journal-Constitution staffer tells us that they’re having daily meetings now… and that if we have any stories pending, to hurry up and get them written.

Meanwhile, today’s Wall Street Journal reported accelerated circulation declines at the largest U.S. newspapers, “owing to readers’ continuing defection to the Web…”

I don’t hold with Laermer’s view that it’s a waste of time to be pitching anything other than online venues in this environment. Certainly, the Monitor’s new hybrid print product, for example, may still have some reporters on staff who are open to smart pitches. And hits there (not to mention the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, et. al.) are still going to win points for credibility, if not for viral influence.

But the operative words are “smart pitches.” Shrinking pools of traditional journalists and outlets translate into limited time and patience for irrelevant, poorly researched, and flatly written pitches. That’s always been true. Only now, it’s more so.

October 28, 2008 at 10:01 pm 1 comment

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