[Was hard] news ever commercial?
Gerald J. Baldasty’s book, The Commercialization of News in the Nineteenth Century, makes a case clear as spring water that hard news has almost never been a mass commercial enterprise.
The American newspapers of the 1820s and early 1830s were creatures of political parties, edited by zealots. Essentially propaganda sheets, these newspapers were “devoted to winning elections,” as Baldasty wrote… Without newspapers, top political organizer Martin Van Buren once said, “we might as well hang our harps on willows.”
Political parties supported the papers financially, and when editors strayed from the party line into independence, the parties would dump their newspapers.
Politicians in Rajasthan speak about the growing trend in Indian newspapers to offer politicians favorable coverage for money. “A local paper offered me a package,” said a Rajasthan lawmaker. If he paid the amount of money that particular newspaper was demanding, he would get favorable coverage. If he declined to pay, the newspaper would slander him in its pages.
Vinay Sitapati, The New York Times. Hindi Paper Finds Success Going Hyperlocal.
FJP: Sketchy business model of its competitors aside, this is a fascinating profile of the Patrika newspaper group in India.
Rajasthan Patrika, which is printed in 33 main and 250 local editions has a readership of 14.6 million steadily grown since 1956 when its founder started the paper with a $8.30 loan. Yes, eight dollars and 30 cents.
Its growth has been attributed, in part, to focusing on the hyperlocal and going where other publishers have no reporters.
Rajasthan Patrika has not been accused of participating in the pay scheme indicated in the quote above.
Almost a year ago, New Orleans’ Times-Picayune cut staff, announced that it would stop publishing a daily newspaper in favor of three days a week and tired to pivot to digital first at NOLA.com.
A year into the process The Columbia Journalism Review calls strategic decisions made over the last 12 months a “rolling disaster" while the New York Times’ David Carr calls pretty much everything to do with the Picayune "a jaw-dropping blunder”.
But the Picayune isn’t done. Advance Publications, the paper’s owner, has announced the paper will be a paper. Again. Sort of. But in a different format. Probably because The Advocate, the Baton Rouge daily that’s just set up shop in New Orleans, is looking to eat the Picayune’s lunch.
David Carr tries to explain the Picayune’s return to print:
The new distribution plan is hard to explain, but I will do my best.
On Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, a broadsheet called The Times-Picayune will be available for home delivery and on the newsstands for 75 cents. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, a tabloid called TPStreet will be available only on newsstands for 75 cents.
In addition, a special electronic edition of TPStreet will be available to the three-day subscribers of the home-delivered newspaper. On Saturdays, there will be early print editions of the Sunday Times-Picayune with some breaking news and some Sunday content.
There’s more, but you get the idea — or not. It’s an array of products, frequencies and approaches that is difficult to explain, much less market.
The move was clearly defensive, unveiled the day before John Georges, the new owner of The Advocate, announced that it would expand its incursion into New Orleans.
If that leaves you shaking your head, try this take by Kevin Allman at The Gambit:
The digitally-focused NOLA Media Group, which cut back print publication of The Times-Picayune to three days a week last year, continued to innovate today by announcing a new plan to print on the days it doesn’t produce a print product, bringing the company up to 7-day-a-week publication, according to an announcement by NOLA Media Group Vice President of Content Jim Amoss.
The report, which is not from The Onion, says the new product, to be called “TPStreet,” will launch this summer in newsboxes around the city and cost 75 cents, just like the daily paper, which it will not be, because it is more innovative than that…
…The innovative publication is in response to “a repeated request” from home-delivery subscribers to get a delivered daily paper, but it will not be home delivered, [President and Publisher Ricky] Mathews said.
So, The Advocate’s is trying to invade and the Picayune is playing oddball defense.
"Our hope is that we will be treated to an invigorating old-time press war between The Advocate and The Times-Picayune," Jed Horne, a former editor at The Times-Picayune tells Carr, “but of course, it could end up being two dinosaurs fighting over the last mud hole on an overheated planet.”
Let’s hope not.
Ebooks accounted for 22.55 percent, or nearly a quarter, of U.S. book publishers’ sales in 2012, according to a full-year report released by the Association of American Publishers Thursday. That’s up from 17 percent of sales in 2011 and 3 percent in 2009. Ebook growth continued to plateau, however, suggesting that the industry is maturing.
Quality, serious journalism that is thoroughly reported, elegantly told and that truly honors the intelligence of its readers is the business model of the New York Times.
Jill Abramson, Executive Editor, New York Times, via the Michigan Daily.
FJP: Idealized, but a great nutshell.