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Cast-Iron Advertising for Buick (1950s)

Buick Ads on Newspaper Paper Weights

Back in the 1950s, Buick turned cast-iron newspaper paperweights into ads. I have no idea how many cars these ad-weights sold (I bet Buick brand managers in the 1950s didn’t either), but — man — wouldn’t it be great to have one of these holding down stray papers on your desk right now??

More old newspaper paper weights at NYT.

Google Economist Hal Varian on Newspaper Economics

The Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prize

It’s nearly impossible to talk about the future of news without someone predicting the extinction of two species at once: investigative journalists and working democracies. You can’t argue that wouldn’t be bleak. But Google’s chief economist Hal Varian points out that the biggest cost center at newspapers isn’t the journalists.

“There are huge cost savings associated with online news. Roughly 50% of the cost of producing a physical newspaper is in printing and distribution, with only about 15% of total costs being editorial. Newspapers could save a lot of money if the primary access to news was via the internet.”

He also points out that newspaper circulation declines can’t entirely be pinned on the Internet: “Circulation has been falling since 1985 and circulation per household has been falling since 1947!”

Perhaps the Internet isn’t killing news, it’s just making what one New York Times writer calls a new kind of news junkie — one that doesn’t demand we spend enormous amounts of money putting that news on paper and tossing it to her doorstep.

Newspapers Still Getting More Than Their Share of Ad Dollars

Which means they have the furthest to fall as ad dollars follow audiences to the Internet. From SAI’s Chart of the Day.

Ad Dollars v Time Spent

Eric Schmidt on the Future of News

From Schmidt’s editorial in WSJ:

“It’s the year 2015. The compact device in my hand delivers me the world, one news story at a time. I flip through my favorite papers and magazines, the images as crisp as in print, without a maddening wait for each page to load.

“Even better, the device knows who I am, what I like, and what I have already read. So while I get all the news and comment, I also see stories tailored for my interests. I zip through a health story in The Wall Street Journal and a piece about Iraq from Egypt’s Al Gomhuria, translated automatically from Arabic to English. I tap my finger on the screen, telling the computer brains underneath it got this suggestion right.

“Some of these stories are part of a monthly subscription package. Some, where the free preview sucks me in, cost a few pennies billed to my account. Others are available at no charge, paid for by advertising. But these ads are not static pitches for products I’d never use. Like the news I am reading, the ads are tailored just for me. Advertisers are willing to shell out a lot of money for this targeting.”

The relevance problem with newspapers started with radio, TV and 24-hour cable news (not the internet), even if Craigslist, eBay and Google added to the pain by breaking down their primary business model. But all the whining that search engines (like Google) and news aggregation services (like Digg) are killing the news business neglects the fact that the Google News headline service sends news publishers a billion clicks a month. It’s time for publishers to turn that enormous audience into a new business model.

(Thanks for sending, Keval!)

As Newspapers Struggle to Figure Out a New Generation of Readers, They Fire Young Staff Members

According to the AP:

“The findings emerged in a recent survey conducted by the Associated Press Managing Editors, an industry group. The report suggests the massive staff cuts at newspapers across the United States will make it even more difficult for the industry to adapt and remain relevant in the age of digital media.

“Most of the 95 editors responding to the August survey said their newsroom staffs had shrunk by more than 10 percent during the past year. And workers between 18 and 35 years old represented the largest age group affected by the layoffs, buyouts and attrition, the survey found.”

Full story at Business Insider.

Readers Spending Less Time at Top Newspaper Websites

From PaidContent :

“Time spent on 17 of the 30 most-trafficked newspaper websites fell last month, while the rest of the sites had minimal, if any, gains, according to Nielsen Online data cited by E&P. On average, papers keep their readers for roughly seven minutes. Among the biggest news organizations, the NYTimes.com, the number-one website by monthly traffic, is still the leader: It kept readers for an average of 28 minutes per visit last month — but that’s a full minute less than the same month in ’08.”

Infographic: Newspaper Readers Vs. Hometown Populations

From GOOD Magazine’s section: An interactive guide to newspaper subscribers versus population in the newspaper’s hometown.

Newspaper Infographic from GOOD Mag

Why Readers Won't Pay for Online News (Yet)

Ad Age’s Nat Ives says it’s misguided for newspaper publishers to take heart in the paid-TV model that succeeded for cable and satellite, even when their competition was free:

“Here’s why cable and satellite subscriptions aren’t a good model for newspapers. In the first place, cable and TV offered something better than broadcast TV — much better. Their packages included perfect reception; many more channels, some with no commercials, mostly unavailable any other way; and types of programming you couldn’t get otherwise, i.e., shows with ‘adult’ language and situations. In the second place, cable and satellite were optional products people could buy to enhance their programming.”

Yup. But maybe it’s not over yet. Maybe news publishers will pause their search for a life-saving business model (a search that seems to end, alas, at hoping readers will pay fees for stuff that others offer for free) and instead spend those cycles thinking about better satisfying their readers’ needs. You never know — they might stumble upon a service so wonderful that we’re all willing to pay for it.

Another thought on why we were once OK paying for our newspapers: From the crack editors at ChasNote last week, Paying for Ethereal Pixels of News.

Paying for Ethereal Pixels of News

Rob Walker’s latest Consumed column, Immaterialism, on the lucrative business of selling virtual gifts and toys — China’s Changyou did $200 million in annual revenue, and estimates put Facebook’s virtual stuff revenues at $35 million — got me thinking about the media business. For generations we’ve paid money for physical newspapers and magazines. The idea of paying for digital publications, including the online versions of the ones we’d pay to get on paper (other than the WSJ or Consumer Reports), though, strikes most readers as ridiculous.

In certain media circles, this is evidence that a new generation of digital consumers put less value on news and information than the one before it did. Tune up the violins — the kids are killing the newspaper business.

I don’t buy it. Instead, I wonder if both generations take for granted the value of news content. It’s something we all expect, for free, as members of Western democracy. At the same time, we know that paper, ink and delivery trucks cost money. News is news, but getting it delivered to our doorsteps (or getting our own copies to read on the train) is “added value” that we’re willing to pay for. Online, we’re paying our ISPs and cellphone carriers for that value, thus we don’t like paying publishers a separate fee.

Newspaper Delivery in the Snow

As a longtime member of the publishing business, I’m not saying I like this point of view among news consumers. I’m just saying we media types need to own up to it. We have to put away the myth that our readers have been paying for our unique reporting and best-of-breed journalism; much of what they’ve been paying for is convenient delivery of something we expect as a birthright, like indoor plumbing. Now that the delivery is handled by other parties we don’t control (Comcast, Verizon, Google and others), we need to stop whining and deliver a new kind of value.

When people are paying a buck to send a virtual animal to friend in Facebook, how hard can this be?

(Or we can just wait for the bail out. See The Business Insider.)

Jeff Jarvis: What Schmidt Should Have Told Newspaper Association

“You blew it.

“You’ve had 20 years since the start of the web, 15 years since the creation of the commercial browser and craigslist, a decade since the birth of blogs and Google to understand the changes in the media economy and the new behaviors of the next generation of — as you call them, Mr. Murdoch — net natives. You’ve had all that time to reinvent your products, services, and organizations for this new world, to take advantage of new opportunities and efficiencies, to retrain not only your staff but your readers and advertisers, to use the power of your megaphones while you still had it to build what would come next. But you didn’t. “

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Full speech at BuzzMachine

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