25 Ways to Save The Newspaper Industry
February 1, 2010 | Lists
In case you missed the Google alert, the newspaper industry has been snatched out of its boat by a crocodile we’ll call the internet and is now in the midst of its death roll at the bottom of the swamp. Publishers, the slow-to-move idiot who suggested, “This seems like a perfectly safe place to drop anchor and rub animal guts against the side of the boat”, are now reacting to the disaster their torpid business practices and shortsighted greed brought upon the industry with desperate, futile countermeasures.
Publishers tend to look past their own culpability when it comes to fewer newspapers and more Jehovah’s Witness flyers ending up in mail slots when they centralized production at the expense of killing any interest a reader in a specific locale might have had in picking a paper up.
Instead of addressing fundamental flaws in the way they do business, the oxygen-deprived brain trust, compounds them. For example, Newsday, with the 11th-highest US circulation, recently restricted access to its online content to paid subscribers.
After three months, execs were asked how many people had signed up. When the reporter who posed the question heard the response, he asked for it to be repeated because he couldn’t’ believe his ears. It was ‘35’, which is even fewer people than the most unpopular Facebook user has on his friend list, and would mean a pretty poor turnout at a funeral, which in a way this is. It should serve as an example to any other newspaper that reckons it can turn “this internet thing” around by opting for a solution that would only work with a time machine and topless celebrities or a huge amount of luck.
But we have a soft spot for newspapers — until a shut-in is able to turn his rent-subsidized apartment into a firetrap by stockpiling items of interest collected from the internet, we will not fully accept the web’s takeover of written content. Here then is our gift to newspaper publishers worldwide, who were left wondering what else can be done after Newsday’s failure to get people to pay for online content — 25 Ways To Save The Newspaper Industry!
1. Promote heavy Sunday editions as non-fatal weapons for battles among inner-city youth.
2. Convince sports fans of the benefits of reading about games the day after they’ve been played and analyzed in minute detail online and on TV.
3. Dump all remaining full-time staff members in favor of those willing to work below the poverty level and interns, who are willing to work for free in exchange for valuable on-the-job training to prepare them for a career in an industry that will be completely dead in five years.
4. To eliminate delivery costs, have publications delivered to fulfill community service obligations (DUI recidivists with revoked licenses would be issued a wagon, the On the Wagon program).
5. Offer readers the opportunity to have columnists read them their work in person over breakfast.
6. Fire overpaid columnists and give their jobs to writers of letters to the editor who are just as well informed if not more so.
7. Get social media friendly by limiting stories to 140 words each, and offer to customize coverage to focus on developments in the lives of subscribers’ Facebook friends.
8. Make up names for central figures and places in crime stories to avoid costly lawsuits due to sloppy reporting. For example: Police arrested a suspect, let’s call him Melvin, for murdering his boss, let’s call him Chuck, at a downtown fast food franchise, let’s call it purveyor of knock-off Mexican food that gives this reporter diarrhea.
9. Abandon paper publishing entirely and have reporters read their copy online prefaced by 2-3 minutes of video advertising and/or pornography. Don’t like it? Rely on local unsubstantiated gossip for your daily news.
11. Insist on press releases with quotes from notables already included. This cuts down on the time it takes to spell check and think up a headline pun.
12. When in doubt, pun.
13. New slogan for industry wide ad campaign: “Newspapers: they can also be used for wiping your ass while in captivity.”
14. Remember, Naked News need not have a monopoly on naked news.
15. Install razor sharp pincers in newspaper vending machines to pluck off the pinky finger of anybody who goes for more than one copy at a time.
16. Encourage staff members to take part-time work as PR writers so they get to see the start of the news cycle of most every story in newspapers these days.
17. Push reporters’ cars into nearest lake, thus saving the awkward “We can’t pay your gas expenses” talk.
18. To curb labor costs, have readers write their own reviews of restaurants, bars, tourist attractions. Wait, this is called Yelp.
19. Negotiate exclusive publishing rights with professional athletes for their blog content. After a big game, the athletes can share with readers what they thought of the game without busybody sports reporting intermediaries.
20. Film low-cost documentaries about behind-the-scenes news room goings-on with lots of journalism-specific product placement advertising—Gentleman Jack, Lucky Strikes, Starbucks.
21. Restore newspapers’ credibility by reversing trend toward advertorial writing — advertising rewritten to appear as a news item — by rewriting news stories in ad speak. “Swine flu, it’s not just for unhygienic farm hands any more.
22. Charge people a dollar a letter in the crossword puzzle.
23. Introduce a $50 prize to anyone who can spot the exact location of a “word of the day” in the print edition. For added fun, find a creative way to insert the special word into obituaries and announcements of foreclosures.
24. Make the job of paperboy more lucrative by giving the person something more valuable than newspapers to deliver, like firewood or drugs.
25. Encourage young people into the profession by arranging screenings of “All The President’s Men” and “The Insider”, while balancing this with the realities of the current state of the profession by throwing them down a flight of stairs afterward.