Monday, June 30, 2008

Raleigh N&O Select isn’t the answer

In March 2006 when the Raleigh News & Observer “broke” what was then called “the Duke lacrosse rape story,” its parent company McClatchy’s stock traded in the mid-40s. At 1 PM ET today, June 30, AOL reported MNI was trading at 6.88. Moody rates McClatchy’s bonds as what’s commonly termed “junk.”

Like all McClatchy papers, the N&O’s engaged in a cost-cutting program which has included seventy recent job cuts, outsourcing, downsizing the paper, and combining with its sister McClatchy paper, the Charlotte Observer, on reporting in such areas as sports and state political news . The N&O’s work in tandem with the Observer is expected to lead soon to job cuts in both those news areas.

But despite all of the cost-cutting measures, the N&O’s and McClatchy’s revenues are falling faster than they can cut costs. Talk of a possible McClatchy bankruptcy is becoming more common.

What to do to stop – or at least slow - the bleeding?

I’ve heard some people at the N&O are asking why the paper should be “giving away” its content at the paper’s Internet site, Why not charge for at least some of that content, they’re asking? And why not charge people for using the N&O’s archives?

The short answer to all those questions is: It’s been tried and failed?

In 2005 the New York Times announced that henceforth readers would either have to buy the print edition or pay to read online some of its select content. And every one of us would have to pay to access the Times’ archives.

The Old Gray Lady called her “pay-for-view” program TimesSelect.

For more than a year, the Times’ assured everyone TimesSelect was a huge success.

But the Times’ hype didn’t fool informed people – including advertisers – who knew the principal effect of TimesSelect was to drive people from the Times to other news and information sources.

So it was no real surprise when in September, 2007 the Times announced the demise of TimesSelect in “A Letter to Readers About TimesSelect.” Here’s part of it:

Effective Sept. 19, we are ending TimesSelect. All of our online readers will now be able to read Times columnists, access our archives back to 1987 and enjoy many other TimesSelect features that have been added over the last two years – free.

If you are a paying TimesSelect subscriber, you will receive a prorated refund. For more information, please go to our TimesSelect FAQ.

Why the change?

Since we launched TimesSelect in 2005, the online landscape has altered significantly. Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources.

In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion – as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.
The Times being the Times, it couldn’t resist ending the letter without some self-flattering claims about itself, including its ill-conceived TimesSelect:
This month we mark the 156th anniversary of the first issue of The New York Times.

Our long, distinguished history is rooted in a commitment to innovation, experimentation and constant change. All three themes were plainly evident in the skillful execution of TimesSelect; they will be on full display as becomes entirely open.
If Raleigh N&O Select won’t help the paper, are there things the N&O can do to stop – or at least slow – the bleeding short of the job cuts and other draconian measures its been taking?

I think there are. In the coming days and weeks, I’ll be posting on many of them.

The first two posts will examine 1) why it’s to the N&O's benefit for it to decide whether to remain a liberal/leftist oriented publication or become a centrist, straight news reporting organization rather than being the former while claiming to be the latter; and 2) how N&O journalists, particularly editors, should respond to readers with access to the information and transparency the Internet and bloggers have made available to them.


Archer05 said...

Every now and then I check on Melanie Sill at the Sacbee just to make sure the ‘Leopard doesn't change its spots’ idiom still stands.
Fear not, she is up to her usual biased performance.
Sacramento Bee ^ | 6/30/8 | Editor
Editorial: Court's decision moves gun fight to Congress

“Cities have taken on the issue of gun control because Congress has left them no choice.”

“The powerful National Rifle Association has consistently opposed common-sense laws to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, and Congress has done the NRA's [bloody bidding.”]

Comment to - “Miz Sill-y” -
“When I read garbage like this editorial it makes me wish I was a paid subscriber to the Bee so I could cancel it.”

Danvers said...

Does anyone know whether my pet-hate Ruth (We Know You Know) Sheehan survived the downsizing at the N&O??

Anonymous said...

John -

Here is a another article about the entire print media downsizing:

Jack in Silver Spring

Archer05 said...

John, More bad news: The adapting to change plan, not going too well so far. A new round of cuts looms ahead for recent J-Grads.
Dennis McCoy | Sacramento Business Journal

Shares of The McClatchy Co. dropped almost 6 percent in trading Monday and fell to a new 52-week low, after the newspaper publisher was [removed from the Russell 1000,] a closely watched index.

Shares of McClatchy were [down 41 cents] — or 5.8 percent — to $6.78, a new one-year low.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I refuse to even register to get access to the Times, I can't imagine that people actually paid for it.

I would never give them any personal info and they will never be able to count me in their numbers.

Anonymous said...

A touch off topic but I've been wondering about everyone's thoughts on the N&O filing a court motion to unseal the autopsy of UNC student Eve Carson. An article on CNN was very clear that the N&O filed the motion but articles in the N&O and Charlotte Observer only stated the the judge unsealed the report. First, why doesn't the N&O say they filed the motion if they did? Second, what does society gain by unsealing the autopsy? Isn't this sensational journalism hoping to sell papers?

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