26 December 2006

Scripps Unwittingly Reveals Why Mainstream Media Stinks

The latest Barron's has a profile of Cincinnati's E.W. Scripps, a "pioneer" in the newspaper industry. Unlike most other newspaper companies, Scripps is doing well. How, you ask?

The answer, interestingly enough, is the same thing I've said about newspapers... except I was being critical (emphasis added):

[CEO Kenneth] Lowe referred to Scripps alternately as an "interactive" company; a "market maker," bringing consumers and retailers together; and a "product-information" company. "Traditional media is becoming less and less a part of the company."

Lowe goes on to tout Scripps' new venture, Shopzilla.com, which is basically what it sounds like it would be. "Our goal is to make Shopzilla a verb," he says.

It's an antiquated notion that newspapers' primary function is to inform. With few exceptions, this is not the case. This is a corporate country we live in; U.S. newspapers exist primarily to provide a medium for buyers and sellers to come together. One striking way to see this is to read a foreign paper or watch or listen to a foreign news broadcast. BBC News, for example. For a real shock, read an Indian newspaper where you'll see words like "vitiate" in headlines. This is from a country where English is a third language.

I am reminded of an expirement done by some college students a few years ago: the class took a NYTimes and cut up all the ads and laid them on the floor. Then they did the same thing with the articles. The idea was to see which covered more floor. It wasn't even close.

Another example of the "modern" newspaper was provided by our own Enquirer earlier this year. The paper advertised that it was seeking an "advisory panel" of local readers but when it contacted those interested, it sent them a marketing survey.

Hmm... maybe I really AM the person of the year.


MCDAC Blog said...

The problem with this media approach is that there are so many other vehicles to bring consumers and sellers together. This means that unless newspapers add something unique to the mix, they will lose out to other communication vehicles. Which, by the way, explains why all their attempts to be like TV news don't work. If you are just doing what TV is doing, then why should consumers choose newspapers?

ohdave said...

Nicely done.

Liked your last Bengals post, btw.

But don't lose hope. The Broncs and Jets will both lose this weekend.

I said it.

ohdave said...

PS Check my best of Ohio blogs piece tomorrow...