March 23, 2009
Brilliant Analysis Of The Reasons For Newspapers' Decline

From the business columnist of a newspaper that just dropped its print edition, the Seattle PI.  Three samples:

It has become fashionable to attribute this industry's woes entirely to external forces including: the Internet and its components draining away advertisers and readers; those darn kids who won't pay for information and won't sit still for information that takes longer than five seconds to consume; and most recently a recession that has clobbered what few advertisers the industry still has.

To put all the blame, or even the bulk of it, on those factors is not only too convenient, but also downright deceptive.  It obscures a long-standing truth about this business: American newspapers have been and continue to be, as a sector, the worst-run of any industry in this country.
. . .
What sorts of mistakes did the industry make?  Its reaction to the Internet is a mother lode.   Instead of using the Internet as a complement to its print product, the industry went chasing after the Web and offering its most valuable property -- the news it so carefully and expensively gathered -- for free, while chasing the chimera that online advertising would support the whole thing.
. . .
Those were hardly the only blunders made by the industry.  The strategy of going after younger readers with pandering and condescending content managed to both drive away older, loyal readers, while also alienating younger demographics who understandably weren't buying what papers were selling.  Newspapers treated conservatives with a mixture of revulsion, contempt, indifference and puzzlement, and there went another potentially loyal segment of the reading audience.

You'll want to read the entire Bill Virgin column; in fact, you will want to study the entire column.

If you have any doubt that Virgin is right in his analysis, consider this fact:  He has been, for years, the best journalist at either Seattle newspaper — and, as far as I can tell, the PI did not keep him for their new, online version.

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.  (Thanks, by the way, to the commenters here who pointed me to this column.)

Posted by Jim Miller at March 23, 2009 03:09 PM | Email This
Comments
1. I think that his view is essentially correct. The primary evidence of this is that the P.I. was essentially finished when the J.O.A. was enacted. That was in (off the top of my head) 1985. Well before Internet news was even a glimmer in anyone's eye. At that point the P.I. couldn't sustain itself and, if had been left to natural free market principles, would have closed. Leaving the Times to soldier on with the additional P.I. subscribers that would change over (and in better shape today to weather this current storm).

That the P.I. insulted conservative readers on a regular basis is just the icing on the P.I.s Chapter 13 cake. Astonishingly enough the P.I. is going to publish on the Net the same opinions and news that caused it to (technically) fold in 1985 and finally did it in today. Talk about bad business decisions.

You know, there are quite a few local papers that manage to give their papers away for free and keep on existing in an analog form. Why couldn't the P.I. even give their junk away? They should think about that for a few drinks.

Posted by: G Jiggy on March 23, 2009 03:31 PM
2. The PI's myopic, leftist reporters and editors(and I will throw Horsey in with the lot) had a large part of the failure of what was many years ago a great paper. My workplace used to provide the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times, PI and TNT each morning and as time went on it was interesting to watch as the PI become less and less relevant and hence,read. The reporting of eastside events and issues was awful, and much of it did not even make print. Given time, our family likes to read fridays WSJ on saturday morning and saturdays issue on sunday. Other than that its the internet and some cable. I suppose the Times will not be around too much longer, and in spite of how slanted they too are, that will be a shame.

Posted by: Paul on March 23, 2009 04:16 PM
3. I think the only reason the Hearst Corporation published the P-I as long as it did was on account of the paper's ability to bulldoze public opinion. By the results of the last election, that bulldozing was a success - the lefties won big time. So is the Hearst Corporation a nest of lefties? How will it benefit by this 'victory' just prior to its dead presses?

And why is it hanging onto the San Francisco Chronicle as it follows the P-I's death spiral?

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive on March 23, 2009 05:13 PM
4. Nice analysis, but the train already left the station. The nation's media is hopelessly and irreversibly biased to the left. I see no indications at all that any of the mainstream media source would like to be more objective, or to admit that they've become little more than a PR wing for the Democrat party.

And their main mission now is to run cover for Obama.

Posted by: Jeff B. on March 23, 2009 05:41 PM
5. In 1962, I told my second grade teacher that "P.I." stands for "political idiot". That statement has now been proven.

Posted by: JoeBandMember on March 23, 2009 05:56 PM
6. The main reason for the Newspapers' decline is Competition. You can nitpick with various smaller reasons of consequence such as, bias, poor journalism, coverage of certain events and locals etc. But, with advancing technology, other sources have been able to enter the field of providing news and entertainment to society. This Competition first came with the advent of Radio. Yes, with populations expanding the Newspapers continued to grow but, other than word of mouth, they were now no longer the only kid on the block. Then, came TV and now, the Internet. These three major advances in providing news in a much more timely manner is the main reason for bringing the decline and perhaps, the end of Newspapers.

Posted by: Daniel on March 23, 2009 06:27 PM
7. The Seattle Times if following in their footsteps. On March 20th, Obama gave his now famous retards bowling speech. (To quote Tropic Thunder, "Never Go Full Retard.") No mention of it in the Seattle Times. After it became THE national story, the Seattle Times wrote an editorial column about it. (March 23rd.) How can you editorialize about something you refuse to report?

Posted by: Walters on March 23, 2009 06:37 PM
8. Daniel: Sorry, but you're wrong. Millions of people kept their newspaper subscriptions along with radio and television. It's only in the last decade or so that subscriptions began dropping, and so therefore, did advertising inches because advertisers base their decisions on the circulation of a newspaper, whether it's paper subscription or internet hits. The fewer people reading, the less they spend on advertising. That's the bottom line.

Posted by: katomar on March 23, 2009 06:43 PM
9. katomar.....Get hold of yourself! What you described in your post was some of the details of deteriorating outcomes caused by COMPETITION. However, it is COMPETITION that has caused the decline of the Newspapers. Get It? Perhaps, not.

Posted by: Daniel on March 23, 2009 07:14 PM
10. It's funny, I just had the doorbell ring. Somebody from the times wanting me to subscribe. When I expressed a lack of interest, he asked if I could please just take the Sunday paper, "to help keep circulation up." Ahhh, a plea for print media in the Sound. I very politely said no think you, and got a VERY sarcastic "thank you for your support" in return.

The attitude runs through the organization at all levels. Take your moral superiority and stuff it. I don't need the 'tude.

Hairy

Posted by: Hairy Buddah on March 23, 2009 07:15 PM
11. #9 Daniel - Just a quick comment - Many years ago the Seattle Times offered 7 weeks free subscription, which we accepted. After two weeks we cancelled. I told them FREE was too high a price for such bias.

Some years later we gave up (for that same reason) on the TNT. It wasn't competition - it was bias.

Posted by: Dick on March 23, 2009 07:58 PM
12.
While the PI has definitely alienated a lot of potential readers, I suspect that the entire environment would have caused it to fold anyway. Their tone-deafness just made it happen slightly faster.

I believe this blog entry is much more provocative in discussing the situation that surrounds publishing in general in the internet age.

Posted by: iconoclast on March 23, 2009 08:09 PM
13. Hey Dick @11....If you had no alternative to get your news, you would still be with the Seattle Times. I agree with the negative factors listed but, without other Competitive news sources out there and having a desire to be cognoscente with current events, you would still be with the Seattle Times. In other words you had a Competitive Choice. Once again, COMPETITION is the Main Reason for the decline of Newspapers. Of course there are other reason for disassociating with the Seattle Times but, that is what COMPETITION is all about....CHOICE!

Posted by: Daniel on March 23, 2009 08:27 PM
14. Daniel: No, what I was describing is a crisis in content. Most people still do enjoy reading hard print versions of news in addition to all other modern sources. Local community newspapers are doing fairly well considering the economic crisis because their readership/subscription/circulation numbers remain high and most of them are on line and their internet hits are good. That is what sells advertising inches. The reason is content. Practice good journalism and people will read, and advertisers will buy inches. And that is what newspapers live on, not subscriptions, but advertising dollars. The formula for profitability is 40% story content, 60% advertising. And that's why they're failing.

Posted by: katmar on March 23, 2009 08:34 PM
15. Daniel,

What you are in effect saying is that newspapers could only be viable in a monopoly environment. Competition is not why a paper "folds". Failure to address the competition is a valid manner is the real reason. Now, it could be that papers would decline because of the march of progress ad it becomes "old tech", but just because there is competition does not mean something will fail. The best way to determine if a paper is viable is to look at numerous examples and see which papers are succeeding and which are not and try to determine if the circumstances are unique to that paper or if it simply has found a way compete by being efficient and having a product that people want.

The fact that the PI did not find sufficient demand for its product does not mean that it could not have, and its failure to be broad enough to reach more customers could very well have been the major factor of it not surviving this new environment and not just the environment itself.

Posted by: eyago on March 23, 2009 08:39 PM
16. katmar @14...You are incorrect in stating that most people still enjoy reading hard print versions of the news. If that were true the Newspapers' readership numbers would still be up, viable and still be in contention with the Competition. The Bottom Line is this.....If there were no alternatives to turn to, Newspapers would still be enjoying strong success. Since, there is alternatives aka Competition, Newspapers are in decline. It is becoming difficult to understand why you're unable to grasp this simple Truth. Once again...COMPETITION is the main reason...PERIOD!

Posted by: Daniel on March 23, 2009 08:58 PM
17. Friends...

First of all, Jim, thanks for the link to this excellent story. I have read it and passed the S-P link to at least 20 people urging them to read the whole article, nay STUDY it, and compare it to what they are seeing in their hometown papers.
Here in (Americas) Vancouver, I subscribed to the Columbian from the day I moved here in 2003. Never even thought of it (it was on autopay, and Mrs Mayor handles the details) until she mentioned to me that there were two price increases for home delivery in 2008 (from 12 to 16 to 20 per month). The first increase was in the summer, and given where fuel prices were didnt bother me. But then, the de-contenting began, followed by the second price increase (the death spiral begins).
Comics, TV page, all of the areas noted in the article (even columnists that i liked... Michelle Malkin... and those i didnt like but read regularly... Leonard Pitts).
I cancelled at the end of December. Unfortunately here, the only other paper is the whoregonian (whose investigative reporting division has been outsourced to Willamette Week).
I've learned to live without my morning paper fix (and I'm 53 years old... having a paper in my hands in the morning was truly a ritual), even on Sunday.

Pity to see it, but they bought it on themselves i guess..

Cheers to all.
Mike, The Mayor of Widmer

Posted by: Mayor of Widmer on March 23, 2009 09:01 PM
18. eyago @15....You and katmar must have the same thought processes that allow details and reasons for people objecting to a particular Newspaper to be the sole reason for failure and decline of Newspapers in general. Your statement. "Failure to address the competition" is a the same as "Failure to meet the Competition". In other words....COMPETITION is what drove the Newspapers into decline. I can't make it any simpler for you to realize that the final hammer is Choice and Choice is COMPETITION!

Posted by: Daniel on March 23, 2009 09:18 PM
19. Daniel...you are partially correct, competition did in the PI, and absence of such, they would still be publishing. However, competition has existed in one form or another for a long time. I think what others have tried to tell you is that it was really the inability of the PI to adapt to the nature of the competition that caused its demise. Every company faces competition. It's how they react to it that determines its fate. Do you think Boeing would still be in business if it continued to only make wooden planes?

Posted by: CM on March 24, 2009 03:44 AM
20. In uber-leftist Jefferson County (Port Townsend) I keep my personal political opinions to myself during contact with customers. If they ask, I'll respond that I am a conservative. Otherwise, I stay on the topic of business.

Newspapers would be wise to conduct their business in the same manner. Print the news, ALL the news, without bias or opinion. Consider the editorial page the point where someone "asks" your opinion. You are then free to do so and to explain your rationale.....or if you're a liberal...your emotionally charged, immature, childish beliefs.

Posted by: Saltherring on March 24, 2009 03:45 AM
21. Daniel: I beg to differ on your statement that most people do not prefer hard copy in newspapers or, for that matter, any other type of literature. Why are bookstores still a booming business when most literature is available on line or audio? I agree it's choice, but the choice is for content.

Posted by: katomar on March 24, 2009 05:51 AM
22. CM - katomar @19&21....I'm more than partially correct, I'm correct...Period! Not, every company faces competition. There is such a thing as the only game in town. There is such a thing as a monopoly. There is such a thing as a patent protected product. You are talking in circles trying to make a point that cannot be made.

katomar for you to say book stores are booming...Your Wrong! Book stores are no longer booming. Again, there is Competition from the electronic book readers along with other electronic devices including, some Super Markets and various other outlets that are selling the same products that use to be the exclusive domain of the Book Stores. However, the Bible has shown an increase in sales lately. So...Get Real!

Posted by: Daniel on March 24, 2009 07:40 AM
23. Daniel: I said I beg to differ, and you say you are correct, period, and for me get real. Do you see a problem there? Discussion is one thing. What you are doing is just plain ranting because someone does not agree with your OPINION. There is no particular monopoly on book sales. My point was that book sales are not hurting compared to their electronic counterparts, which would be considered competition. And that was only to reinforce my opinion that folks still like to read actual paper copy as opposed to other alternatives.

Posted by: katomar on March 24, 2009 07:57 AM
24. katomar...No one is ranting. Discussion or debate usually has the goal of arriving at the Truth. The original premise was that Newspapers were declining because of Competition. No one is stating that people do not like to read. The fact is, people nowadays have alternatives and common sense would conclude that reading hard print is not done as much as was done when there was no other Choice. You and one or two others cannot accept that premise no matter how it is explained to you. I'm beginning to think you must have a mental disconnect that you can't accept Reality. I'm beginning to think that you're a Liberal!

Posted by: Daniel on March 24, 2009 08:17 AM
25. Daniel: You just illustrated my point about ranting and insulting. Good job!

Posted by: katomar on March 24, 2009 08:40 AM
26. It's not competition that failed the P-I, it was the P-I. There's only two things you need to know about selling anything.

1. Find out what your customers want.
2. Give it to them.

That's what the P-I failed to do, and it's why they went under.

Posted by: Palouse on March 24, 2009 09:20 AM
27. My own habits have changed with the new media coming to the scene. I rarely pick up a paper anymore BECAUSE of their liberal bias (actually it's worse than a simple bias). When I do read a (borrowed) paper, I find the news is old and I've already heard about it.
I disagree that the newspapers should not have given news away. People are going to get their news online from whoever IS offering it for free. Where the local papers could have done themselves a favor is by ADDING more real, honest, in-depth, un-biased LOCAL news and interest stories. We've had pleanty to talk about here with the stolen elections, overturned Initiatives, corrupt county councilmen/women, screwed up State, County, and City projects, anti-business legislation...
When the papers just cut and paste from the AP wire services... who needs them? I can get that anywhere. Give me some local color.
Last but not least, make me feel like I'm a PART of the community, not an abberation simply because I'm a conservative. The feeling I get from most Seattle media is "my views are stupid, inconsequetial, racist, homophobic", or whatever other liberal adjective they pull out of the bag. Conservatives BUILT this place, but now we find we have no voice in the local media. Why pay to be insulted?

Posted by: scott on March 24, 2009 09:33 AM
28. I've heard numerous times that the main reason newspapers started losing revenue was not because of news competition, but from Craig's List and eBay. From what I understand, the classifieds were an incredible and stable cash cow for papers, even more so that ads. When you can sell your grandma's china with a free listing on either Craig's List or eBay (and have a much wider audience for the latter), why bother ponying up the dough for a week's worth of a tiny print ad that only a small portion of the local populace will see?

Others, notably Instapundit, have also argued something similar to what Virgin does: the news business generally devalued their "killer app", which is actual newsgathering, and turned it into little more than opinion blogging. Bloggers don't (usually) have the resources to actually go and talk to the people involved in the news. They can't go and interview the governor, senator, murder victim's family, whatever; they mostly comment on and analyze what reporters provide. But, the argument goes, reporters tried to become more like bloggers and instead of "reporting the facts" went off into more editorializing; thus, people figured they may as well just read a blog if the newspaper is just providing the same thing. Not sure I agree with this or not. Reporting has gotten more opinion-centered, but I think it always was anyway. They've always presented themselves as unbiased collectors of Just The Facts, but that's horsehockey. Alar, non-exploding Pintos, etc., you can go back and find out how incredibly biased even the so-called giants of journalism were. The internet has just provided an outlet for people to really examine what the journos do and get it out to gazillions of people. People quit minding "the news" when they started learning that "the news" was more like "their opinion".

Posted by: Frank Black on March 24, 2009 09:42 AM
29. Does anyone doubt that the dino-journo industry is viewed as an agit-prop tool by the collectivist political class? They will do almost anything to retain the ability of tools like the PI writers to shape popular opinion to turn on the principles of the American Revolution and embrace their counter-revolutionary collectivist ideology cobbled together from numerous European sources that have no respect for our unalienable individual rights. In the 1980s it was the abomination called the JOA. In order to gloss over the obvious antitrust implications of this foolish policy, it was deceptively presented to us as a means of avoiding monopoly. In point of fact, the JOA in Seattle imposed upon our hapless population a duopoly. During the JOA there was, IMHO, no meaningful editorial 'competition' among the duopolists. By enabling them to prop each other up, the pushers of the JOA allowed the two of them to erect 'barriers to entry' in the parlance of antitrust law. The ST-PI duopoly sucked the air out of the market and prevented entry by true competition. Maybe we would have media that did not insult the intelligence of its people. Maybe we would have media that did not revulse those of us (conservatives) who refuse to turn our backs on the ideology of the American Revolution. Maybe we would have a media that meets the needs of the whole metropolitan area and not just a small clique within the city limits of Seattle.

Now we see Jim McDermott putting staff to work, and another Congressman proposing that the collectivist political class's agit-prop tools be granted tax exempt status!

http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2009/02/16/story6.html

When it comes to Seattle dailies my motto is - "One down, one to go."

Posted by: John Sullivan on March 24, 2009 10:29 AM
30. This is a great thread. Thanks to John Sullivan for the link about

">McDermott's

(tax-funded) efforts on behalf of the newspapers. I wish my congressperson would underwrite some 'what are my options' studies for me. This is not the last you will hear of these efforts either. Look what Benjamin Cardin just introduced.

Posted by: travis t on March 24, 2009 11:40 AM
31. It's amazing how many here will lay the blame for hte P-I's demise (as well as the entire industry) at the feet of the so-called leftist slant of the publication. Care to explain why conservative publications have hte very same exact problems?

Get a grip people....just because a publication does not kowtow to your ideology does not mean it is evil and must die.

Posted by: Here it is on March 24, 2009 11:48 AM
32. Sorry about non-working link above but it was just the bizjournals piece posted by John S.

I used to buy both Times & PI faithfully every damn day, usually also the Journal American and one of the nat'l papers. I didn't mind that the papers were liberal, I just enjoyed reading them. But each biased story was like a slap.

Sometimes I would write letters to editors & reporters. I made it a personal crusade to get them to drop the inherently biased term 'assault weapon' or at least use a disclaimer as they do with 'partial birth abortion.' Of course I was not successful.

The slaps accumulate and every time fork over your money to the slapper, one feels a little pang of pain. Since they raised the price to 75 cents I have hardly even bought the Times. Maybe the trashing of Sarah Palin (and the propping up of Joe Biden) last year was the final slap.

Posted by: travis t on March 24, 2009 11:53 AM
33. Here it is: I for one don't particularly want a "conservative" newspaper. I would, however, enjoy reading a newspaper that adheres to objective journalism and leaves editorial content on the editorial page. That's the difference.

Posted by: katomar on March 24, 2009 01:41 PM
34. Hey Palouse @ 26....I thought you were smarter than the Liberal katomar. In the first place, the P-I has a good Liberal base to draw from for it's customers and would still be in business if the Liberals themselves were not accessing other choices for their news. If there were no other choices offered other than the P-I, the P-I would still be in business. Meaning, even the Conservatives along with the Liberals would be subscribing to the P-I because, that would be the only news source available. Like it or not, everybody that is interested in what is going around them would grit their teeth and continue to take the P-I because, that would be the only thing available. Yes, the Conservatives would try to ignore the bias and pick and choose amongst the clutter for their substantive news. Since, there are other Choices aka Competition, the P-I has folded in print form. These other choices have not only drawn the Conservatives, they have also, drawn Liberals as well. Hence, not enough subscribers to keep the P-I alive. Those other Choices represents the Competition. If the P-I had no Competition it would still be publishing today. Think about it. If it were not for Competition the P-I would have a "No Contest" in having the Market Place all to itself.

Posted by: Daniel on March 24, 2009 04:31 PM
35. Daniel is beginning to sound like he was one of the folks who lost their job at the P.I.

Posted by: katmar on March 24, 2009 07:01 PM
36. No Daniel, it's not the competition's fault they failed, it's their own. Businesses who don't provide what their customers want fail, period. They could have done things to be better than their competition and didn't. That's their fault. They could have embraced technology and used it to push their brand, and didn't. They could have provided in depth analysis of local issues that people cared about, but they didn't. They could have challenged government, all government, and didn't. They could have done things not to alienate a large part of their potential subscribers and didn't. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Posted by: Palouse on March 24, 2009 07:32 PM
37. I got a call from the Seattle Times once asking if I'd restart my subscription, which I had cancelled months earlier. When asked why I no longer subscribed, I told the caller I felt the Times news coverage was slanted. He shot back with: "Oh SURE. We run Charles Krauthammer every week but YOU still think we're left leaning...."

I didn't even have a chance to tell the guy which way I thought his newspaper was slanted. He just leaped on the defensive. It told me this wasn't the first time he'd heard the biased news coverage explanation as the reason for cancelled subscriptions.

I'm finished reading my news off of dead trees.

Posted by: diamondshards on March 24, 2009 08:07 PM
38. Yes, Palouse they could have done a better job at competing but, that's the whole point. They were unable to compete successfully with the Competition and the Competition put them down. Get It? Hopefully so.

Posted by: Daniel on March 24, 2009 08:31 PM
39. No Daniel, the competition didn't "put them down", they put THEMSELVES down. When businesses fail, it's because they don't provide the product people want. Sometimes competition will provide that product, sometimes they won't, but that has no bearing on the fact that the failing business didn't provide it.

Posted by: Palouse on March 24, 2009 08:42 PM
40. Competition certainly DID put them down. If it wasn't for the Competition, they would still be in business. Wake Up!

Posted by: Daniel on March 24, 2009 08:56 PM
41. If it wasn't for the Competition, they would still be in business. Wake Up!

Dude, you need to wake up yourself. Lack of competition is no guarantee for success. It doesn't matter if your product is better than the next guy's, or if whether the next guy is even offering a competing product... if no one wants to buy it in the first place, you fail.

The P-I was simply offering a product that no one wanted anymore, or were at least willing to pay for. The fact that they had the Times, Stranger, Weekly, et al to compete with didn't help to be sure, but those competitors are also losing subscribers as well. You only get beat by your competitors if they take away your customers. When the competition is losing customers as well, but only at a slower pace, that is not "beating" you. That is taking longer to go out of business than you.

Being a monopoly in a marketplace doesn't guarantee success when that marketplace shrinks to the point that demand can't support your business. If the P-I were a monopoly, it would probably be in business today, but for only a little while longer. By not offering a product fewer people were willing to buy in the first place, competition for those fewer customers only sped up the inevitable.

Posted by: Mike H on March 24, 2009 10:20 PM
42. Hey Mike H....If the P-I was a monopoly and monopoly means no competition, there would be no reason for the P-I to fold. It would be the only game going. Lets deal with Reality. If the people of the Puget Sound area had no other news source and the P-I continued to supply that news source however, less than perfect, the P-I would have what is called "A Captured Clientele". That means, the P-I would always have more than sufficient numbers of subscribers because they would have no other place to go. The P-I failed because it failed to compete. Therefore, it was the Competition that brought P-I to a close. Double Wake Up to you Mike H.

Posted by: Daniel on March 24, 2009 10:55 PM
43. Daniel, no offense, but you're REALLY are coming off as a smarmy little arrogant know it all. Really, you're not helping your argument any. "Double wake up to you"? Really? What are you, 14?

Now, to deal with "reality", the idea that if the P-I had a "Captured Clientele" is no guarantee of success. You're entire argument is based on the notion that the P-I is offering a product that everybody wants, but that others are offering better versions of. That doesn't explain the fact that as an industry, EVERYONE'S customer base is decreasing.

To put it another way... if a company sold chocolate, and was the only chocolate seller in the Northwest, the people buying chocolate in the Northwest would also be "Captured Clientele", as there was no other source for chocolate.

However... if the company sold particularly bad chocolate, or varieties of chocolate no one wanted in the first place, the lack of competition doesn't mean people will continue to buy this company's bad chocolate. Demand for chocolate will go down and people just won't buy chocolate because it's chocolate people just don't want.

Remember, if your choice is between a bad product, a product you don't want, and no product at all... people can and will choose no product at all. That is what you don't seem to grasp. Given the choice between bad products, worse products, and no products at all, people are choosing no product at all. That is one big reason for the death of newspapers in general. What they are currently offering, nobody wants. Period.

It doesn't matter if the P-I is the only news source in town... if the product is bad enough, or they don't offer a product people want, people will opt to just not buy it. No lack of competition can prevent this.

Just because you are the only person who sells something, doesn't mean I have to buy it if I don't want it in the first place.

Posted by: Mike H on March 24, 2009 11:33 PM
44. Yes it does matter if the P-I is the only news source in town. We are dealing with the P-I as it recently existed in print form. It was an enough viable product that if it was the only news source in the Puget Sound area, there would certainly be more than enough subscribers. The only reason that you can't grasp the common sense simple explanation of it means, that your a mentally disconnected arrogant Liberal IDIOT! Nuff said.

Posted by: Daniel on March 24, 2009 11:52 PM
45. I quit reading Pravda-Izvestia (circa 2001) because it offered an increasingly deficient product, and its decent sports section could no longer bribe me to pay for the sections I threw in the round can (which was most of the remainder, including front pages). I quit buying it because the lack of objectivity and truth became too glaring for me to ignore. I'm certain thousands of others who flushed the P-I felt the same way.

Posted by: Saltherring on March 25, 2009 06:07 AM
46. If it wasn't for the Competition, they would still be in business.

This is absolutely false. You are confusing cause and effect. There are always going to be other sources of information, that is a given. The mere presence of those other sources of information has no causal relationship to their business failing.

Those other sources of information did not CAUSE the P-I to fail. The P-I did not PROVIDE the source of information that people wanted.

Posted by: Palouse on March 25, 2009 07:28 AM
47. I've said it before and will say it again: When I was in the ad business, I had customers in this region tell me that they would not buy into the Seattle PI specifically because they thought it was a deficient product.

It wasn't about declining circulation numbers or their CPM or the quality of their printing. It was 100% about not wanting to be associated with the paper due to its editorial slant. They placed their print ads with the Seattle Times and other smaller local neighborhood papers instead.

To be fair, with a very, very few exceptions these same advertisers also didn't place ads on the Rush Limbaugh show (or any other program on KVI which was carrying the show at the time.)

Posted by: johnny on March 25, 2009 07:46 AM
48. Of all comments, I like this one by 'Frank Black'--"the news business generally devalued their "killer app", which is actual newsgathering, and turned it into little more than opinion blogging...."

When I need facts to back up my position in a debate, 9 times out of 10 I go to a news story from a newspaper. Bloggers, radio talk hosts, etc. do not gather facts, they interpret them. However, the papers compromised their one advantage. Right to the end, the PI was putting out ridiculously biased stories like this one.
It's full of supportive remarks regarding Obama's so-called stimulus. The obvious objections on the other side are ignored, nor is there much discussion of whether it would work. The benefits are extolled, and the costs are forgotten. The story is little more than an unpaid political ad.

Posted by: travis t on March 25, 2009 07:47 AM
49. The only reason that you can't grasp the common sense simple explanation of it means, that your a mentally disconnected arrogant Liberal IDIOT! Nuff said.

The crack about you being a 14 year old? You just proved my point. I never once mentioned my politics in this thread, yet you insult me by trying call me an arrogant liberal. Sorry, but my politics are probably to the right of yours, as are most of the folks disagreeing with you. Grow up.

That said, you need really to get over yourself and think for a minute. Just because someone is selling a product, doesn't mean that people will automatically buy it from them if no one wants it in the first place. If you can't understand that concept... well, I hope you never try to go into business for yourself, because you'll most likely fail.

Posted by: Mike H on March 25, 2009 08:12 AM
50. Please stop the personal insults.

There are still some interesting comments being made, so I don't want to close the post. And I don't want to spend my morning supervising comments.

Posted by: Jim Miller on March 25, 2009 08:23 AM
51. Well before it closes, I wish to express a point that Jim Miller exposed here. If I recall correctly, he asked for examples of MSM reporting/analysis that dared to even mention mistakes that the PI made, as opposed to external, uncontrollable forces that brought it down.

With all the stories out there, it appears that there was only one--by Virgin--that qualifies. Even a mere mention was missing everywhere else. It brings to mind the classic Russian photos where they airbrushed out the leader who had fallen from favor.

Posted by: travis t on March 25, 2009 09:23 AM
52. Mike H....One Time; People want the news and they will take whatever can get either from a good source or a not so good source. If the P-I is a not so good source yet, the only source available, they will hold their noses and take the P-I. It is that simple. Because, the P-I had Competition, people had the Choice to go elsewhere....So it was that Choice aka Competition that took the P-I down. For you not being able to grasp that simple fact after all this time, amazes me. Your not pulling my leg, are you?

Posted by: Daniel on March 25, 2009 10:11 AM
53. Daniel... there is a difference between not buying a product because there are better alternatives, and not buying a product because you simply don't like it. Most everyone I know who quit buying or reading the P-I did so because they didn't like it, not because there were better alternatives. If it was the only source in town, they still wouldn't have bought it.

Your entire argument "people want the news" is sadly not backed up by the facts. Readership for all newspapers is down, ratings for all TV news is down. People are simply consuming less news... or at least willing to pay for it.

Yes, there will always be a demand for news, but if the level of demand can't support the supply, it doesn't matter how much of a stranglehold you have, you will go out of business. In the P-I's case, they went out of business because they were offering a product people didn't want anymore, not because they were offering a product people could find elsewhere. There is a difference.

Really, there is more to success or failure in business than just competition. If you really can't see that, I pray you never go into business for yourself, because you won't last long.

Posted by: Mike H on March 25, 2009 10:30 AM
54. the only source available, they will hold their noses and take the P-I.

Why do you feel the need to use an absurd hypothetical to try and prove a point? There will never only be one source of information - tv, internet/blogs, talking to your neighbor, whatever - aren't ever going away. There are always alternatives, one of which is choosing nothing at all, which you seem not to grasp.

Posted by: Palouse on March 25, 2009 10:34 AM
55. If the P-I is a not so good source yet, the only source available, they will hold their noses and take the P-I. It is that simple.

You have demonstrated repeatedly you have no idea what you're talking about.

If given the choice of a lousy P-I and no news at all, I most certainly will NOT hold my nose and take the P-I. I will choose to go with nothing.

Just stop already.

Posted by: jimg on March 25, 2009 11:00 AM
56. I get his point about it being a competition thing in a way, I guess. I just don't understand why he's so hung up on it.

Is it really better to say

"The PI failed because it was inferior to the every other print, radio, internet based and broadcast media in the pacific northwest so it lost readership and ad revenue until it eventually went out of business."

-than simply -

"the PI an inferior product due to its failure to adequately serve a wide audience so it lost readership and ad revenue until it went out of business."

Either way, the bottom line is that the PI sucked.

The whole "if it was the ONLY source of news you'd buy it" argument is so strained its ridiculous. They would have to close down about 100 radio and tv stations, cut internet and tv cables, etc to create a monopoly situation, and if they did that, the audience would simply move somewhere where they could get tv, internet and radio stations.

Methinks the writer is trying so hard to disagree with the idea that the PI's left wing bias hurt them that he is getting twisted up in his own logic.

It kind of reminds me of all those college students who will argue that communism shouldn't have failed and won't next time. (It can be the CIA's fault, a series of bad luck, etc. but it can never ever be simply because communism doesn't work.)

Posted by: johnny on March 25, 2009 01:45 PM
57. Mike H

Remember last year when the AP was caught Faking pictures or as you said air-brushing them.

Daniel.

Bud you need to calm dowm, your insults are not helping your cause.

Posted by: Medic/Vet on March 25, 2009 01:48 PM
58. The hypothetical world where the PI is literally the only source of information is the PI would truly qualify as one of the circles of hell lol.

Posted by: travis t on March 25, 2009 04:32 PM
59. Travis T wrote:

Care to explain why conservative publications have hte very same exact problems?

You aren't listening to what people wrote. Yes even conservative papers go out of business when they throwaway fact gathering in place of propagandizing. Left or right, people want just the facts and not some biased (LEFT OR RIGHT) paper.

The fact of the matter is that the bias for the PI is leftist in nature.

Posted by: pbj on March 25, 2009 07:11 PM
60. Sorry to Travis T for misquoting him. I was referring to post #31 in my post at 59.

Posted by: pbj on March 25, 2009 07:19 PM
61. No problem pbj. I recall that post and when I read it I wondered, to what conservative publications does he refer? I doubt that there are more than 3 conservative newspapers out there. The WA Times, and what else? There may be a few papers in red states that back RINO Republicanism.

The major conservative media outlet would be talk radio. Rush Limbaugh is doing just fine, making more money than ever on antiquated AM radio. If anything the Internet has been a boon to him, because the internet (especially the left) can't seem to shut up about him.

Posted by: travis t on March 25, 2009 07:49 PM
62. The answer is that political reporters no longer get to decide what's news. ...

... Now, a thousand bloggers decide for themselves what is interesting. If enough of them are tickled then, bingo, you're news. ...
... Breaking the press monopoly is one thing. But the internet has also broken the political monopoly. Ten or even five years ago, when the Minister for Widgets put out a press release, the mere fact of his position guaranteed a measure of coverage. Nowadays, a politician must compel attention by virtue of what he is saying, not his position.
It's all a bit unsettling for professional journalists and politicians. But it's good news for libertarians of every stripe. Lefties have always relied on control, as much of information as of physical resources. Such control is no longer technically feasible.
Posted by: Ragnar Danneskjold on March 26, 2009 12:44 PM
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