Thursday, December 10, 2009

On WaPo printing Palin again on climate change

You know it's bad when even Marc Ambinder got upset. The Post printed its second op-ed from Sarah Palin about climate change on Wednesday -- a fix-up of something she posted on Facebook last Thursday.

The points about what Palin writes have been thoroughly examined and don't need to be rehashed (see also Gawker's lovely piece from the other month on odds-and-ends bullshit from the Post op-ed page).

I just wanted to add something about the Post and its business model. The Post, like most newspapers in the country, is in tough times. Part of the issue is that it is now competing with various online sources that in some cases can be more 'edgy' and/or tabloidy.

This helps drive the Post to do things like print Wednesday's op-ed. Sure, they get a few extra clicks, and a few dollars. But that's not even a good business decision.

Newspapers are suffering mainly because they make less advertising revenue from online readers than from the declining paper readers. That there are new online information venues with more 'edgy' content is a problem for the newspapers, too, but a tiny one in comparison.

The NYT helps explain what I mean. Yes, the Times isn't doing well, as its subscriptions continue to go down. But its readership is bigger than ever (that's including online, of course). And the Times has done that without, for the most part, going overly tabloidy. People go to in huge numbers because the content is mostly pretty darn useful -- because most of it is doing what they're good at.

If the Times or the Post tried to out-Gawker Gawker, or out-Politico Politico, they wouldn't succeed, so trying is a bad idea.

I don't know how any of these newspapers will turn out in a few years. But what they have are great assets: devoted readers expecting some quality. The question for them is how to get $ out of these people.

Going tabloid doesn't do much if anything for them. It's short term gain (maybe) for long term loss.


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