Tuesday, July 18, 2006

All the News Our New Fit Can Print

Five percent less stuff will take place on planet Earth, thanks to a business decision by the New York Times. The world's paper of record is literally shrinking, reducing the physical size of each page to save newsprint (the term for the actual paper). Therefore, the Times will contain five percent less news content each day.

In other news news, the Los Angeles Times has abolished hockey. The largest paper west of the Mississippi will no longer cover road games of local NHL franchises the Kings and Ducks. LA and hockey have always been a weird fit, but for a big city daily to abandon beat coverage of a home town pro franchise is unprecedented.

Falling profit margins are the alleged cause of these changes. That's only a partial truth. Falling profits due to declining circulation and loss of ad revenue to the internet have a partner in crime on the inside-stupidity. Readers, that is to say, former readers, have figured out they're being offered less product for the same price, but newspaper management hasn't tumbled to the fact their customers are on to the dodge. Papers call those customers "readers" then proceed on the assumption they can't read.

It isn't as if newspapers are the first business threatened by technological change. They may be the first industry whose response is essentially, "OK, we give up. Now please but an ad."

Back at the turn of the last century, the new-fangled horseless carriage posed a dire threat to every blacksmith in America. Smart blacksmiths began learning how to repair cars. Duller ones persevered as their customer base slowly declined. But none of them, smart or dumb, were crazy enough to respond by putting only three shoes on every horse.


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