Saturday, May 27, 2006

Liberal News Outlets in Trouble -- More Evidence

I noticed a tiny little entry today on the UPI wire that I believe is evidence that the US News media is on its way to irrelevance due to the priority they place on their political agenda rather than reporting the news and giving a thoughtful analysis. Here is what it said:

Beginning June 6, Britain's The Times of London tabloid newspaper will begin publishing a northeastern U.S. edition.

The daily will be printed on New York Post presses, which is another holding of News Corp., and will target wealthy readers in the finance and media industries, or "the penthouse demographic," said Robert Thomson, editor of the Times.

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch approved the plans for the U.S. edition, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Thomson said the offshoot was decided after it was realized several hundred copies were being flown to the U.S. northeast each day, along with the fact the Times' Web site receives three million unique U.S. hits each month.

Now imagine that. New York's "penthouse set" reading a foreign paper rather than the New York Times. What is it about The Times of London that might make it a desirable read? A lack of spin immediately comes to mind coupled with world class credibility. These are qualities the New York Times utterly lacks in the former and is losing in the latter.

Movers and shakers of the world, the people who engage in business decisions that impact billions of dollars, need an accurate picture of world events. They can not afford to base their business decisions on political spin and wishful thinking from political hacks posing as journalists publishing in a propaganda rag. They need accurate information and thoughtful analysis, not spin and clever syntax loaded with innuendo.

Like these "penthouse set" readers, I find I go more these days to the foreign press, albeit electronically. I find the coverage from outlets such as The Times of London and others to be refreshingly free of domestic US political spin and the analysis to be competent and insightful. As the major US papers become more interested in pushing their agenda than in reporting the news, more people are going to find themselves seeking alternatives. In today's electronic age competing papers are only keystrokes away. The notion that one could corner the information market by being the only paper in town is as obsolete as the dial telephone.

Circulation rates are falling among the old line major US papers. Papers such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times (hmm, why doesn't a Chicago paper immediately come to mind in that mix? I'll have to ponder that some.) are becoming less influential as the decision makers now dilute the influence of these papers with alternative news sources offering less spin and more objectivity. At the same time the number of people subscribing to hard copy Times of London and even domestic papers such as The Washington Times are increasing. It isn't limited to the print media either. People are turning away from the network news outlets and cable outlets such as CNN and MSNBC and turning to outlets such as Fox News. There was a time in the not so distant past when The Larry King Show was the number one cable news show. Larry King is now listed sixth in the latest ratings I have seen and all five higher rated shows are Fox News programs. Larry King is still number one at CNN but CNN is shedding viewers. Its influence is waning as the influence of alternative outlets grow. It is also interesting to note that Fox News happens to be owned by the same group that owns The Times of London. Interesting? You bet. Coincidence? I think not. News Corp is driven by profit, not ideology. They hire people having a broad spectrum of viewpoints, not all marching in lockstep to a particular political drum.

This shouldn't surprise anyone in a market based economy. If something is produced that is judged to be of inferior quality or utility, people will find alternative sources of supply that fill their needs. The news organizations need to ask themselves why they are in business. Being a political outlet is a perfectly valid model but it presents certain business challenges when you consider that in so doing you are probably alienating half the potential consumers of your product. You are likely to end up preaching to the choir. And if that choir has several outlets of the same propaganda from which to choose, you are only going to get a portion of that half of the potential consumer base. If you publish real news and analysis then you are a useful information source to people of every political stripe.

If one decides to take their product down the political propaganda route then one can expect the financial success of the enterprise to be a consideration secondary to getting the proper indoctrination to the readership. In fact, we are seeing this very issue with outlets such as Air America, who is rumored to be going out of business any day now and is shedding outlets, and The New York Times who has had their financial paper (bonds) downgraded two full grades this past week. So when I step back and look at the overall landscape I see The New York Times in financial trouble with declining circulation. I see The Times of London with circulation increasing in the US to the extent that they are going to publish here and that circulation apparently going mostly to the influential decision makers in the region of the new circulation. The conclusion I would come to is that The New York Times is not only losing its influence in the general population of the market they serve as evidenced by lower circulation numbers and financial trouble, it is also losing its influence among the powerful players in world economics. And the influential players in world economics are often very influential on the political process in this country.


Blogger Neal5x5 said...

This is very insightful and entirely accurate. The fact that a foreign, Rupert Murdoch-owned paper is treading deeply on the NY Time's home turf must be disturbing to every newspaper publisher in the US.

The decline in newpaper subscription rates and revenues has been screamed about in Editor & Publisher magazine, and to a lesser extent in Publisher's Weekly. However, both magazines (which are considered the gospel for many in the industry) continues to push their one-sided agendas without shame and are oblivious to the damage they are doing to their own industry. It's quite a shame, considering the value they have, or had, to the nation and the public.

8:00 AM PDT  

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