Category Archives: Guardian

Right Facts, Wrong Conclusion


Gets it… but doesn’t…

Columnist and writer Michael Kinsley in the New York Times today opines, You Can’t Sell News by the Slice.

Kinsley, like everyone else, is grappling with the search for the Holy Grail of how to keep newspapers alive.

In the course of his grappling he posts some interesting statistics:

Newspaper readers have never paid for the content (words and photos). What they have paid for is the paper that content is printed on. A week of The Washington Post weighs about eight pounds and costs $1.81 for new subscribers, home-delivered. With newsprint (that’s the paper, not the ink) costing around $750 a metric ton, or 34 cents a pound, Post subscribers are getting almost a dollar’s worth of paper free every week — not to mention the ink, the delivery, etc. The Times is more svelte and more expensive. It might even have a viable business model if it could sell the paper with nothing written on it.

The problem, Kinsley writes, is that even if you charged every online user $2 a month, that would only bring in $24 million, a drop in the bucket to The Washington Post or The New York Times.

What is killing The Times, The Post, The Trib and every other paper in the country is not so much the declining revenues from advertising (though that is a problem) but rather the cost of running the paper under the old, conventional model.

85% of the cost of a newspaper is the physical reality of the paper. The paper, the ink, the presses, the buildings, the delivery of a physical item to each and every reader’s kitchen table each morning.

This costs a fortune.

And it is no longer necessary.

It is, in fact, a burden.

Sell the building, sell the trucks, close down the presses, lose the pressmen, the ink, the paper and all the rest.

Cut your costs to the bone.

And then take out the bones.

What do you have?

A very profitable operation.

Smaller, for sure, but profitable.

And suddenly you have global distribution to more than 2 billion readers.

That’s a lot.

Apparently more people read The Guardian online in the US than buy the physical paper in the UK daily.

That’s what used to be The Manchester Guardian.

Editor Alan Rusbridger is rapidly turning what was once a local English paper into the best global newspaper in the world.  Very far indeed from it’s Manchester origins. You can’t hardly find a Manchester local story in the paper, but you do find some of the very best reporting and writing in the English-speaking world.

When it comes time to cut costs because revenue is down, it is an act of suicide to cut the editorial side. Why do you think people read the paper in the first place?

What should be cut are the vestiges of an old and unworkable business model for distributing the news.


The solution to the crisis facing newspapers today?

More of the news…. less of the paper.


From The Guardian

Speaking yesterday at the Society of Editors Conference in Bristol, England, I was interviewed by Jemima Kiss, their digital correspondent. Using a $129 ‘flip’ camera, she shot and uploaded it almost immediately. Sure beats the time and expense of using a ‘crew’.

The Guardian has been one of the more aggressive newspapers in moving into the online/video world, and doing it rather better than most.  In past posts, I have extolled online video from our old pal Gary Younge

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see what makes The Guardian so good.

Among a sea of typical conference speakers, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger stood out far ahead of the crowd.  Razor smart, funny, self-deprecating yet clever, you can see immediately that he is the kind of newspaper guy who ‘gets it’.

We’ll see if this turns into anything more than an interesting day.

The Power of the Press

Best newspaper in the world? Maybe…

Last night we had dinner with our friend Gary Younge.

He is a columnist for The Guardian, the British newspaper. A paper many believe to be among the world’s best.

Gary noted that although Britain is the size of Michigan, it has one of the most vibrant and varied newspaper environments in the world. Each day The Times, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and many more papers are produced, purchased and read.

It is an incredibly media rich environment, and as a result, it is also an environment alive in public discourse; and a very knowledgeable and well read population.

In the US, the newspaper business used to be like this. Once, there were 17 daily newspapers in New York. Today, most cities have but one paper, and for anyone who travels, the depressing comic book USA TODAY often appears under the door. (Best investigative paragraph).

What happened?

In the 1950s, television eviscerated newspapers.

They took the audiences and they took the advertisers.

But they didn’t reproduce the quality of the journalism, despite their reach.

They couldn’t do it because the process of making television, particularly television news, which has such a short shelf life, was so complex and expensive that they were lucky to get on the air. And what they did get on the air was little more than an intellectually stunted shadow of what newspapers had been able to produce.

Newspapers had been able to produce so much richness because the process of making a newspaper, the process of reporting, was so much simpler and cheaper to do. Here is the notebook, there is the door. Be back by 6.

Well, now, suddenly, video has become as simple and cheap to produce as text. Final Cut Pro is a word processing software for images. And pretty much anyone can learn to do this, and do it well.

The ball and chain that crippled television journalism since its inception – the need for the cameraman, the editor, the producer, the van… all that is now gone. History. Finished.

Video reporting can be as simple, direct and inexpensive as newspaper reporting.

So we are at a moment of great potential.

We can recoup the aggressive, vibrant and powerful dialogue that a world of many newspapers and many voices once gave us – except now it is going to be in video, as well as text.

Who will embark on this next generation of journalism? TV stations? I doubt it They are too mired in old and expensive ways of working. Newspapers? Perhaps…. they have a visceral feel for good journalism. Or perhaps it will come from some as yet undiscovered internet enterprise. An eBay for journalists? Maybe.

But one thing is for sure. As the complexity and cost of the act of making video driven journalism continues to drop, it opens the door to a whole new world of multiple voices and a return to a city of 17 daily papers – but this time, in video.

A Camera as the Pencil


Sean Smith is a full time Videojournalist with The Guardian, the UK newspaper.

He is one of a new breed of journalists who carry their own small digital camera and report on their own.

Last week he won a Royal Television Society award for best news – International. This is particularly noteworthy as Smith works for a newspaper and not a TV network. But as newspapers move to the web and the web moves to video, the distinction between print journalist and video journalist is rapidly vanishing.

Here, I quote from The Guardian itself: Sean Smith, the Guardian’s award-winning war photographer, spent nearly six weeks with the 101st Division of the US army in Iraq. Watch his haunting observational film that explodes the myth around the claims that the Iraqis are preparing to take control of their own country.

Pretty good.

Pretty impressive work.. particularly from a newspaper.

Increasingly, I am coming to believe that the future of television news will in fact be found as newspapers move aggressively to re-invent themselves and TV news crews tragically simply talk themselves into irrelevance.

I am indebted to John Naughton for making me aware of this.

Who Lost Afghanistan?


….jeez… it was here a minute ago…..

There are several great advantages to living a trans-Atlantic life:

You get to rack up endless frequent flier miles.

You get to really understand your body clock.

You get to see the very same news stories from two totally different perspectives. Continue reading