Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Time For Indianapolis Star to Embrace the Future; My Radical Suggestion Regarding Home Delivery

This blog entry reminds me of the infamous commercial for over-the-counter medication where the pitchman says "I am not a doctor, but I play one on TV..."

I'm no expert on newspapers, but I am a reader of them. Let me, from a reader's perspective, give my 2 cents on the future of newspapers.

It is obvious the newspaper industry is in turmoil. Gannett has cut the Indianapolis Star's staff drastically. The reporters who are left are asked to churn out quick stories that are little more than regurgitating what they are told by others. Investigative journalism is dying on the vine. During this past legislative session, it was impossible to stay even reasonably informed of what is going on by reading the Indianapolis Star.

Unlike some people, I don't believe that blogs will ever be an adequate substitute for newspapers. I see blogging as more commentating on current events, with some original research occasionaly thrown in. But do I, with Ogden on Politics, fulfill the role of a reporter? Absolutely not.

It is clear that newspapers have to adjust to the technology of the 21st century instead of languishing in the 19th century. In particular, the home delivery of newspapers is little different today than it was 150 years.

It would seem to me that the newspaper publishers of the 21st century, cannot sustain the business model of physically printing out a newspaper and delivering it to the hundreds of thousands of individual homes. Doing so has to be labor intensive and extraordinarily expensive. Right now newspapers are cutting the investigative reporting and content to try to sustain this unsustainable 19th century business model.

I think it is time to consider radical changes to the newspaper industry. My suggestion is that Gannett scuttle home delivery and take the money saved to invest back into quality reporting and local commentary, which is the reason why people want to read their local newspaper in the first place. The Star could continue to print newspapers for newsstands, but in the 21st century they need to deliver their content to homes via the computer.

Bottom line is that, if things continue, newspapers will grow increasingly irrelevant. Gannett cannot continue to cut quantity and quality at the Star and expect that people are going to want to read that newspaper, in whatever format it delivers it. But if the Star returns to more quality investigative reporting and content, readership will be on the rise, even if that content is delivered via the Internet.

I don't know if my suggestion will work. What I do know is that the current path Gannett is on with the Indianapolis Star is doomed to failure. The business model used by newspapers for 150 years no longer works. It is time to try something different.


Downtown Indy said...

I would not pay for an online version of the paper they have today, or even the one that they had 5 years ago.

I WOULD, however, pay for a serious, in depth, quality, investigative newspaper that was demonstrably without either tainted ethics or a habit of mollycoddling the city's politicians and influence peddlers.

It could even be in two editions, like we used to have - and each one could take an opposing point of view.

I would want it to be filled with enough photos (NOT videos!!!) that it would evoke memories of the LIFE or LOOK magazines of yore.

And it would have to not take 30 seconds to load each page like the current does. I would not give you a nickle to read the current bastardized hack job of a website they currently produce.

Unigov said...

DI - the load time is due to Javascript. Try disabling it for a bit and see how fast loads - it's as fast as Yahoo, assuming you have broadband.

Without Javascript you can read allt he articles but not some of the dynamic content.

I have Opera installed as a third browser (behind Firefox and IE), and leave Javascript disabled, and use Opera to read the paper.

The question is why the Star has such heavy clue.

Downtown Indy said...

Uni, I know full well why it's slow. I initially was amused by their new IndyStar site when they plucked it up.' I can still today count as many as 12 scripting errors being thrown when I have tracing turned on. They load everything but the kitchen sink: 150 images, 3 dozen scripts, 5 stylesheets.

Unfortunately, many things can't be accessed with jscript turned off.