Sunday, March 11, 2012

Why the Star Cannot Sell Newspapers and Will Not Be Able to Sell its Content On-Line

If you want to know why the Indianapolis Star's plans to sell its content via on-line subscription will fail, look no further than today's newspaper.
Matthew Tully

The Star's leading political columnist Matt Tully writes a thoroughly boring column about his going to a Mayor's Night Out in the Lafayette Square area, which column he sums up as:
"In other words, they asked about the basics. That's what these events are about -- and that's why Ballard has focused so squarely on them for more than four years now."
Meanwhile Erika Smith pens an only slightly more interesting column about a Ball State University professor who is using junk he collects to make a point about our throw away society.

Then there are stories about the Colts facing difficult choices rebuilding the team, the new Department of Education grading system for schools, and a story about who is responsible for the State Fair tragedy.   None of these news stories are in fact "new."   They all concern matters that have been discussed publicly for weeks, if not months.

Erika Smith
Meanwhile the Indianapolis Business Journal broke a story about airport CEO John Clark's extravagant travels, which turned out to be an excellent update of a story done in November 2011 by Anne Yeager of Fox59.   This is in fact not unusual.  We live in a strange environment when the TV news reporters are breaking detailed stories while the biggest newspaper in the State prefers to rehash old, uncontroversial stories.

It's not that the Star is without talented reporters who can do great work when given the opportunity by their bosses.  Jon Murray recently wrote a detailed article analyzing the numbers on the ACS parking meter deal.  Alex Campbell took apart Indiana University's claims regarding the economic impact of taxpayers investing in the university.  Tim Evans and Heather Gillers was all over the civil forfeiture issue a couple years ago, while the Star has also published investigative pieces on the Department of Child Services controversy and the scandal at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

The problem is that those types of quality, investigative articles are few and far between.  Instead the Star tends to consciously steer clear of controversy, especially if those controversies will implicate people with political clout.  No better example is the approach Tully and Smith take to their jobs.  Undoubtedly they have received controversial (and interesting) leads on column topics.  Instead they choose column after column to address the most uncontroversial (and boring) matters.

At one time, the Indianapolis Star had Pulitizer prize winning writer/columnist Dick Cady on staff, a man who broke the story on Indianapolis police corruption during the 1970s.    If you wonder why the Star doesn't sell newspapers and its plan to sell its content on-line will fail, look no further than the fact that Cady's shoes are now filled by Matt Tully. Dick Cady is to Matt Tully as Peyton Manning is to Curtis Painter.


Sheila Kennedy said...

Paul--I think Tully and Smith are among the few strong points the Star still has; nevertheless, I agree with your basic point. There is no longer a "there" there--I stopped taking the paper after 50 years as a subscriber, and moved my own column to the IBJ, which still does independent, in-depth reporting, albeit in a more narrowly focused area, because once you wade through the diet tips, the sports hype and pictures of someone's kitchen, there's nothing left. Question is: who or what will fill the void? (It isn't bloggers like you and me--that's not our mission.)

It's very troubling.

Diana Vice said...

Sad, but true. Once again you hit the nail on the head. It's that way everywhere. As the Indiana Law Blogger pointed out, Lafayette's Journal and Courier is just a regurgitation of the Indy Star, a Gannett-owned sister publication.

Society of Socrates said...

The Star Editorial Board is so far up into Bennett ass when he opens his mouth you see the writers. All they do is throw him soft questions. They must love top down management. As for me. We need more local control. Bennett grading system is an other example where the Star writers gush over his policies.

Hoosier in the Heartland said...

Yeah. The fact that I can read the entire Sunday Star (including the comics) in less than 15 minutes -- but it takes me all day (and sometimes more) to read the New York Times says volumes.

And, I'm a news junkie!

Cato said...

I'm not sure why Gannett has included the Star among its papers to go behind a paywall. The Star doesn't exist to be a citizens' advocate and tribune. The Star is published by the power elite to shape public opinion, usually for profit.

One would think the power elite would pay for the rag out of their own pockets to keep the propaganda flowing.

Many Star subscribers would eagerly drop the paper if they had another easy distribution channel for the coupons and ads.

Southsider said...

A years renewal for 7 days home delivery is now $216. For those that remember 'back in the day' the Star is now the same size as the Indianapolis Times when it went out of business.

Maple Syrup Maven said...

Of course, NUVO did a far more extensive review of "Couched Construction" back in February!

Maybe that's where The Star got the idea to do their own review...?

Downtown Indy said...

And still the Star focuses on how to sell its content instead of focusing on how to provide content people want to buy.

They cannot stay in operation much longer with the (ahem) leadership they have now.