Feb 24, 2009

The trouble with niche

Going "niche" is all the rage these days in news publishing. Sculpt your coverage into something that a small, special-interest audience cares intensely about and they'll act as your umbrella in the shitstorm besetting the newspaper world.

But small, special-interest audiences have small, special interests. That runs counter to the very idea of what a newspaper is supposed to be. Trade publications and industry newsletters often ignore information they and their audiences don't deem essential. As a result, they and their audiences are walled off from information that, although not "essential" on first blush, might prove useful, even vital, but just didn't fit the niche.

When it comes to news, "niche" is the gated community of publishing. Which is to say, they're fine for those who want them, but not something you can force on a community.

Witness what is happening at the Deseret News, which is being "transformed" into a niche Mormon publication. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that an editor and a reporter were recently demoted because they wanted to stop the paper from slanting stories to make them "acceptable" to LDS readers and killing the ones that weren't. The demoted reporter was replaced by someone who "gets the tone" publisher Joe Cannon wants, state government editor Josh Loftin told the Tribune.
"They can never tell us what the 'tone' is," Loftin says. "They say, 'You'll know it when you get it.' "
Had Cannot started a publication for LDS readers, who would care if he wanted to strike the right "tone"? The problem is he's doing this in reverse and destroying something important in the process.

(Salt Lake Tribune story via Romenesko)

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