May 18, 2009

Singleton interviewed

MediaNews Group owner Dean Singleton on Friday answered a few questions from Michael Roberts at Westword about newspapers and financial turmoil in the industry. For one thing, Singleton said too much of the media coverage concerning papers has been of the sky-is-falling variety, and doesn't fully take into account the unprecedented nature of the economic downturn:
I'm still very confident that the newspaper industry will not only survive but will thrive over time. In a bit of a different model, but it still will. And I think the print newspaper will thrive over time. The problems of newspapers, in my view, are very mis-covered by media analysts today. They don't understand the difference between a severe economic downturn, the most severe we've seen in my lifetime, and structural change. There are both going on. There's structural change going on, and it has been for several years, and that will change our business model. But the majority of the revenue declines we're seeing in 2009 are plain, old economic downturn.
Asked about a recent memo saying MediaNews might charge for some online content, Singleton said, in part:
If we begin to wean our locally produced content off our free sites, then I think we can drive people to pay for some of that content. It's not going to be a panacea. But we can't continue to give all of our content away for free on the web and expect people to buy it in print and in E-editions. ...

When we look at why people quit buying the newspaper, it's overwhelmingly because "I can get it for free online." So what we need to do is to continue having a very vibrant free site that's full of user-generated copy and information about where to eat and shows that are available and other things. But we need it not to include all of our locally produced news. And that's kind of where we're trying to go.
Given Singleton's stake in newspapers nationally, and especially here in California, the entire interview (here) well worth reading.


Mike Rappaport said...

The interview is quite fascinating, in large part because Singleton sounds so reasonablt and so intelligent.

The problem is, he lies. Or at the very least, dissembles. When he came into our newsroom in 1999 after purchasing the paper, the swore he would never merge the Daily Bulletin with the San Bernardino Sun.

He told us the biggest mistake Donrey ever made was merging the Ontario and Pomona papers into the Daily Bulletin in 1990.

But the fact is, within five years of that statement, the Bulletin and the Sun were virtually the same paper under different mastheads.

So lie? Maybe not. But he certainly was dissembling.

Anonymous said...

For all his talk about comparing losses, I haven't seen too many radio stations going off the air.

As someone pointed out in the original article, Singleton is cherry-picking the numbers to make his point. Newspaper revenues have been falling faster, and for longer, than other media. The fact that for this period the numbers aren't as bad is hardly cause for celebration - it simply could be that there's a lot less room for newspapers to fall now relative to other media. Somehow, I don't find that encouraging.

That said, his rough outline for online is definitely where the industry is headed. Whether or not they're willing to make the investment in order to capitalize on this strategy remains to be seen.

Anonymous said...

I would bet my bottom dollar that this strategy will not work for his newspapers. They are incapable of performing any strategy to a completion. As far as his statements that it is a bad economy, this economy will not recover like those prior. Newspapers have lost classified, never to return in great numbers and they are well on their way to losing remaining national, major, and local retail advertising. That doesn't leave much to recover.

Anonymous said...

I'm still waiting for those vibrant web sites!

Anonymous said...

LANG has vibrant websites. The only difference is the masthead color. Cookie-cutter to say the least.

Anonymous said...

I have a difference of many opinions with Dean Singleton including how he runs his empire and the twits he hires to help him.

My biggest wish, please, please get a new photo of yourself.

Anonymous said...

They're officially closing the Valencia printing press and laying off more people. The flagship strikes again.