Boondoggle

One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

Of newspapers and advertisements

Rosa Brooks’ candid (final) column in the LA Times is worth reading, and offers some valuable solutions for the crisis facing the American newspaper — which she wisely eschews comparing to Darfur — but I wonder if she slightly misdiagnoses cause and effect.

Years of foolish policies have left us with a choice: We can bail out journalism, using tax dollars and granting licenses in ways that encourage robust and independent reporting and commentary, or we can watch, wringing our hands, as more and more top journalists are laid off or bail out, leaving us with nothing in our newspapers but ads, entertainment features and crossword puzzles.

latimesA shortage of original reporting will indeed result in a sparser version of the newspaper as we know it, but I question whether more advertisements, or even an increased proportion of advertisements, will follow from the newspaper’s decline. As I see it, one of the causes of newspapers’ struggles is that they failed to capture the advertising opportunity that was taken advantage of by sites like craigslist, Facebook, Google, etc. Newspapers’ revenues being driven by advertisements, they missed the wave that carried ad-viewers (or “readers,” as we sometimes euphemistically call them) to the Web. Therefore, it seems to follow that, if fewer people are reading papers, advertisers will be less likely to spend the money to include ads in papers. The problem seems to be the reverse of what Brooks prognosticates; a shortage of ads is both the cause and the product of newspapers’ ill fortunes.

(image from flickr user newyork808 under a Creative Commons license)

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April 9, 2009 - Posted by | media | , ,

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