Local Newspapers were Monopolies

created May 13, 2019

In 2019, the media still blame Craigslist for harming the newspaper industry, even though Craigslist had nothing to do with the newspaper industry's failure to evolve to a rapidly changing digital information landscape.

The media claim that Google and Facebook are a duopoply because those two orgs built services that are enjoyed by billions of people everyday. Individuals, businesses, and groups find utility with Google's and Facebook's many products.

The media whine that Google and Facebook have gobbled up most of the digital advertising business. The media fail to grasp the basic concept that ads follow people. Google and Facebook built better mousetraps.

Technological evolution happens. With the media constantly playing the blame game and not accepting responsibility, the media are ignoring science.

For many years, local newspapers had a monopoly on local advertising, at least with classifieds, which comprised more than 50 percent of the newspaper industry's revenue. Craigslist, which started in 1995 as an email list of interesting websites, did not force the newspaper industry to rely heavily on classified ad revenue for decades.

When the local newspaper industry thrived, did the newspaper industry whine about its monopoly or near monopoly on local advertising, the way that it now whines about Craigslist, Google, and Facebook?

Did the newspaper industry demand government regulation of the newspaper industry because of the newspaper industry's monopoly on local advertising?

It seems that when the newspaper industry had a monopoly at the local level, then that was okay. But when the local newspaper industry needs a scapegoat for its self-inflicted problems, then it's time for government interference.

Big Newspaper was okay when it reigned, but today's Big Tech or Big Social Media is bad, according to the newspaper industry.

May 12, 2019 NY Times story about the newspaper "war" in New Orleans.

As print advertising has plummeted across the industry, newspaper businesses that once enjoyed profitable local monopolies have struggled to stay afloat.

The NY Times admits that newspaper businesses had local monopolies. Profitable.

When did the newspaper industry start becoming unprofitable? According to a 2004 letter from one of the Block family members, the Toledo Blade had not made a profit, since the early 1980s. Has the Blade become profitable, since 2004? Doubtful. Is it possible that the Blade has been unprofitable for over 35 years? Likely.

The other Block Communications businesses, cable TV and internet access, have been profitable. These other family businesses have subsidized the Blade for decades.

The internet started around 1970. The web started around 1990. Allegedly, the Blade stopped being profitable about eight years before Tim Berners-Lee invented the web and about 13 years before Craigslist and Google started and about 22 years before Facebook began. And the Blade started in 1835.

How in the hell is it Big Tech's fault when the Toledo Blade had a 155-year head start on the web?

In my opinion, local newspapers will not be a part of the local media landscape in the future. Too much archaic thinking still exists with newspapers.

When I subscribe to a digital "newspaper", then I expect no ads. The counter argument is that all print newspapers had ads, regardless if the reader was a subscriber. See, that's ancient thinking from last century that has no place near the start of the third decade of the 21st century.

I'd like to see local journalism exist in the future. But I would like the future of local journalism to be serious, investigative journalism, conducted by people who have no interest in being friends with local politicians, business leaders, developers, real estate moguls, non-profit leaders, etc.

I'd like the future of local journalism to be a bit adversarial. We don't have that today in Toledo because the Toledo Blade newspaper leadership and the Block family that runs the Blade and other Block Communications businesses are too friendly with local elites. That seems like a conflict of interest. How can proper investigations be conducted on friendly orgs?

This is why I don't subscribe to the myth advanced by journalists that local media is needed to keep local corruption in check. When the newspaper publishers pal around with so-called local leaders, then in my opinion, it's possible that today's newspapers can "look the other way" when something smelly occurs.

The future of local media may come from brash, lean, feisty, digital startups that do not exist today. Let someone else peddle the soft news, which has its place in local media. It's nice to know about sports, new restaurant openings, and entertainment events.

But we need to know, or a few of us would like to know what's occurring in the dark crevices of local governments, businesses, and non-profits that use our tax dollars.

A small investigative unit that publishes infrequently, not even daily, might exist on subscriptions or other funding means, not advertising. It's unlikely that the elites would fund such a media org, but an interested citizenry that desires to be informed might fund it.

Sadly, I'm guessing that only a tiny percentage of Toledo or Lucas County residents would be interested in funding a local media org that specializes in long-term investigations. This type of media org, not the soft news peddlers, would expose local corruption.

May 21, 2019

My comment above:

In my opinion, local newspapers will not be a part of the local media landscape in the future. Too much archaic thinking still exists with newspapers.

May 21, 2019 - mediaite.com - NY Times Editor Dean Baquet Predicts Doom For Local Newspapers: Most Will ‘Die’ in Next Five Years

New, innovative local media orgs will appear in the 20s. By 2030, most local newspapers will be supplanted by local, digital, funding-sustainable, media startups.

Eventually, local residents will crave local journalism, and when that time arrives, residents will know that they need to fund local journalism. But that is years away. 2030 might be rushing things.