Friday, February 27, 2009

Fido, fetch my Kindle

Read a good newspaper lately?

Read any newspaper lately?

If not, you might want to hurry.

Newpapers are dropping out of sight.

The deadly combination of global recession and the digital age are about to wipe this institution off the map of history.

Much like network television. You may remember the time when there were the big three. Now, they are just one more stop on the multi-hundred channel merry-go-round of television.

Newspapers are incredibly expensive to operate. The news gathering piece is perhaps the least expensive part. Buying newsprint and ink by the train car load, running huge presses with highly skilled technicians, delivering the finished product via truck and home delivery. The efficiency of digital communication and the willingness of consumers to get their news via the internet is doing the newspaper in.

Once, owning a newspaper was like owning your own mint. It was as close to printing money as the government would allow. Now, newspaper holding companies are trying to shed their operations or shut them down as fast as possible.

Get ready for one more memory to share with your kids and grandkids.

"Pops, you mean you rode your bike and threw paper onto people's lawns? Wasn't that littering?"

A way of life, thousands of jobs, and franchises that were built over hundreds of years are are about to be as meaningful as rabbit ears.

Hearst built a castle from the profits. Today, they will give you The San Francisco Chronicle if you will take it.

The ripple will be huge. The newspaper industry supports thousands of related industries and jobs. The paper industry. The ink industry. The newspaper recycling business. The newspaper insert business. Printing press manufacturers. The railroad industry. The plastic bags that wrap your paper. Computer companies, including Apple, that have digitized the production process.

Indirectly, newspapers have supported large local businesses because newspapers were the means of advertising their wares. Department stores. Furniture stores. Car dealers. All, by the way, sucking wind themselves. Their jobs are about to get harder without newspapers.

I had the pleasure of working in the industry when it was vital. I delivered the newspaper with help from my sweet dad in our neighborhood. I sold advertising. I covered high school sports on the weekend. (I saw the future Heisman winner George Rogers run over the future comedian Jeff Foxworthy while covering a playoff game.)

Later, I managed the advertising account of The Dallas Morning News. Was there during a nasty fight with, believe it or not, a second newspaper in Dallas. The Dallas Times Herald. The Dallas Morning News won. Put the other guy out of business with a brilliant business plan.

I recall the day the Times Herald folded and sold their remaining assets to The Dallas Morning News. Was in the headquarters building with the victorious publisher. From the window, you could see the Times Herald building.

The publisher said, "Folks have been asking me what I am going to do with that building. I'm not going to change anything. Just going to add one word to the outside just below The Dallas Times Herald sign. Museum."

That was a classic line. Wonder who is going to hang that word below The Dallas Morning News?

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