Flotsam for today

* I’ve read a lot of positive things about the newspaper industry over the past several weeks.

And then I read this.

The Newport, R.I., Daily News will charge readers for access to news online.

A lot.

In fact, the Daily News is charging $345 a year for online only access … more than the $245 online and home delivery charge, and considerably more than the $145 home delivery only.

“Our goal was to get people back into the printed product,” publisher Albert K. Sherman, Jr. tell the Nieman Foundation. He said some readers, when hearing about the plan, asked “why would they pay for it on the Internet when they can go buy the printed paper? And that’s perfect — that’s what we want.”

So this small-town daily is taking the sheepherder’s approach to regain readership, without regard to readers’ wants. Sheep can’t think for themselves, but I have a feeling the people in Newport are much, much smarter than sheep.

They’ll figure out where to get their online news for less, even if the Daily News is the only information source in the market.

At those prices, it won’t be for long.

* I fear for the Boston Globe’s future after the Newspaper Guild rejected a 10 percent staff pay cut earlier this week. The newspaper’s owner, New York Times Inc., afterwards declared the talks at an impasse and instituted a 23 percent pay cut across the board. Now NYT is looking at the possibility of selling the Globe .

The union’s effort to shield its members from the economic realities of the industry, where a 10 percent pay cut would be welcomed in lieu of layoffs and pay cuts that, in some cases, have accumulated beyond 30 percent. As a result, NYT’s effort to shed the newspaper from its umbrella could put the Globe with a even more stingy boss.

Newspapers are not a popular investment nowadays. The Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and San Francisco Chronicle have been on the lot for years without attracting a single bidder. The Globe could also sit for a long time without finding a buyer.

On top of it, what shrewd investor would want to buy a company whose union won’t give an inch to help make it solvent again?

The union’s hard-headedness is ill timed. They could be the reason another great newspaper becomes dust.

* A follow-up to the meeting of newspaper executives a couple of weeks ago, where it was hinted they were planning business models for charging for online content.

They Poynter Institute’s Rick Edmonds notes that American Press Institute offered a second strategy that should also be considered — going after Craigslist to regain classified revenues lost to the popular, free classified site.

While many claim it’s too little, too late, there is some merit to the suggestion. While Craigslist is still highly popular and free, it is at a vulnerable state now which newspapers could use to leverage folks back to local brands (or a “unified national brand, as API put it).

In addition to the highly-publicized use of Craigslist by the sex trade, numerous smaller frauds and user issues have frustrated novice and casual users of the service. These are audiences that a solid local brand … like a newspaper … could take advantage of Craigslist’s shortcomings and ethical issues to build a trusted, secure network to sell items online and in print.

It won’t solve the industry’s woes, but it could help flatten or reverse the revenue problems at local newspapers.

* As a journalist and a frequent Twitter user, I love this piece of advice from writer Ann Handley, “Everything I need to know about Twitter I learned in journalism school.”
Great words of advice for any Twitter user!


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