Explaining newspapers' structural collapse

Redundant Regional Editor: Newspapers Getting Crushed By Their Own Weight
By Robert Andrews/paidcontent.org
The editor of Trinity Mirror's Birmingham Post was amongst 40 to take redundancy in October, going on to set up his own business news site for the region.

In a speech he's due to deliver to West Midlands' CBI this Thursday, Marc Reeves paints a frank assessment of why the news biz is in trouble: "But don't feel too sorry for it."

Here are some highlights…

"I spent the last 15 years of my newspaper career regularly attending industry conferences in which the threats and opportunities of the internet were endlessly discussed and analysed. Pretty much everything that has come to pass was predicted, but what did the big newspaper groups do? Very little that was right, it turns out.

"Saddled by a shareholder base that had grown used to the cash cow returns of a monopoly, the regional newspaper industry in partiular was structurally incapable of adopting the entrepreneurial approach that is the only option available when almost every aspect of your business model is rendered obsolete.

"The internet hasn't fixed the newspaper business model – precisely because it remains the newspaper business model ... Despite all the slash-and-burn cost-cutting of the past few years, the newspaper business is balanced precariously atop extraordinary pensions obligations, massive ongoing capital bills for print plants, and debt that was affordable when cashflow was fuelled by lorry-loads of classified revenues but is now raping the bottom line.

"So even 'forward thinking' online-minded, digitally enabled newspaper groups are trying to fight with several limbs tied behind their backs."

Reeves says News Corp.'s paywall strategy is "such a wrong-headed argument I hardly know where to start to demonstrate to you its folly" because, even in print, "your 70p goes absolutely nowhere to meeting the full costs of what you're reading".

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