Thoughts of a Toronto-based PR consultant. A focus on the PR profession and the charitable sector, with forays into arts, society and politics.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Newspapers still capture eyeballs

From today's NADbank release...

NADbank Releases 2008 Readership Study

Weekly readership has remained stable indicating that daily newspapers continue to be a relevant source of news and information for Canadians. Almost three quarters of Canadians (73%), 13.7 million adults 18+, read a printed edition of a daily newspaper each week. Canadians continue to turn to daily newspapers as a source for local news (73% of readers usually read local news) as well as other news and arts and entertainment. (more)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Abandoned boxes

Photo of disused newspaper boxes in San Francisco, from the Silicon Valley Insider... I felt sad to see it at first, but then realized that I now read more news than ever.

I can see the logos of the Onion and The Oakland Tribune--both are still publishing online, and probably saving themselves a bundle not having to print and distribute the former contents of these boxes.

While I do love the visceral feel of a world-class newspaper in my hands, I have to wonder... assuming that publishers will find a way to monetize journalism in other media (and assuming the quality of the information remains good--a leap of faith, I know)... then is the loss of print newspapers really such a tragedy?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Update to Journalismism

Just read the excellent blog posting by Clay Shirky entitled "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable", reminding us that what's really valuable about journalism is not the mechanism by which it's delivered, but the knowledge and ideas it conveys.

Are the traditional media platforms dying? Shirky asserts they're already dead, but that journalism itself will survive.

(Thanks to my sweet hubby Bri for the link!)

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Today I read the thoughtful analysis by Paul Starr in The New Republic. And I read the whole thing online, paying nary a dime. The irony is of course painfully obvious. And this irony is compounded by the fact that the magazine is owned by Canada's very own floundering media empire, CanWest (for now, anyway).

Starr makes some very good points, including:

"If newspapers are no longer able to crosssubsidize public-service journalism and if the de-centralized, non-market forms of collaboration cannot provide an adequate substitute, how is that work going to be paid for? The answer, insofar as there is one, is that we are going to need much more philanthropic support for journalism than we have ever had in the United States."

Here in Canada, we have the CBC, which despite its flaws and foibles (and infuriating clannishness) has been known to produce some pretty fine news and has had a long history of (inconsistently) terrific investigative journalism. They've also managed to lead the way in using new technologies: I was reading CBC news on my Palm device ten years ago, and CBC Radio continues to lead the pack in distributing podcasts (for free, of course- there's the rub). I'm confident that CBC's attention to online journalism will continue to grow, assuming they are adequately funded of course: no guarantees there. But CBC.ca's online coverage has far to go. Right now it feels more like an aggregator or news feed, lacking the in-depth analysis that is the hallmark of print journalism at its finest.

What makes me yet more uncomfortable is a trend that all the online versions of our traditional news media participate in, without exception. They all index stories based on what is most emailed or most recommended-- shades of "Journalism Idol." I'm all for exploiting the opportunities the web offers for viewer/reader feedback, but I'm loathe to turn journalism into some kind of online popularity contest. There is some news that people don't want to hear about, but should anyway. We're talking oatmeal vs. Lucky Charms. My worry is that complex information will be bottom-shelved or dropped altogether because it can't compete with simple, cheaply produced stories about crime or consumer recalls.

*("Journalismism" is a term coined by the ever-entertaining Gawker.com)