Monday, March 31, 2008

TV Week

A quick hit from Knoxville, where they've decided to try to turn TV Week into, if not a profit center, at least a viable enterprise by charging a quarter extra to get it.

I'm one of those troglodytes who uses TV Week even though I'm under 65. I use it to plan out what I'm going to tape (yes, I still use videotape). On Sunday at 9 p.m. we had two tapes whirring while we watched a third show.

So I'd gladly pay a quarter extra for TV Week. I don't know if I'd pay 75 cents extra for three TV weeks in the newspapers we get at home, but in Knoxville they don't have that problem.

So I think this is a great idea except for this from Editor Jack McElroy: "The problem is - and has been - that TV Week, while essential to many readers, is ignored by many others and does not draw a large number of advertisers. At the same time, the comprehensive listings require lots of pages of newsprint."

Substitute "Sports" for "TV Week" and you have the exact same quote, word for word. Why is it always that everything has to show a profit -- except sports? Is this a leftover from when the "core newspaper" consisted of news, sports and women's news, and as newspaper bookkeeping grew more sophisticated, everything else entered through accounting as an add-on that had to justify its existence? Or is it just -- well, you know, it's sports?

The newspaper, like the department store, needs to have enough departments to bring a critical mass of customers in to support its less profitable lines. The logical outcome of Accounting Determinism to me was always a railroad: If you can make $50,000 moving 500 customers 500 miles or you can make the same amount of money moving one customer 5 miles -- a giant transformer or something -- what business should you be in? Well, the latter, as long as you have enough of those customers. You probably don't, but think of the profits if you did! Think of the profits if you shut down the printing presses and maintained your current level of revenue and customer base! Except you don't.

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