Monday, November 17, 2008


We'll get to Voice of San Diego when I'm home for more than a couple of days. For now, just a brief mention of a publication I look at whenever things seem hopeless. Newspapers & Technology is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and reading it reminds one that for all the theological and ideological comments on journalism, Hal Holbrook's rule still goes: Follow the money. In this case, follow the money spent on presses, prepress systems, mailroom equipment and the like.

This world has slowed down in the last couple of years, but has not come to a stop. Newspapers are still buying print production equipment (OK, if anyone would like to cue Mark Potts to say, "The fools!", go ahead). Newspaper press suppliers see their future in digital presses that can re-create the Neighbors section at far less cost. They see newspaper management as -- dare we say it -- stuck in the past by not trying to figure out what individual customers want. They are fitting out papers for 42-inch webs but are adding towers for color and investigating how to change 21-inch presses to 17- or 14-inch cutoffs, which would still allow sectionalization. They are saying the day of the straight-run press that could print 96-page newspapers all at once is over and that what is needed is more products, fewer pages, smaller circulations and higher quality.

Advertisers have said for years that they want smaller, more targeted circulations. Print equipment vendors are saying that the future is smaller, more targeted circulations. In other words, putting out papers with smaller, more targeted circulations with better quality content, and thus more attractive to advertisers, would be a strategy for success -- except in the minds of journalists, who would continue to trash the newspaper business over the falling circulations that everyone except journalists seems to want.

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