Newspaper Industry Has Ignored Me, and Thus Suffers
I can't speak for many of the big dailies in particular, only for my hometown paper the NY Times, but it is fairly clear that other big dailies could be diagnosed similarly. Let me throw out the qualifier early, that many different types of people read newspapers and there are many reasons why the newspaper industry's customer base is shrinking, but one of the biggest reasons why newspapers are dying is that they have told post-30 boring white guys like me to, in a metaphorical marketing sense, sod off. (We know our friends and families don't think we're boring, but let's face it, the current cultural zeitgeist deems us college-educated, corporate job-holding, suburban, little-league coachin', golf-playin', patio-BBQin' dudes quite boring.) Not that there is a typical male, but the guy I have described (I'll just surrender to the cultural mandarins and call him P30BWG) represents a large demographic group and a group that has historically been the major consumer of broadsheet newspapers. Principally we like to know what is going on in the world and we like to read about sports and business and books and a few other things. OK, so you can get a decent idea of what is going on in the world (although probably not in Iraqi Kurdistan today or in Havana for the last 50 years) by reading the NY Times, but sports? Seriously what self-respecting P30BWG would actually buy the NY Times for its Sports section? Business? Also, terrible. Once upon a time Floyd Norris was a must read, but nobody I know in the business world views the NY Times as anything close to an indispensible resource for business literacy today. I get several business articles emailed to me each day, and I can't remember the last one that was from the NY Times. Books? Hah! I, and guys like me, love to read and are pretty good customers of the publishing industry. Granted we're not like college professors who basically get paid to read alot of books, but we're good for 10-25 books per year, wot with all that coaching and BBQing we like to do. Me and my buddies and associates constantly seek and trade book recommendations, and I have never had any other P30BWG recommend to me and I have never recommended to any other P30BWG a book that we read about or learned of in the NYT. Either most of the books that you learn about in the NY Times are effeminate twaddle or guides to metrosexualism, or that perception is so strong that P30BWG's stopped looking for book recommendations in the NYT ages ago. Either case, it's bad marketing if the NYT cared to have us as consumers of its product. Sure there is good stuff in the NY Times at the margin but the core product attributes just aren't designed anymore with the P30BWG in mind, which is analagous to a steak restaurant that has good side dishes but the meat is terrible and you can only get a Diet Coke from the bar. Just no reason to patronize. Proponents of the NY Times would claim that they are catering to the urban male who isn't a P30BWG. Hogwash I say. My father and his generation of post-WWII P30BWGs were quite satisfied with the NY Times. The paper valued them as consumers, covered their interests fairly well, and they were loyal to it. It is the paper that has changed, not the P30BWG.
The NY Times is not alone though. There are any number of businesses that have chosen to ignore the P30BWGs and now do a terrible job of marketing to us. A short list of these businesses might include the National Basketball Association, Hollywood, liquor producers, banks/financial advisors, and network television.
So who is doing a good job of marketing to the P30BWG? That will be part two in the series someday...