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About Jon
Thank You For Not ...

1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
8) making the same point over and over again
9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
10) being annoyed by the existence of this list
11) commenting under the obvious influence
12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with

The Times Drifts Toward a Coma
2008-07-02 15:07
by Jon Weisman

I cannot believe that the newspaper that I have read ever since I learned to read, a newspaper that I worshipped and cherished, that provided one of the great thrills of my life when it first published one of my articles, that I defended against the readers of the New York Times (there can be more than one great newspaper in America), I can't believe it is simply dissolving like the Wicked Witch.

Not so long ago, they said you could no longer make money in baseball. It wasn't true. You will never convince me that there isn't a market, even in the New Media age, for quality journalism. If the Times was inconsistent, it was also capable of greatness each and every day. But it is dying, really dying, and in desperate need of an intervention. The slide of the Times is like watching a druggie's descent into hell. They can't see the forest for the trees, and soon they won't be able even to see the trees. It's absolutely unbelievable.

2008-07-02 16:16:54
1.   The Trolley Dodger
If it's a budgetary thing, I can think of some dross in the sports department they could 86.
2008-07-02 16:23:38
2.   Suffering Bruin
1 I'm with you there but I have to say, above and beyond my criticisms of Simers and Plaschke, this is very, very sad news. The Times was something I always took for granted. Imagine if it goes under.

We may not have to imagine much longer.

2008-07-02 16:29:46
3.   The Trolley Dodger
2 Agree with you completely, and with Jon.

I canceled my Times subscriptions a few years ago, mostly because of getting all my news online and there were many days the paper would go wasted/unread.

I guess the NY Times isn't the best example to point at (and I am not familiar enough with their situation), but my impression is that they're much better off. Are they doing something right that the LA Times isn't, or is just a matter of being who they are that keeps people interested?

2008-07-02 16:31:21
4.   Jon Weisman
3 - Stability, leadership, adaptability, eyes on the prize go a long way.
2008-07-02 16:34:54
5.   Jim Hitchcock
The chairman of the Chicago Tribune has stated that he expects a profit of some 40%, rather high for a newspaper. Isn't normal between 25 & 30%?
2008-07-02 16:35:31
6.   Zak
This is not a surprise. Newspapers as a medium are done. It's just a sign of technology. People are already using phones like the IPhone to access news on the go, in subways and waiting rooms. In 5-7 years, almost everyone will have some kind of portable internet device.

I have not purchased a newspaper in over 5 years. I have almost stopped purchasing magazines. In a few years, will generate more revenue than the newspaper itself. Maybe Jon can help me, but do and already generate as much revenue as the magazines? What about

2008-07-02 16:36:54
7.   Jim Hitchcock
...or am I dreaming?
2008-07-02 16:39:38
8.   Jon Weisman
6 - You're missing the point. The point isn't whether the Times exists in print or online. The point is that the people who produce the content of the Times in either medium are being disappeared. does not generate much revenue, for what it's worth.

2008-07-02 16:39:48
9.   Jim Hitchcock
6 I'm not totally convinced, Zak...I don't see Kendle taking over the world just yet.
2008-07-02 16:41:51
10.   dzzrtRatt
What seems obvious to me is that the Times is trying to do the same things it's always done, except with less people. I think they need a new model for communicating with its readers. The mention of the NY Times gets at part of the problem. To be as respected as the NY Times was the LA Times' holy grail. Now looking back, it's clear they came achingly close but failed. So, it's time to set a new goal. To try to become the NY Times today is to hitch your wagon to a dying star. I would be looking at the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal as two possible models, but I'm also attracted to Jeff Jarvis' notion of "reverse syndication," which is a sort of news industry version of Adam Smith's comparative advantage ideas.

Think too about the kind of misguided thinking that leaves Jon Weisman and Dodger Thoughts, with its many many passionate fans and participants out there having a huge influence, but with no connection to the Times. At minimum, the online sports page ought to have a widget that shows your feed. Even better would be a real time representation of the flow of your comment thread, adjacent to a Gameday-style depiction of the game. That's the kind of journalism that will succeed in the next great era.

2008-07-02 16:43:21
11.   GMac In The 909
Good night, news man.
2008-07-02 16:46:51
12.   Bob Timmermann
The New York Times comes to my house for free. I'm not sure why. But I got a notice saying that the price is going up.

The LA Times doesn't even bother calling me to get me to resubscribe.

The sad part is that I have two brothers who work in print journalism. You would think I would support the family business.

2008-07-02 16:51:14
13.   Linkmeister
dzzrtRatt's the PR professional here, but lemme tellya, if I got a memo telling me my job was likely to be disappeared soon, I would not appreciate being addressed as "Folks," as Hiller's memo is.

Have ad revenues (classified in particular) collapsed there? When I was in LA in the 80s (granted, the Reagan defense build-up period) the Sunday papers were so full of personnel ads that it seemed like Northrup, MDAC and Raytheon each had their own section.

2008-07-02 16:52:45
14.   Zak
8 I re-read your post and see what you are saying. I think part of the problem might also be that quality sometimes takes a backseat to the timeliness of the articles published. When there is a brawl in baseball, everyone immediately wants instant analysis, blame to be assigned, opinions to be opined. They go to websites to get news as quickly as possible. This rush to post/publish leads to sloppier writing. In the past week, I notices a couple of errors in baseball terms in articles on Yahoo! and LA Times. (incorrect use of tiebreaking and incorrect use of plate appearances) What this kind of does is deadens the masses in their quest for quality. A sloppily written but hastily published article gets read more often than a better quality piece. This in turn lowers the value of the better writer... Anyway, now I'm rambling. It's just some ideas floating around up there.
2008-07-02 16:55:42
15.   Zak
9 The Kindle is limited in what it does and is expensive. Plus books are different than newspapers because the content does not become outdated as easily. I read books but not by using Kindle, although I am not opposed to trying it someday. However, I still like holding books. I can honestly say that I have no such feelings about newspapers.
2008-07-02 16:57:38
16.   Zak
In fact, I'll add that on thing I find annoying about newspapers is that I don't like having to read a fifth of the article on page D1 and then having to go to page D5 to read the rest. I understand space constraints, etc. but that's just another way the websites spoil us. Worst case on a website, you just click on page two and you are there.
2008-07-02 17:01:10
17.   Jon Weisman
16 - I'm still convinced you miss things when trying to read a newspaper online. Good little nuggets and stuff. But it's probably solvable.
2008-07-02 17:01:24
18.   Marty
13 Classified has been hit the hardest. Down probably 80% from 10 years ago.
2008-07-02 17:02:21
19.   The Trolley Dodger
I would very much like e-paper in a paper format. Like the newspaper in Minority Report, that changed to show Tom Cruise's "Wanted" photo.

That movie had all the cool stuff. Like that car+mass transit vehicle he drove.

2008-07-02 17:03:47
20.   Marty
In a few years, will generate more revenue than the newspaper itself.

Right now online revenue is maybe 15% of total revenues. I may be overestimating even that. That's part of the problem. Advertisers do not want to pay print prices for online. They don't want to pay it for print either. And readers don't want to pay for it at all.

2008-07-02 17:04:25
21.   Marty
BTW, The LA Times is available for the Kindle as of yesterday.
2008-07-02 17:04:58
22.   The Trolley Dodger
And here's what that paper looked like:

2008-07-02 17:09:26
23.   Jon Weisman
You can read Variety's print version online in digital form. I think that's a cool trend.
2008-07-02 17:10:13
24.   Zak
17 You're definitely right. The question is, how many people care? 10 years ago, I read three to five articles a day about baseball, max. Now sometimes I read over 10-15 articles. And sometimes even more. I'm sure you read more than that. With exceptions of course, I don't think a lot of people don't care about missing the nuggets. And it is kind of sad. But it's just where we are.
2008-07-02 17:14:48
25.   Zak
"I don't think a lot of people care about missing the nuggets" is what I meant to say in 24 .
2008-07-02 17:16:10
26.   Marty
23 Meaning a PDF? That's pretty common.
2008-07-02 17:30:38
27.   fordprefect
5 7

I thought that Murdoch's expectation of 20% was unrealistic back in the day.

2008-07-02 17:34:40
28.   Linkmeister
18 Defense contractors look for employees on Craigslist now?!?

Seriously, wow. An 80% hit in a major profit segment for any business would be a killer.

2008-07-02 17:36:43
29.   Marty
No one expects 40%. That must be a mistake. Though the broadcast stations may get close to that. But their total revenue is fairly small compared to print. The Times is somewhere in the 10 - 14% profit margin still I think. Other Tribune papers not nearly as high. The trends are the alarming thing though. The Times was making about 22% margins in the late 90s.
2008-07-02 18:10:56
30.   dzzrtRatt
dzzrtRatt's the ex PR professional.


I've crossed back over. I'm in the news business now. And my job is about news web sites. And it's challenging. The only thing I can see is the entire industry is in the midst of a topsy-turvy phase, much like riding in a bus that is rolling down a hill. We'll get somewhere but we'll be pretty banged up on the way down.

2008-07-02 18:53:12
31.   El Lay Dave
Management lacking the qualities listed in 4 is an issue in a lot of industries. There's a reason for the ongoing success of the Dilbert comic franchise.
2008-07-02 20:19:05
32.   Andrew Shimmin
When was the Times great? I was a daily reader through the last half of the 90s, but by 2000 had switched over to the NYT and WaPo. I've never subscribed to a newspaper. I read more of the Sacramento Bee in an average week than the Times. I used to think about getting the Wall Street Journal, but never did. If papers stopped being free, I'd probably end up shelling out for one. But it wouldn't be the Times.
2008-07-02 20:28:42
33.   Bob Timmermann
Some of us were around for the 1970s.
2008-07-02 20:40:28
34.   Andrew Shimmin
33- That's what I'm asking. As long as we're talking about something I wasn't around for, I'm willing to accept that the Times was once great.
2008-07-02 21:40:50
35.   Marty
34 Give me your idea of greatness. What are you looking for in a paper?
2008-07-02 21:42:07
36.   Andrew Shimmin
35- Topless women on page three wouldn't hurt.
2008-07-02 21:44:03
37.   Marty
Well, you are out of luck
2008-07-02 22:00:38
38.   Andrew Shimmin
I'm not sure I'm going to be able to come up with a real answer. I think it's too much to expect any one publication to cover a thousand different things well. There's always going to be a Jon (not just for baseball, but for every subject where the news is there for the taking) who's going to be better. And even if they bought Jon out, the format wouldn't support what he's able to do outside of it.
2008-07-02 22:18:00
39.   The Trolley Dodger
35 38 Yeah, I think that's part of the problem -- there isn't an answer yet. What was greatness back in the day isn't anymore, or at least it's still in the middle of rapid evolution. The industry is trying to figure out how to survive, never mind thrive.
2008-07-02 22:39:44
40.   Andrew Shimmin
I still don't want to read newsprint. It's messy, and I find it unpleasant to touch. That's not going to change, so I'm not a useful market to even attempt to cater to. And once you move the content online, the entire format stops making sense, except as a way of double dipping.

I'm part of the problem, not part of the solution.

2008-07-02 22:46:05
41.   Montalk
I never understood why there is less coverage in the Times print edition that you actually pay for than online (free). Try to analyze that business model.
2008-07-02 22:49:25
42.   Andrew Shimmin
Didn't they try holding back part of the Calender section? Calender Live? And it seems like that came (and maybe went, too) before Times Select.
2008-07-02 22:50:44
43.   Andrew Shimmin
Also, it costs money to print things on paper, and costs almost nothing to print them online.
2008-07-02 22:52:45
44.   Jon Weisman
I would say the Times was great even into the 1990s, and if not, it was very, very good. You can say it wasn't the NYT or WP if you like, but like I said, you can still be great without being those two.

Shimmin, though, is clearly an uppity young'un.

40 - Is newsprint messy, though? I feel like that concept is a relic from a different era. And unpleasant to touch? Who are you, Monk? :)

42 - What they did with the Calendar section online was beyond bizarre. It was incomprehensible.

2008-07-02 23:00:37
45.   Andrew Shimmin
I'm not entirely not Monk.
2008-07-03 01:09:50
46.   dzzrtRatt
Ask my wife if newsprint is still messy. She's the one who finds my inky fingerprints on the cupboard doors.

The Times had some very good writers in the 60s thru mid-90s. In my opinion it wasn't a well-edited paper, which was the hallmark of the NYT and WSJ. But it sponsored a variety of wonderful writers who the editors didn't monkey with too much.

That said, the Times never covered California or Los Angeles like a paper with its market position should have. Its local and state government was deeply undistinguished. Its coverage of the entertainment industry was timid. It missed major business developments; its business section was such a nothing. It did a good job covering Asia, Europe and Washington DC, but nowadays that's redundant since we can easily read coverage not just from the east coast media, but from the UK, Australia, Israel, Singapore, Germany...

Andrew is right. My boss has a saying: "Life is good in the niches." What's dying is the concept of a general newspaper for the entire family. People want depth, not breadth, and they want what one might call "identity-news." I'm liberal so I read S, I'm conservative so I read Y, I'm a tech geek, so I read tech sites, I'm a gossip fan, so I read gossip sites, etc.

2008-07-03 01:12:38
47.   dzzrtRatt
It's very illustrative that I first learned about the Times' layoffs here on Dodger Thoughts, and then went to the LA Times for the details. If it hadn't been for somebody's comment on an earlier thread, maybe I wouldn't have known about it til later. News is becoming a word of mouth proposition.
2008-07-03 10:03:46
48.   The Trolley Dodger
Coincidentally, I just got a popup on the homepage asking me if I wanted to take a confidential survey.

"This survey will help us understand who our website visitors are, what they need and expect from, and how we can improve our website. It should take less than 5 minutes to complete."

I think this is the survey URL if you want to check it out:

2008-07-03 14:56:07
49.   phredbird
'life is good in the niches.' seems to be true for certain types of publishing. our staff just got a little bonus for good performance. its a shame to see what's happening in metro dailies. i got out just in time. the question i want answered is whether or not the shrinking of dailies is going to have a ripple effect across publishing or if its a segment that has needed a shakeout for a long time.
2008-07-03 21:00:14
50.   Tommy Naccarato
This one is sure to get a few yuks from some of you!

I still think to this day that the current situation is all because the LA Times lost the following:

--The Herald Examiner as healthy competition.
--The unfortunate passing of Jim Murray.
--The Internet.

None of those is in any particular order.

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