What Business Are We In? To assure a successful future, newspapers must break away from the print model.

Author:Gallagher, Tim
Position:Business of news

My Sunday routine is set. I am in the shrinking group that still goes to Sunday mass. I watch my favorite baseball team. Relax a bit. And at night I turn on the TV and "watch" the New York Times.

I mean I watch the New York Times show called "The Weekly," a half hour show on the FX network that also streams on Hulu. There's nothing new about a Sunday night news program. "60 Minutes" has been a staple in that slot for decades. But no journalism show with the quality of the Times has ever been on screen consistently and I am hooked as my favorite newspaper moves into a new medium for storytelling. (In an earlier column, I confessed fandom for the Times' daily podcast called simply "The Daily.")

The Times, with its 1,600 journalists spread across the world, is beating a big drum in an orchestra where few others can scarcely make a peep. But that does not mean we should not follow the lesson here: newspapers produce great journalism--and we need to deliver in more ways.

The podcast world is booming. Next to celebrities, journalists have some of the highest Twitter followings. New video streaming services are starving for content. Each of these deliverers has a channel with one thing in common--a hunger for great content. And who better to provide that local content than local journalists?

Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, said recently that unless local newspapers have a local billionaire behind them, most of them will be dead in five years. His time chart might or might not be off by a few years, but he's right. Advertising and circulation revenue do not support a business model based on such heavy production and delivery costs. No business in any industry can survive for long this way.

But look at the content moves that have paid off in the past 30 years.

My old company--E.W. Scripps--started HGTV and invigorated The Food Network. What was a newspaper and TV station company doing in category television? Moving its content creators into a new medium. By all rights, Meredith, which owns Better Homes & Gardens, should have made this move. But it stayed in the magazine business.

Netflix eschewed the store for the stream. Craig Newmark asked why the "help wanted" ads had to wait until the morning newspaper. Bill Simmons hopped from print to television to websites to podcasts, taking a loyal following wherever he went. And whoever heard of an "app" 10 years ago?


To continue reading