The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Going Up!

And a Hospital Visit

I'm sorry to see that the Springfield Newspapers have raised their prices. It's not that I don't want to pay the small increases, it's just that the whole notion of price increases in the newspaper business seems self-destructive. At a time when the main competition to print media is online content available for free, newspapers should be moving toward making themselves also available for no cost. The Springfield Newspapers, to both preserve and grow their brand name, should decide on an affordable amount of copies they can publish and give away at carefully chosen location like coffeeshops or other spots where people want free reading material. Then they need to put everything they've got into their online presence on

The most important thing they need to do is to educate their advertisers about the total superiority of online ads over print ones. Print ads are very much hit or miss. In order to reach the minority of readers who are interested in what you're selling you have to pay for ads in every single copy of the paper. So to reach five thousand potential customers you have to pay for 100,000 ads, or whatever the publication's circulation is. In other words, 95% of your print ads are not seen, or the customers are not interested in them, yet you must pay full price for this extremely inefficient and ineffective way of communicating with your customers.

Online ads however, are only seen by those who are interested in topics relating to your product. What Adsense, for example, does is use its search technology to match ads with article related to the product. So if you are selling fishing poles, your ads appear only next to fishing related articles. No more wasting your advertising dollars on print ads that go to people that don't even fish! Instead of the ineffective scattershot method of print advertising, online ads zero in like a laser beam on exactly the customers you want to reach.

As if this was not fantastic enough, online advertising is superior to print in many other ways. For one thing its cheaper, and in color at no extra charge. You also get stats with it that let you know where people are coming from when they see your ads, and how long they spend reading them. This priceless information is just the gravy that comes along when you stop wasting your money advertising in print and move online where the real value per buck is found.

However the newspaper industry, in its typical suicidal fashion, has always downplayed the superiority of online advertising because they have printing presses to protect. They treated online ads as a minor sideline, often throwing in online ads for free with print ad purchases like it was just a novel frill to the real purchase. Now they complain that online ads won't pay the bills, but that's their own fault if they won't educate their customers on why online ads are better than print in every way.

Of course it's tough to do that when you've just made a major investment, as the Springfield Newspapers did in their clueless past, to buy a super expensive state of the art press. What a drag it must be to have made that kind of outlay just as the bottom was falling out of the printing industry! But at least the Springfield Newspapers have a credible online presence in their above average online offshoot There they at least have the sense to give the content of their paper away for free, unlike the dinosaurs at The Daily Hampshire Gazette who charge $99 dollars a year for online access. The Gazette too bought a fancy new press just as print circulation began to nosedive, but they also make the terrible mistake of charging for their online content, which is something the Springfield Newspapers were never foolish enough to try. As the always insightful Jeff Jarvis explains:

First, as soon as knowledge is known, it’s a commodity—and not a scarce one that can be controlled. Second, there is no end of competition online. As countless publishers have observed about their nemesis, Craigslist, it’s impossible to compete with free.

Charging for content reduces audience, which in turn reduces advertising revenue. And putting a wall around content keeps it out of the conversation and devalues brands (this is why New York Times columnists were said to hate their paper’s aborted effort to charge pennies for their thoughts).

But here’s the killer: When content is hidden, it cannot be found via search (not to mention bloggers’ and aggregators’ links). In a link and search economy, content gains value only through these recommendations; an article without links has no readers and thus no value. The real cost of charging for content—and it’s a cost born by the content owner—is a loss of Googlejuice.

In the complete P&L of news online, keep in mind as well that costs decline when a newspaper need no longer be all things to all people (it can, in the words of my favorite PowerPoint line, specialize: “Do what it does best and link to the rest”). Costs also fall when the paper can jettison the expense of printing and distributing its words.

It is this complete business model that we should be focusing on as we try to bring news into its next generation, not desperate efforts to shoehorn old models into a new world.

In other words, it's time for both The Republican and The Gazette to write off the new presses as a business loss, redefine themselves as totally free online products that also print a small number of free print copies primarily for promotional purposes, and educate their print ad buyers that they need to start transferring their spending online.

Of course the local mainstream media never listens to what I say, even though I was always ahead of the curve and never gave them any advice that was proven wrong. Yet they accuse me of being egotistical for daring to offer them suggestions. Well, there's ego involved, but it ain't mine, and the only place their false pride will get them is in bankruptcy court and on the unemployment line.

Oh Mercy!

Another industry that is facing extinction if it doesn't lower its cost is the post office. Soon we'll be paying all our bills online and email has already killed the personal letter market. Let's face it, hiring someone to walk around on foot hand delivering you pieces of paper is a badly outdated information distribution system that is soon to be extinct. Yesterday I was in Springfield at the downtown post office where this banner hangs showing a 2002 stamp honoring Massachusetts. It also shows how quickly stamp prices are rising to help kill this antique institution, since the more expensive non-electronic mail becomes, the less of it will end up being sent creating an economically fatal downward spiral.

I also visited Mercy Hospital, where my sister was getting an x-ray. Here is the old hospital building, which is now used for offices.

This is the modern hospital complex.

While waiting for my sister I visited this snackbar.

What did people do in waiting rooms before there were laptops?

Mercy is owned by the Catholic church, and is filled with religious icons like the one below, which looks old enough to have been in the original building. Notice how one hand is broken off. Dropped by a careless nun?
(click to enlarge)

Afterwards we went to Main Street's Red Rose for some of their award winning pizza.

Who says there are no good restaurants left in downtown Springfield?

Today's Video

Deep in the woods of Leverett, weird musical shit goes on.


Anonymous said...

Tommy, what do you think of Ron Paul? Just curious, he seems to have some different ideas about monetary policy, and is a libertarian/republican like yourself.

Tommy said...

I am a fan of Ron Paul, but I foolishly did the "practical" thing and supported John McCain. I forgot that the ideal is always the practical in the long run.

Don, at first I didn't know what you were talking about, since of course those words do not appear in the text. Then I got it.

Very funny.

Banner Printing said...

"depressflation" is a good way to put things in perspective. You should get the copyright on it before someone else beats you to it. Very funny post man.