Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Quick Decline of the Chicago Tribune ?

Much has been made about the ongoing decline of the American newspaper industry. With advertising revenues and circulations in seeming free fall, newspapers are widely believed to be the modern equivalent of the buggy whip (i.e., a product from a bygone era on the fast track to obsolescence in a changing marketplace). Dailies are furiously slashing staff and desperately attempting to make their content appear more relevant/edgier/hipper in order to attract a younger, tech-savvy demographic. More here. And here. And here. Still more here.

Frank the Tank, of the fine Chicago/Illini sports/politics/pop culture blog, Frank the Tank's Slant, writes about what he perceives to be a recent decline in the quality of content in the once great Chicago Tribune. According to Mr. the Tank, Sam Zell, the new owner of Tribune Co., plans to "cut staff and close bureaus to slash costs and redesign the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and other Tribune Company newspapers to make them more in tune with what focus groups supposedly say they want, which are more charts, colorful graphics, and shorter stories."

Mr. the Tank argues that Mr. Zell is attempting to make the Tribune, and other Tribune Co. newspapers, look more like USA Today. But he questions the wisdom of attempting to make the Tribune hipper/edgier:

"Here’s the mistake that nearly every newspaper owner in the country is making when they are trying to attract the elusive Generations Y and Z: they equate short attention spans with smaller papers containing fewer stories about substantive national and international issues and more blurbs about Hollywood. This is a ridiculous notion since when you take a look at the top 100 websites in the United States by numbers of visitors, you won’t see USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, TMZ.com, People, or any site focused on celebrity news on the list. However, the New York Times, BBC, and Washington Post websites are all on there. People over 30 fail to understand that people under 30 are the most media-savvy consumers anywhere and can instantly identify fluff versus well-written stories. While young people certainly like their junk food stories about the latest travails of Brittany Spears and Lindsay Lohan along with snarky commentary from a slew of blogs and other media sources, they also crave substance and they will turn to media sources that provide them with that. Even if you grant that physical newspapers are eventually going to go extinct and media companies should focus on the web, the success of the Times and the Post websites ought to be an indicator that going for the high-end of journalistic scale is a lot more successful in drawing readers (and the advertisers that pay for such readers) either online or offline than a bunch of cost-cutting measures and flashy graphics.

So, as a Generation Y guy whose main complaint about today’s Tribune is that it has introduced too many empty journalistic calories (the What’s Your Problem? feature is more suited to a community flyer as opposed to the top paper in the nation’s third-largest media market that features multiple Pulitzer Prize winners, while the Trib’s Starbucks fetish has been well-documented), the path to long-term survival in the newspaper industry, whether it’s with ink and paper or on the web, is all about substance over form as opposed to the other way around."


Considering some of the apparent (ahem!) esoteric preferences of the many visitors who click on certain Drive and Dish posts after having searched for fetish websites (I should note that the Drive and Dish posts which garner hits from the fetish community don't actually contain any fetish or fetish related material, but rather poke fun at a former college basketball player who urinated in his pants during a game last season), I'm almost afraid to see the web traffic that the term "Starbucks fetish" will bring.

Drive and Dish usually gets between 15-30 hits a day from people who find this site after having searched for such websites. And although some of the comments on the latter of the above linked posts are, undoubtedly, of a joking nature, the constant traffic from guys who accidentally stumble on this site whilst looking for fetish porn is definitely no joke.

Probably at least half of them come from Germany. But England, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands are also quite well represented. And, unfortunately, an increasing number of such hits are coming from folks with strange tastes who live here in the good ol' United States (although a disproportionate number of them come from New York and the Bay Area).


Speaking of Starbucks, Frank the Tank has thoughts on "Race and Class (and Starbucks) in Chicago." It's a strong read and it hits close to home for this native of Chicago's South(west) Suburbs and former Naperville and North Side denizen.

It's recommended reading for Chicago area Drive and Dish readers, and even for readers who are reasonably familiar with Chicago. On the downside though, the post does reference and link to the Freakonomics blog. Be forewarned.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words on my blog. Keep up the good work here, as well!

Pooh McGee said...

Less tribunies used being for poopies

freaky man said...

that Freakonomics website is bulshit!!!! i was expecting some freaky shit to be on there. i feel let down.

i got some freaky economics for ur azz........i been to places in thailand where u can pay freaks to do ANYTHING u want.