Thoughts On Baseball Media

Today, the Rocky Mountain News published their final edition. Scripps, their owner, couldn’t find a buyer who wanted into the struggling newspaper business, and so Denver has become a single paper town. This will happen shortly in Seattle as well, where the Seattle Post Intelligencer will cease printing in a month or so. The San Francisco Chronicle is in a similar position and is unlikely to survive 2009, which will leave San Francisco without a daily newspaper.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Newsday announced that they are moving away from a free web content system towards a subscriber-pay system in an effort to generate more revenue.

For journalists, the world is changing, and it’s changing very quickly. The old business models don’t work anymore, as the internet has conditioned people to expect significant content to be delivered online for no additional cost beyond what they pay their local ISP. With ad revenues plunging, media companies simply haven’t been able to find a way to make money. Without profit, there’s no viable business, and the resources we enjoy go away.

With the Rocky Mountain News folding today, it got me thinking – where is the online baseball community headed? Between The Hardball Times and blogs like ours here at FanGraphs and Tango’s work at The Book Blog, there is a remarkable flow of tremendous content being put out simply for the sake of improving the quality of baseball knowledge available. For guys like Studes or Tango, this isn’t their career – it’s a hobby, and something they do because they love it.

The same goes true, I would suspect, for most of the new analysts we’ve seen rise up in various sites over the last year or two. From guys like Sean Smith to Sky Kalkman, Colin Wyers, Josh Kalk, Mike Fast, and all the rest, there is a deep well of talent that is advancing baseball knowledge for everyone. And they’re doing it without charging for their efforts.

Much like the open source movement in software, there’s been a revolution in the baseball community. The best content available isn’t being written in books or newspapers, or even behind subscription walls that require payments to access – the best knowledge available is free to everyone who wants it.

And, while it’s sad to watch newspapers fold and business models fail, it’s exciting to be living in an age where anyone who wants to educate themselves on the game can do so.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


53 Responses to “Thoughts On Baseball Media”

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  1. diderot says:

    Your reaction is true–there is an excitement to this era–but unfortunately, there is also a shortsightedness to it, and dare I say, even as aspect of (unintentional) elitism.
    In reverse order, the fact of the matter is that less than two thirds of American homes are equipped with personal computers and broadband. In other words, for those people, we’re not talking about an option of how to receive their news (and sports), but rather, whether they will receive it or not. A common argument is that the public library offers access. But how realistic is it to carry a library with you on the bus ride to work? Or run to one on your coffee break at the paper mill? The demise of newspapers is a threat to democracy–there is no way around that.
    Secondly, as you have noted on other blogs Dave, no degree of wisdom on the part of online observers can replace the value of having firsthand reporting from the clubhouse or front office–information that newspapers have provided for a century. While it’s true that for their own purposes teams may one day decide to credential online sites and give them the same access, who from those sites is going to devote the time to visiting those clubhouses, and following teams on the road? And who is going to pay them for their time and expense?
    So I believe we’re dealing with two different things that should not be conflated. The rise of the Internet is a wonderful occurrence. But it in no way does it mitigate the disaster which is the death of American newspapers.

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    • Ryan says:

      Couldn’t agree more. The desolution of the newspaper is a sad state for the non-sports media. The accountability and access that can’t be attributed to blogs, online papers, etc. will be sorely missed.

      I heard somewhere (maybe NPR story about this very topic) that a good business model for papers may be to move to non-profit ventures. Seemingly they could then continue to thrive (if you can call it that) without further degredation.

      It’s sad to see the state of the Washington Post every morning.

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      • Ryan B says:

        “The accountability and access that can’t be attributed to blogs, online papers, etc. will be sorely missed.”

        I agree somewhat with the missed access…although DSL can be had fairly cheaply ($13 Netzero). Newspapers are commonly $0.50 a day, but as I’ve never personally paid for delivery, can’t say what that amounts to in a month, but It can’t be much less than $13. Of course this is assuming ownership of a computer and a working phone line.

        As for accountability, I think the trustworthiness a newspaper had is transferred to their online counterparts. And as one reads blogs, online news, etc, accountability will be earned by those sources as well. I think one of the greatest strengths of online news is that the writer is often a specialist in their field first and foremost, and second, a writer. Newspapers are filled with writers, trying to cover topics/fields that they are not necessarily proficient in.

        I will agree that having something tangible in your hands, such as a newspaper or book, trumps reading off a screen.

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      • Fresh Hops says:

        I disagree about accountability, actually rather strongly. Social scientific research shows that open forum communications like well-trafficed blogs and Wikipedia are remarkably well-policed by the communities that use them. In terms of both accuracy and comprehensiveness of reporting, Wikipedia often out-performs sources such as the Associated Press for the simple reason that if a number of people who care are out there dig through all the sources that they can to learn about something and then contributing to Wikipedia on the subject, Wikipedia becomes a remarkably successful information aggregating system, probably the most successful, efficient one in the history of human kind. I’m not claiming that it is perfect, but it can be a very powerful resource and, for those topics that are widely edited, very accurate.

        There is certainly a danger that reports and “traditional” media sources are a significant source of the information that these systems aggregate and that their demise is cause for concern for that reason as well as others. However, I would say that the internet is a more positive force for information access, free-thought, and democracy that the loss of some traditional media sources.

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      • Tommy S. says:

        Seems to me like all of the newspapers that seem to be failing are the ones that are crammed with liberal editorials

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    • Derek says:

      I couldn’t disagree more with Diderot. Yes there are still people without computers but that is soon to change. At one time there were people without TVs and Telephones, however now every household has one or more. While those 33% of people will suffer in the short term until low cost computers are available (which is almost here, you can get a Medison Celebrity laptop for $150 US and free shipping). In the not too distant future computers will be as common as….well paper.

      The problem right now is businesses do now know how to incorporate a proper business model for the internet. The typical american business now has a middleman whos whole job is to deliever goods. The internet cuts out this middle man for any information based company. Anyone can deliever the goods in large quantities on the internet. Once american businesses (including the newspapers) realize this and adapt a better business model they will still be making money.

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      • diderot says:

        Derek,
        Your response is exactly the myopia I was referring to (which, by the way, I don’t apply to Dave).
        In reference to computer ownership, when you say ‘soon to change’, what source do you cite? If we’ve got 35 million or so U.S. households without connected computers now, what is it that’s going to compel them to go out and buy one? Because there’s so much more money flowing through the economy right now?
        When you say those folks might ‘suffer in the short term’, I would ask how you would like to ‘suffer’ without your Internet connection in the short term. There isn’t any logical way to minimize the impact of dying newspapers.
        Finally, your idea that somehow there’s a business model out there that newspapers just haven’t thought of doesn’t make much sense. Do you think those people haven’t tried? That they really just blithely laid people off and closed their doors?
        Yes, of course, distribution costs are minimized on the net. But where does the money come from to pay the reporters and editors? It doesn’t take much research to find that banner ads aren’t cutting it. What percentage of bloggers now are making a decent living just by blogging?
        And that’s the problem with the entire ‘information wants to be free’ thinking. ‘Free’ doesn’t pay the mortgage.

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      • Phil says:

        You’re right. Free doesn’t pay the mortgage. If you’re a reporter, there is still TV and internet news to pay the bills. If you’re a writer, find a magazine, print or online, write a book, do what you do. But don’t use that cop-out because its free on the internet then someone’s not getting paid. On almost every site one visits there are ads, and someone’s making money.

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      • diderot says:

        Phil,
        Of course I’m not saying no money changes hands.
        What I am saying is that if enough money were changing hands, then the newspapers could shut down their print editions, save all that money on paper, ink and delivery, and just simply shift everything over to online. All the reporters, columnists, editors, etc., would keep doing their jobs as they always had–what difference would it make to them?
        Do you see that happening anywhere?
        This is not about journalism (sports or business or news) simply shifting from one medium to another…it’s about the death of a big part of journalism.

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  2. John Galt says:

    However else it impacts society, anything that hastens the BBWAA’s demise can only be good for baseball.

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    • Phil says:

      and maybe they’ll eventually let the people who actually follow the game vote for HOF. Instead of mailing in dated columns every week

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  3. Xeifrank says:

    Yes, and don’t forget the SB Nation network of sports blogs. They also inked a recent deal with Yahoo Sports. Click on any teams Yahoo Sports page and you will see a link to their SB Nation blog.
    vr, Xei

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  4. steve-o says:

    Not buying it. If newspapers are the only source of news for 75% of Americans (as you infer), why are they going out of business? They are irrelevant in the era of 24/7 broadcast news coverage and internet.

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  5. steve-o says:

    Yup, I certainly feel like an a** completely misread that.

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  6. Ryan says:

    “As for accountability, I think the trustworthiness a newspaper had is transferred to their online counterparts. And as one reads blogs, online news, etc, accountability will be earned by those sources as well. I think one of the greatest strengths of online news is that the writer is often a specialist in their field first and foremost, and second, a writer. Newspapers are filled with writers, trying to cover topics/fields that they are not necessarily proficient in.”

    I’m not so sure about that. The blog is quick. That is one of the reasons it trounces newspapers (because they are yesterday’s news). With the ability to quickly write, rewrite, move-on, etc. blogs will never be held to the same standards print media is. We can all see the picture where Dewey is proclaimed the next president by the Chicago Tribune. It will forever live in infamy. On the other hand, if Nate Silver had been wrong when he proclaimed Obabma the next president 3 hours before anyone else it would have been quickly forgotten. There would have been scant aretraction or apology. There is no copy editor for blogs, and there is no consumer to offend (since they’re free). Without any of these roles, I doubt highly that blogdom will ever achieve the accountability of the paper.

    The other issue with no papers: you have to actively persue the news you ant. This effects where we get our news greatly. Do right-wingers go to the Huffington Post? No, they tend to go to more like-minded sources. With this compartmentalization of the news, you lose a lot of the detatchment presented.

    I sound like my grandfather (a newspaperman of 76) when he looks over the Post every morning. This is sad.

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    • Dan Szymborski says:

      I guarantee you that wrong predictions never go out in the ether. I still get occasional grief for wrong predictions I made 10 years ago. There’s a guy on BTF that constantly brings up David’s Cano predictions every time his name comes up. And so on.

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  7. Phil says:

    In repsonse to when diderot says
    ” But how realistic is it to carry a library with you on the bus ride to work? Or run to one on your coffee break at the paper mill?”

    I don’t know if you ride the bus, but i rarely if ever saw a person on the bus reading a newspaper. And i work in at a business where there are blue collar warehouse workers and white collar workers. We have two computers with the internet in our break room for coffee breaks, and we get the USA today(which i have not heard is going out of business.”

    Disaster is overblown, newspapers did not want to adapt, then adapted too late, and now are dying. Online media is where it is at, and best of all its free. Public Libraries have provided free knowledge for many, many years, now its just be transferred to our homes(or wherever you find internet access).

    We should be celebrating this fact(as Dave does very well) that more of us can be educated and have access to vast amounts of information.

    Accountability is another issue, however if you beleived all you read in a newspaper than there’s a bridge in brooklyn i’d like to sell you. It is YOUR responsibility to gain knowldege, and the internet gives many, many views.

    For example, during the election season i would send my time alternating between foxnews and cnn and the bbc, because on all the perspective was slightly(if not wholly) different. It is again the reader’s Responsibility to find different sides to the story.

    So I am almost glad newspapers are going away, because now it is up to ME to find out as much as i want about a particular story. (Besides saving billions of trees)

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    • Phil says:

      sorry for the typos. I mean “believe” instead of “beleive” and “spend” instead of “send.”

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    • diderot says:

      Phil,
      Maybe we’re just talking past each other, but let me try one more time:

      “more of us can be educated and have access to vast amounts of information”

      No, actually SOME of us can have a lot more information, but the decline of newspapers means others will have a lot less. I don’t understand why you think that doesn’t matter.

      “…newspapers did not want to adapt, then adapted too late, and now are dying…I am almost glad newspapers are going away….”

      So are you one of those who feel all those newspaper people deserved their fate? Did they deserve to lose their jobs?

      “Accountability is another issue”

      No reason getting too far into this. Surely you’re not saying that the Internet as a whole is more accountable than current print media, right?

      “during the election season i would send my time alternating between foxnews and cnn and the bbc,”

      OK, how often did they report on your state government? Or your city council meeting? Or the sex predator that may have moved in on the next block?

      I think you’re taking your own personal situation and expanding it to apply to society in general. There are people who aren’t in your situation.

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      • Jeff says:

        “No, actually SOME of us can have a lot more information, but the decline of newspapers means others will have a lot less. I don’t understand why you think that doesn’t matter.”

        It doesn’t matter in a true emergency sense because those people, if properly motivated (like by a true emergency) *do* have access. There are libraries. There are universities. There are internet cafes. If, tomorrow, all information moved to completely online and no print newspapers or magazines were made, this would not pose some information drought to Ma and Pa Kettle, unless they live obscenely far from one of those places.

        You try to preempt this by saying “But how realistic is it to carry a library with you on the bus ride to work? Or run to one on your coffee break at the paper mill? The demise of newspapers is a threat to democracy–there is no way around that.”, and I ask how you get from A to B. They CAN access the information. Whether they can do so on the bus or on a five minute job break has little relevance to anything but their convenience. It doesn’t threaten democracy, that’s outright ludicrous hyperbole.

        All this ignores the fact that the decision to not have a computer or broadband is a choice for the vast majority of people who do not. Broadband doesn’t belong in this discussion, as its absence doesn’t “threaten democracy” even under your convenience definition, unless being unable to get CNN.com in under five seconds is now an inalienable prerequisite to vote. Regardless, read the Pew studies that they do constantly. People who do not have broadband are (to an enormous degree) either too poor or simply don’t want it. The poor can be assisted through public works, as they already are, and those who don’t want it, frankly, screw ‘em. It’s their choice to make, choices have consequences. If I decide I don’t want to have cable, I can’t complain that there’s nothing good on TV.

        “OK, how often did they report on your state government? Or your city council meeting? Or the sex predator that may have moved in on the next block?”

        That news is still available, and will remain available as long as someone wants to read it. Hell, it’s more likely in this day and age, when the sole purveyor isn’t a company with a profit motive.

        “I think you’re taking your own personal situation and expanding it to apply to society in general. There are people who aren’t in your situation.”

        And they either choose to be in that situation (only having dialup, or nothing at all) or are economically disadvantaged, and they are provided options, very good ones. Newspapers serve a purpose, but their disappearance tomorrow wouldn’t threaten democracy. It’d be a big thing for a few months while everything sorted out, meanwhile TV and the internet and magazines are all still around, and it wouldn’t swing a single poll 2 points in the 2012 election cycle. Outside the economic factors.

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      • diderot says:

        Jeff,
        Ah yes, the ‘screw ‘em’ approach. So elitist, and yet so satisfying, isn’t it?
        So let me see if I can make this one thing clear for you, because you’re missing my point. The main issue is not the willingness of people unlike you to go seek the news online at some out-of-home location. (BTW, are you posting from the library or an Internet cafe?) It’s that when those people do make the effort you so assuredly think they should, the news as we’ve known it won’t be there for them anymore. Or for you, or me.
        Bloggers–sure. They unquestionably fill a great need, and have improved the depth and breadth of information. I’m thankful they exist.
        But in almost every case, blogger information is opinion which is ‘informed’ not by first hand knowledge, but by second hand knowledge. Firsthand comes from the paid mainstream media. To denigrate what those reporters do is foolish, and frankly, offensive.
        Although I don’t like to tread into political waters in what was originally a post dealing with sports, the analogy which comes to mind for me is the difference between the weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq saying ‘there are no WMD here’, and an administration which responded, ‘well, you’re not looking hard enough–so we’re going to invade anyway’. Which was better–on the scene reporting, or interpretation of what was heard?
        So, where’s the magic formula that’s going to pay all those reporters to do their jobs when all information is online? It hasn’t been found yet, and that’s not because no one has tried. Or, if you have the business model that will work, please provide it.
        My guess is that you’d say all anyone needs is what they can find in the blogosphere. But again, you’d be wrong.

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  8. Fresh Hops says:

    This is a great post.

    The internet changes the nature of the information market in ways that will be a source of intense scrutiny to future historians and social scientists.

    The openness and transparency has really brought several sources to excellence. Baseball Prospectus, a publication I still read daily, used to be my favorite source of baseball information. But I don’t look at their metrics nearly as much as I used to, and a the biggest reason for that is I don’t really understand where the metrics come from. Metrics used at this site are pretty transparent. I know how wOBA is derived. I can learn about run scoring environments to understand the relation of wOBA to run scoring. I haven’t actually done this math myself, but knowing that I could and understanding the theory behind it makes me trust it. It also means that I can improve upon it (by refining the run scoring environment and so forth) if I ever desire to. UZR isn’t quite as transparent, but that mostly involves limitations on the proprietary data that it begins with, and at least in principle I know how it generates its results. I can’t say the same things about FRAA or WARP.

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  9. Jacob says:

    Your analysis of the situation may be a little shortsighted. I have seen lots of free content go the way of paid content. Let’s face it, the reason this site exists is to one day make a profit or at least pay for your hard work. Whether that be though an acquisition or a subscription based format.

    I remember, like yesterday, when a popular fantasy football website called footballguys.com was quoted in mainstream media saying that fantasy football content should be free and that it was their pleasure to deliver it. Guess what, within one year they were charging for their content. Not that I blame them, but their comments lacked vision.

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  10. Joe says:

    I think the internet and sites like fangraphs.com are awesome for knowledge and education of the game, and may pave the way for a new school of thought in MLB in the future.

    That being said, I do think it’s sad that the print media is falling by the wayside. As much as a lot of us may make fun of pieces of certain writers like Bill Plaschke, I think their humanistic work is just as valuable to the sport as SAS programming.

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  11. RollingWave says:

    News paper is also dying because they use to at least put out more deeper content than TV news did, but nowadays .. almost all the random bloggers can write significantly better articles than the paid news journalist, nowhere is the more obvious in the baseball field. where almost all of us moan and cry and curse at how much garbage the guys actually making money to write this stuff throws out.

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  12. I am a baseball writer who has recently lost his job, and I find this idea to be pretty offensive. While I will grant you that in areas of stastical analysis, the best work is done by the bloggers and others that you mention, there is much more than that to providing the full story for fans.

    Do me a favor and try to go a week without reading a single thing written by a professional journalist. No ESPN.com, no MLB.com, no AP, no newspaper web sites.

    It would be an awfully long winter for you guys in between box scores.

    Just because you don’t pick up an actual newspaper doesn’t mean you still aren’t relying on professional journalists.

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  13. I would agree with Dave that much of the best baseball analysis is being done by independent sites, but a lot of the work we do is very different from the work the newspapers do.

    Good storytelling that doesn’t involve the numbers is essential to baseball and I’d hate to see it hindered.

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    • cavegravedave says:

      Why would good storytelling be hindered? The internet is simply a more efficient medium. Once businesses adapt, there will be more storytelling than one can handle.

      70% of the country has pcs — and if they don’t — and their favorite publication is only online (because it’s the only environment it can survive), than, Joe Grandpa is going to invest in a computer.

      You can get a decent portable computer for less than $300 these days — which has countless benefits that go beyond being able to read local/national news.

      Also, most portable devices (mobile phone), have internet functionality — and the ability to read RSS feeds — with a service fee that allows unlimited calling and internet browsing for less than $50/mo.

      Why would I carry a newspaper around with me on the bus, when I can launch my cell phone, and text browse through all my favorite news feeds (up to the second news), on a 2 lb electronic device?

      Time has changed.

      And sites like Fangraphs (publish RSS, have specialized analysis, easily accessible content, etc) will benefit greatly as more people conform to the medium.

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      • The main problem is that business aren’t adapting.

        My comment had nothing to do with medium, it’s about companies being able to support their writers.

        If you think that it’s in the FanGraphs budget to send someone like Dave to the WBC and get him press credentials to cover whatever other stories are going on there besides the stuff that comes out of the box-scores, you would be incorrect.

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      • cavegravedave says:

        History shows that there is a market for that kind of thing. Once businesses adapt and become more efficient with their capital (publishing online is extremely cheap, as apposed to print), they’ll be able to give you the “inside” scoop, and cliche quotes you’re looking for.

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    • cavegravedave says:

      BTW: I just want to make it clear, I love this site for all the reasons I can no longer stand BP.

      I know this site isn’t possible without a lot of talented people make a lot of sacrifices. And for that, I’m very grateful.

      I tell everybody about this place (and I’m sure I’m not alone).

      David, whatever your plans are to monetize the site, get bought out, or just continue to provide fantastic content free of charge — skies the limit for Fangraphs — the site is just oozing with quality and everybody can see it.

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  14. Dan says:

    Just to clear something up.

    Ryan said newspapers can’t be much less than $13 per month. That’s simply not true, at least in any competing market.

    My newspaper subscription is $14 for 13 weeks. I don’t think that’s atypical.

    Newspapers want regular paid subscribers (the better to appeal to advertisers), and are willing to significantly cut the per copy price to guarantee a regular reader they can sell to advertisers.

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    • Ryan B says:

      I checked…the evening daily here (Lancaster New Era) is delivered at $2.85 per week, so I guess it varies significantly depending on, like you said, competition or lack of. (The evening and morning papers here are owned by the same company)

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  15. Robbie says:

    “Do me a favor and try to go a week without reading a single thing written by a professional journalist. No ESPN.com, no MLB.com, no AP, no newspaper web sites.”

    While I don’t want to dismiss the point, I do this regularly.

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    • giantsrainman says:

      So you never go to MLB Trade Rumors which is just a colleciton of links to the main steam media so that you can easily find the latest rumors the main steam media (and only the main stream media) makes public?

      I call BS on this.

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  16. TL says:

    While many of us do get some of our news from professional sports writers I think the way in which they cover stories, with a lynch mob pack mentality, also keeps some people from shedding tears and seeing the loss of newspapers.

    At times, its as if they are writing for themselves and not the fans (who they only inject when it serves their purpose).

    I may get news from the pros but the analysis I get from blogs, its one thing baseball writers are sorely lacking in. They consistently let whatever biases they may have get in the way of real analysis. I’ve seen too many beat writers who can only deliver the basic info and not do any real analysis. Thats what I want. I really don’t care about their opinion on who is a good person and who is fake. And for some, thats the only time it seems like they enjoy writing – when the story is fit for TMZ or they get to trash someone.

    And its not that I don’t enjoy the behind-the-scenes moments only a press pass can gain or a good human interest story but that gets overshadowed often by too much other stuff.

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  17. TL is spot on. As a Yankee fan, like most I am very excited about the upcoming season with the new signings, return from injury of key players and new up and comers. But look at the local coverage for the past two weeks. There have been more articles on who drove A Rod home from the first exhibition game than there were about the game. I realize there’s some interest there, but locally we’ve been saturated with this coverage. No one looking at the sports page in a local paper in NY/NJ wants to hear more than a short blurb about who drove who back to Tampa. The local sportswriters (or perhaps their editors) sure seem to be tone deaf to what their consumers are interested in. To find details from spring training camp, a fan needs to look at the blogs.

    It is this pervasive insistence that newspapers have that they will determine what is newsworthy that is killing them. That goes from the front page to the sports page. Report the news well and consumers will be disposed to pay for a web subscription. The WSJ is a shining example. Write three thousand articles about a fake story about how a Koran was flushed down a toilet and you go out of business. Deservedly so. Write (or print – I don’t know whether it is a decision of the editor or the writer but the result is the same) twenty articles about who drove A Rod and Swisher back from a game and you drive the interested consumer to other sources. Write an article on how Phil Hughes pitched or Posada batted and you get less sensation, but more readership. Listen to the consumer.

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  18. Jeff Fletcher says:

    Let me say first that the previous poster has to understand NY mainstream media is not like mainstreM media anywhere else.

    Upon further reading of Dave’s work at USS Mariner, I see that his intention in this piece was probably not to deliver the message that I inferred. For that I apologize to Dave.

    However, I feel that there are some readers who absolutely believe they don’t need the mainstream media. Those folks are misguided. I don’t think the realize how much is produced by these writers till it’s gone.

    By the way, the point is not that newspapers are dying, it’s that news reporters are dying because society doesn’t believe they provide a service worth paying for. It’s the newspapers fault for giving it away in the first place and now there is no way to reverse it, but it’s still sad.

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  19. CH says:

    Tommy S., your comment about papers with “liberal editorials” being shut down doesn’t add anything to the conversation. All papers are in trouble, especially once Middle America has the same kind of broadband infrastructure that it already has in its coastal cities. They’re failing because news is instantly available on the internet, literally minutes after it happens, for a fraction of the cost (mostly free).

    Papers aren’t failing because readers voted for Obama, as much as you’d like that joke to be funny. The situation is actually much more serious.

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  20. Fresh Hops says:

    This is a pretty interesting discussion. I thought I’d point you all to a nice summary of a recent Pew research study that has lots of data about who is and isn’t an internet user, and who has broadband access, and all that sort of stuff. There’s no need to speculate about who’s affected by this change in the media:

    http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Broadband_2008.pdf

    It also investigates trends in broadband growth.

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  21. Matthew says:

    There seems to be a common thread here that journalists cannot adapt in any way, shape, or form. That if the newspaper venue goes away, they will cease to be able to write for a living because they will be unable to adapt.

    I think that’s a little short-sighted. Yes, there are probably many writers out there who will dig their heels into the ground and de-cry the shrinking of mainstream press. But then there are other writers who will embrace the new opportunities that the internet offers them as journalists. This isn’t an either/or debate.

    As a Seattle Mariners fan, I routinely follow the work of beat writer Geoff Baker, who receives a lot of flack for his love of ‘team chemistry,’ but does an excellent job covering the sport. This spring he has been doing a series of webcasts where he fields questions from his readers (we’re talking on a daily basis) and often pulls in whatever team members are walking by to answer a question or two. In addition to this, he keeps Seattle fans satiated with a ton of digital photographs that he snaps around Arizona. Baker is attempting to combine the best of a blogger who follows the team with a sportswriters who has access to the clubhouse, and I think he’s succeeding.

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  22. Bill says:

    The good writers will survive this. Writers, like Baker, who know their craft and are willing to adapt will continue to be in demand. The writers that give guys like Baker a bad name – the ones that write the same articles every year, ask the same questions every year, and have long ago ceased to care about the quality of their work – these guys will be gone. And it will be a good riddance. I don’t think this will, by any means, mean the end of printed newspapers. They will just need to come up with a better business plan. They will probably contain a lot more ads, but if the quality of the writing is high enough, people will be willing to wade through them when nothing else is available. They won’t wade through them for seventy year old comics and articles extolling the gritty veteran leadership in a clubhouse.

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  23. Matthew, I agree that the future of the online content is the kind of stuff you are talking about. The question is: are you willing to pay for that? Online advertising alone does not pay the costs associated with reporting the news. I’m sure the ad revenue from Baker’s work does not even come close to paying his expenses for being in Arizona, let alone his salary.

    I think the only way that the mainstream media can survive is if people somehow come to the realization that they should pay for the work of the reporters and editors, just like they would for someone who provides any other service.

    Unfortunately, people now believe that they have a right to all the information they want for free because newspapers have given it away (a mistake that’s costing them dearly now).

    As Dave pointed out in his original piece, there is a lot of great information produced by people like him that is given for free, but the difference is those people are producing the information on their schedules, around other jobs, and there is relatively little cost to produce it. For a mainstream news organization to cover the Mariners, it has to have someone with the team or on call 24/7.

    Geoff Baker’s not doing all this just for fun. He deserves to be paid. If people aren’t going to pay him by buying the newspaper, they need to “buy” the online content.

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  24. Brian Recca says:

    Personally I feel like eventually the internet will have more sites where they are paying writers to cover stories. These news sites will be able to incorporate on the scene journalism and blogs while gaining revenue for subscriptions to the sit as well as advertisements, just like the newspaper does now.

    As far as the 33 or whatever percent of people don’t have computers or an internet connection argument, the internet hasn’t even been around for 20 years yet. The first working television was created in the late 1930′s and wasn’t mainstream for another 25-30 years.

    Another medium that is growing is cell phones. Look at the iphone, you can search the internet from pretty much anywhere in the country and find information you need. Eventually most phones will be like the iphone and cheaper too.

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  25. Just for your information, right now I believe there is only one internet-only company that is paying writers to produce baseball content: Yahoo. They have three full-time writers.

    Everything else relies on something else to pay the freight, like TV (espn.com, foxsports.com, cbssportline.com) or a newspaper.

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  26. Brian Recca says:

    And I believe with the downfall of newspapers more sites like Yahoo will develop.

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  27. I hope you are right Brian, but I’m afraid too many people are just unwilling to pay for anything online. That has to change.

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  28. Nathan says:

    With respect to pay content on websites, people fail to remember that the nominal charge for a newspaper ($.50) does not come anywhere near covering a newspapers expenses. In fact, it was started because studies showed that people equated paying for something with good content and charging for a product increased circulation. The vast majority of a newspaper’s revenues come from advertising. Right now, the cost of internet advertising is very low in comparison, but as demand for online content increases, the cost of advertising online will go up. This will enable online journalism to exist purely on advertising.

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  29. Fantastic site I have been looking for such information for a long time, glad to have found it and will come again soon. Thanks

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  30. Hello, just wandered by. I have a Lancaster 4g site. Lots of information out there. Looking for something else, but nice site. Have a great day.

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  31. Canasta says:

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