Monday, 21 September 2009

Game on?

A businessman I know made me a very attractive and, I must admit, sphincter-clenching offer last week.
Over a number of glasses of vino collapso, we discussed the future of newspapers.
My argument is simple and oft repeated here.
As long as you give the readers a product worth reading there is still money to be made in print newspapers.
Couple that with a progressive web site in synch and mutually benefitting your paper product and the company has a good future.
Running a part paid/part free model is also looking like a good move in terms of circulation.
Make sure the whole area can get hold of a copy then no-one can complain they haven't seen the thing.
Sell ads like the pages they are on actually mean something ie premium deals on front of book pages.
How many times have your ad staff given front of book space away for peanuts on deadline day to make a ridiculous budget figure then expected advertisers to book early andpay full whack the next week?
I predicted that two or three local titles run independently could make enough not only to employ a fairly decent staff who are paid a fairly decent wage but would also turn over a healthy 8-10 per cent profit.
I know how much my papers bring in each week and it is serious cash.
The caveat is lose the money-hungry companies that currently run our newspapers. These organisations exists solely to satisfy faceless shareholders and are run by whore-mongering management bean counters who do not care if the product is worth reading or not.
As long as their monthly/quarterly budget figures are right fuck the consequences or long term effects.
By taking away their greed and producing something to be proud of, newspapers can survive and thrive. It may be idealistic but I also think it could just work.
Now my businessman is no slouch when it comes to newspapers and has made a considerable amount of cash from buying, running and selling the things.
So he told me find a newspaper worth saving and come back to him.
I do the news, he sorts out the business side of things.
Predictably, I woke up the next morning sore-headed and figured the previous night's conversation was drunken bullshit.
But I know this chap and he is not given to bravado. Hence my rectal dysfunction.
Suddenly it's down to me to put up or shut up.
Gulp. It's a daunting thought.
I truly believe that independently run newspapers are the future. Fuck the big companies. Once they realise there is no longer the ridiculous margins left in papers they will get bored and fuck off and do something else. (or hopefully go out of business).
There is going to be a lot of decent titles left on the scrap heap which will inevitably get picked up by entrepreneurial souls. Look at the Burton example.
Trinity Mirror discarded the spent carcass of what was once a popular title in the gutter after sucking the life from it. Businessman steps up and takes the helm.
Whether it works or not will depend entirely on what they produce.
Newspapers, like the restaurant industry, is littered with the sorry tales of failed wannabes.
But it is also home to many pioneers. Ray Tindle, Enzo Testa, Lionel Pickering, Chris Bullivant, and Frank Branston, to name a handful.
Whatever you think of them, and I imagine some of you harbour less than sweet thoughts, they went out and did it.
Created empires from bank loans and hard graft.
Is this truly the end of days or the new frontier?
I hope to find out.

ps anyone know any titles going cheap?


  1. Blunt come and work some magic on the three Johnston titles in Edinburgh - two of which are struggling under their ownership

  2. The Fifth Yorkshireman22 September 2009 at 13:06

    Remarkably it looks like slash and burn seems to be the attitude in management these days.
    They'd rather close a title than sell it on. Thats what happened here when they shut a much loved free (that had been making money right up until the point the bean-counters started taking an interest.)
    Local bod came up with a cash offer for the title and was turned down, even though the co has no intention of republishing.

    I'd say your best bet is to find an area where the local paper has been shut by blinkered managers and go and poach the redundant staff then you don't even have to pay for the title.

    Trinity Mirror closed three today in North Wales and Cheshire...

  3. Choose any of one hundred newsquest papers. Never mind the actual piss-up, these total fuckwits couldn't organise the walk to the brewery in the first place.

  4. Blunt - you need to look for these indicators -
    * a 'traditionalist' community style where people tend to settle, live a structured lifestyle etc
    * anywhere earmarked by government for significant residential developments/ extra schools/ new Tescos etc in next 2 to 5 years in
    its efforts to solve affordable housing crisis
    * places with a lot of mini trading estates housing new tech and other clean start up businesses.
    Find one where the arsewipes are shutting papers (and the websites!!)instead of developing them and YOU ARE IN.
    Good luck if this comes off.