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Bring on Bezos!

31 Aug 2013
Posted by Shannon

There's no way for the current crop of mismanaged newspapers to change how they do business unless someone new buys them, which is why my Salon piece is cheering on Amazon's Jeff Bezos snagging the Washington Post.

The people currently running newspapers don't seem to have the skills to profit outside of the monopoly environment they once enjoyed, which until recently was giving them 20 to 40 per cent profit margins. All they know how to do is cut the quality of the product, which is absolutely the wrong strategy in a competitive market. Even worse they're erecting paywalls while reducing the quality of their newspapers, trying to squeeze a few more pennies out of their ever-dwindling pool of loyal customers. That's just cheating them. In a monopoly market that kind of thinking is safe and in some circles might even be advisable. But exploiting and abusing customers who have options outside of such cynical environs isn't just stupid -- it's suicide.

Bezos, on the other hand, knows how to compete. So I think he will do what I would do if I had $250 million to spend on a journalism experiment.  I'm betting he will launch a variation on the old-fashioned newspaper model of selling eyeballs-to-advertisers, using good journalism as the bait. Only he'll replace display ads with online shopping, which Amazon does so well. 

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It must be summer. In anticipation of fall course schedules, several people have asked what I think someone who wants to be a journalist should study.

A few years ago I realized my favourite answer — not journalism — was depressing for someone who had already reserved a seat for himself or his child at one of Canada’s more than 50 journalism programs.

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Posted by Shannon

I was gobsmacked earlier this month to see the British papers all trumpeting the fact that Andy Murray was the first Brit to win Wimbledon in 77 years. And I was even more astounded to see other media merely repeating them. As a New York-based blogger Chloe Angyal noted on Twitter, “Murray is indeed the first Brit to win Wimbledon in 77 years, unless you think women are people.”

Virginia Wade took the prize in 1977, which ought to have been general knowledge for sports reporters. But it speaks to a sort of contempt they show for their readers (and their craft) all the while trying to persuade us that we really want to pay for what’s behind their digital walls. 

As I point out in Salon, this is why the readers that advertisers have always wanted most – well-educated women – have been running, screaming for the last 30 years. 

So the next time some newspaper CEO blames the Internet for killing newspapers, someone might just want to point out that that for anyone who has been paying attention, it looks more like a case of suicide.

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News of a U.K. government study that claims women are less informed than men about current affairs, particularly in liberal, egalitarian western countries, has been making the rounds, much to the irritation of my female friends and colleagues.

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