Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What works, and what doesn't work

The long-running trend in the U.S. for companies to be owned and bought by "chains" has not worked for the newspaper business.

The best newspapers are strongly local; the standardization forced on them by chain ownership works against that. Also, the cash flow is notoriously erratic, and can vary widely. The tendency for "bean counters" to set the bottom line for accounts receivable at the lowest possible cash flow level means many newspapers appear unprofitable on paper.

You can make a living from a newspaper, but they are not profitable enough in general to pay out large dividends. Attempts by corporate owners to generate that kind of profit usually leads to cutbacks to the point the newspaper can't produce a decent, interesting product. Plus corporate owners often cheat employees by giving then workloads that can't be accomplished in a 40 hour work week, thereby forcing them to work off the clock (they never approve overtime).

Owner-operated small newspapers will be around for many years, but we will probably see the demise of daily newspapers, and newspaper chains, within my lifetime.

I've gotten by over the years by pretty much trying to always work for locally-owned newspapers whenever possible.

If I ever write my journalism autobiography, I'll call it "I'm a Fugitive From a Newspaper Chain Gang".

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