Friday, December 23, 2011

Changes In the Newspaper World

Rumor has it that the ARGUS LEADER will be moving towards Gannett's goal to reduce free on-line access to its newspapers in 2012. According to a Gannett blog dated December 7, 2011, the largest newspaper publisher in the country will reduce it's free for all access online and begin charging for digital access. Gannet started its paywall test in July 2010 with three of its newspapers, one being the Chicago Sun Times which has already begun charging for online access.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the business model of the print media needed to change in order to survive. Newspapers are losing money. Not a big surprise and I, for one, don't think they can blame it totally on the digital explosion. Have you looked at the local newspaper lately? The actual pages of news have been reduced to a couple of thin pages. The local news content leaves something to be desired with articles lacking investigative depth while basically regurgitating bland information with no hard line questioning.

There are always going to be people who want to get that newspaper delivered to their home. Where you once had to only open your front door and pick up your newspaper, you now must get dressed, put some shoes on and go hunt for it somewhere out on your front lawn, on the boulevard, or down your driveway close to the street, buried in the bushes or in your neighbor's yard. That is if you get the newspaper delivered that morning at all.

With the digital explosion, a lot of people are now choosing to get their news off their computers, through their smart phones or their iPads, Nook or whatever other tablet is now available. Gannett CEO Gracia Martore said the newspaper publisher needs to "capture revenue and profitability from our newspapers."

That from the newspaper giant who, in 2011 laid off over 700 employees nationwide while Bob Dickey, Gannett’s U.S. newspapers division president, was paid $3.4 million last year, up from $1.9 million the year prior. In the memo announcing the 700 nationwide layoffs, Dickey wrote, “While we have sought many ways to reduce costs, I regret to tell you that we will not be able to avoid layoffs.” 

If you access the Chicago Sun Times link above, they were not immune to layoffs either. One day after the layoffs, the Sun Times announced their new paywall policy. The newspaper giant is no different than Wall Street and other big corporations who continue to pay their executives exorbitant salaries and bonuses at the expense of the people who are the backbone of their companies and who are obviously dispensable in their new business model to improve profitability.

The fee model for online access will be interesting to watch. If you want to subscribe to electronic access only, the ARGUS LEADER  will charge you the same monthly amount that you would pay for a 7 day subscription of the print copy delivered to your home. I hope they rethink that price model when they introduce their new paywall policy in 2012. After the first 20 page views every 30 days, Chicago Sun Times readers will be required to pay $6.99 a month (or $77.87 a year) for continued access.  I think the ARGUS LEADER could charge half that amount since we probably get half the newspaper news the readers of the Chicago Sun Times gets in their newspaper.

I am a user of the online access of the ARGUS LEADER after giving up on the dismally poor home delivery service and the inability to get satisfaction from customer service calls. When I do pick up a print copy laying around the salon or a restaurant, I am thankful I am not paying $18.89+tax per month for such a flimsy newspaper. I am willing to pay something for full on-line access but the newspaper needs to do its part too by providing me something newsworthy to read instead of bland stories and no investigative reporting.


  1. Jennifer.

    There are times I'd just as soon wring your neck than read another line of your blog. Other times I'd love to put you on a pedestal.'s the latter. I guess that means you're doing a great job. I no longer subscribe to the Argus, thanks to places like this, SouthDaCola, and the Madville Times.

    Polly Amalo


    I stated the Chicago Sun Times was part of the Gannett organization and that was in error. The Chicago Sun Times is the flagship paper of the Sun-Times Media Group.

  3. As I read this entry of yours Jennifer, and the the current year draws to a close, it gives me time to reflect on the state of our country's jobs. Not just at Gannett. And certainly not just the rank and file who toil for the Argus. I worked for a very large company that played numbers games in search of trumped up figures that enhanced yearly bonuses. I wised up and retired on my own terms 5 years early and gave up 25% of my pension check by drawing early. But it's been worth it. Do not regret it for a minute. That same company today faces massive layoffs and/or relocation issues with demotions in both job description and pay. Meanwhile upper management continues to write themselves cushy retirement packages.

    My spouse followed suit a few years later from a different corporation that operated in the exact same way. We both are living on retirement checks a little smaller than we had dreamed of, but we also find life much more fullfilling now.

    Everyone should take a good close look at their company's business model. If you are too young to retire and your company plays the same kind of games Gannett plays, then start looking around before it's too late.

    You made mention of Dickey. But what about Gannetts CEO who left a few months ago with an over 37 million dollar golden parachute? The Argus has gone through several one week unpaid furlough plans in the past few years. Last June they laid off eleven front line employees. The year before, even more. Yet guys like Dubow walk off with over 37 million while 20,000 Gannett jobs vanished? This country and our system is broke, and Gannett is a perfect example of why.

    Take the time to read this.

    Some real truths here from top to bottom.


  4. Heaven forbid you should contact the Argus about a missing newspaper. If you use the online method, you will get an e-mail from The last thing I want to receive is an e-mail sender calling themselves greatservice when the original compalint was for LOUSY SERVICE. The Argus has dumped several good employees over the last few years and replaced them with sub-competent writers.
    One story they have never published is how much they had to pay Dan Scott to drop his lawsuit. I would like to see a copy of that check. Of course we will never see that as it would show how imcompetent their management staff is.

  5. It's funny (and sad) that the Argus editorializes on City Council issues the writer doesn't understand because the paper can't send a reporter to the actual meetings because he's been furloughed. A cynical person might predict the Argus will drum up some controversy where this is none in the week they launch this "pay for digital content" plan so they can claim to have "investigative" reproting that KELO doesn't have. it's the journalism equivalent of the emperor having no clothes.