Newspaper curmudgeon talking points: The e-book

by Jason Preston on September 18, 2008

Many of you probably remember The ultimate guide to newspaper curmudgeon talking points, which I started in early August this year. It’s been a great collaborative post, where many people have sent in answers or additional curmudgeonly points.

Just for fun, I put it all together in a colorful little e-book to be passed around and enjoyed. Download a copy. Re-post it on your blog. Print it out and show your Grandmother. Hack it and add your own points. Have fun.

Click the image to download the PDF.

Also, don’t forget that The Pitch is happening tonight from 6:30 to 8:30 at McLeod Residence in Belltown. See you there!


1 Working Reporter 09.18.08 at 7:44 pm


“… there are a whole lot of
companies that are building big revenue streams on-
line, many of them doing content production. …”

Out of curiosity … examples of content producers building big revenue streams online? Ideally examples where the big revenue stream isn’t big only because the cost of content creation isn’t charged against it (the trick used by many newspaper web sites) and where “big” is an objective measurement, not “big” as in “our online revenue has soared 50% … and still represents just 4% of our total.” Bonus points for big revenue streams being made from online ads and not some other revenue stream (eg iTunes).


“Coinstar built a ludicrously lucrative business by taking a few pennies out of each transaction. PayPal works because every time money changes hands, they get a cut. Google makes bazillions (yes, I meant to say “bazillions”) of dollars every year by shaving a percentage from the cost of each ad they serve. ”

Yes, but these are all service businesses; their model is based on taking a tiny cut when somebody else produces or exchanges something of value. That’s rather like comparing a construction company to a real estate agent — both seek to make money, but its not valid to assume that since real estate agents make enough money to survive, home builders much be able to make enough money to survive using a similar business model.

I know I’m risking being labeled a curmudgeon for even asking these questions, of course. But I’ve liked your thoughts elsewhere on the blog, and these assertions struck me as unsubstantiated. And a little surprising, given that you’re one of the few new media bloggers who seems to accept that there are real problems in the link economy, and that a different model might be needed.

I liked several other points, by the way. I actually agree with the point that an army of citizen journalists can help inform public discourse, if they can make a living at it. (See above.)

But in your point on comments — I’m sorry, but I read plenty of newspapers that take all the steps you suggest, and the comment sections remain an absolute cesspool. I’d like to suggest you add a few words: “Requiring users to register AND POST WITH THEIR REAL NAMES.” That’s the only step I’ve seen that seems to make a real difference.

2 Jason Preston 09.19.08 at 11:54 am

Working Reporter – Challenging these talking points is much different than “being a curmudgeon.” If you’re right, then you’re right, and if you’re wrong, then we end up with a stronger position. Everybody wins.

Re: online media companies making revenue. I’d like to first point out that I intentionally did not limit revenue to ad revenue, I think papers should look to expand the ways that they generate income (this is part of realizing that there are problems with the current link/cheap ad online model).

Gawker is an example of an online media company that creates its own content and makes money via advertising. Even more up your alley might be, which augments ad revenue with paying subscribers. Teaching Sells is a web site that offers tiny amounts of free content designed to sell you their paid content, and they don’t use ad revenue at all.

Re: coinstar & service businesses – my argument is based in the fact that the internet makes newspapers into more of a service business (they “serve” existing content.)

In the old world a paper made an article, it was printed once, they made money on it once, and then it went into the library archives rarely to see the light of day again (and never to earn another cent).

Now, everything the paper has ever produced before is a potential money maker – on the order (potentially) of a couple dollars per year. That adds up quickly, especially when you realize that producing content is a one-time expense.

Re: commenters – yep, I agree with you that real identity is hugely important. I wrote my long-form opinion on that in this post.

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