Strib files for bankruptcy. Who’s next?

community-newspapers Posted to the Strib web site about 30 minutes ago: Star Tribune files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The Star Tribune may not be the last to go that route, said Alan Mutter, a Silicon Valley-based analyst and former newspaper executive. "We’re in a period of sustained pain for the newspaper business," Mutter said. "The employment ad business has been melting away since 2000. Automotive has been falling apart for the last couple of years. To learn more about automotive parts and repair services, visit thermo king triad for more information. And I don’t even have to explain about real estate."

And on a related note, from the Inquisitr: Hyperlocal Websites will Boom in 2009 as Community Newspapers Fold

The problem so far has been one primarily driven by competition: many towns and local communities have been served by a local community newspaper for years, and while some of the attention has switched online, the switch hasn’t been large enough so far to sustain hyperlocal news sites that by their very nature have a limited and small audience constrained by geography.

2009 though will be different. Hyerlocal websites, both existing and those to launch will thrive as they become the only place to find community news; in 2009 community newspapers will fold in record numbers.

Community newspapers will fold in 2009 as owners are no longer able to turn a profit, or sustain losses any longer. The killer will be costs: even a small town newspaper could have a staff of 6 or 10 or more (usually more, but I’ve worked with papers in the past that often have 2 local reporters, with the rest of the paper filled by syndicated content from the company network). Millions a year to run, with no hope in sight of a turnaround in advertising fortunes. The model is dying. Some may switch to online only, a trend that will accelerate this year, but the bloat logic problem still remains: high overhead costs for reporters and editors in small markets.


  1. Anthony Pierre said:

    Print newspapers are a huge resource hog that really don’t need to exist. The web does the job better than print.

    January 16, 2009
  2. Anthony, not everyone can sit in front of a computer to get news. Especially the older generation, unaccustomed to the Internet and unable or unwilling to master the computer. My father was head of journalism at Iowa State for years, but never could get into computers before his death in 2002. Others may have physical constraints. Having to sit at a computer is tiring, hard on the eyes and back, whereas you can take a newspaper to a comfortable chair or read it in bed, sections at a time, at your leisure.
    Newspapers do need to exist, at least until my time on earth is over, I hope.

    January 16, 2009
  3. Anthony Pierre said:

    there are plenty of options for the people you listed. Laptops, kindles, ipod touches. They all meet the needs.

    It really is astounding the amount of resources wasted for a product with such a short lifetime.

    January 16, 2009
  4. Arlen Malecha said:

    There is not doubt that newspapers all over are suffering. The StarTrib has filed for bankruptcy protection, the Pioneer Press has stopped daily home delivery of it’s newspaper. The size of the Northfield News & Faribault Daily News has shrunk considerably.

    I like to get my news in both print and electronic format. There is just something about sitting down with the newspaper in hand getting thr daily update. Throughout the day I like to check the news sites to see what is going on. For instance, when the plane went down in New York. It was great getting the news story right away.

    I am sure the day will come when it is no longer viable to print a local newspaper but I hope that someone is looking at options to keep it alive as long as possible. One suggestion I have is to combine the Northfield News & Faribault Daily News into the Rice County Reader. Rather than having it come out daily perhaps it would be a 1x or 2x a week publication.

    But again, I believe there is merit in both print and electronic news medias.

    January 16, 2009
  5. Peter Millin said:

    I do agree that the web has taken the wind out of a lot of newspapers.
    But I also believe that the lack quality and the objectivity in most papers has hurt them as well.
    Personally I find the Star Tribune to be a very bias paper. I hope that this will serve as wakeup call to the media to go back to being what they supposed to be. Speaking truth to power and provide the news not opinion.

    January 16, 2009
  6. Anne Bretts said:

    “High overhead costs for reporters and editors in small markets” would be hilarious if the situation weren’t so tragic. Most small papers pay reporters $25k-30k per year, with editors making $35k-45k. That’s hardly what I’d call big money, especially when you consider the crazy hours and constant public criticism. The changes coming will put a lot more folks at minimum wage.
    In fact, most work right now is freelance, which has no insurance or benefits and minimal pay. For example, I have the lead feature this month in Twin Cities Business, and it paid $1250. That sounds like a lot, but it took weeks of interviewing, writing and editing — and there is only one lead feature a month and they rotate it among freelancers in the region.
    The number of business publications in the market is small, so other options to sell stories are limited. And it used to be that you could rework stories and sell them to various publications in other geographic markets, but with the Internet there are no geographic markets. Now you get one flat fee and the buyer gets all rights to keep it online and use it in various forms forever.
    Most freelance work ranges between $100 and $300 for a story, and a number of publications don’t pay at all, they just promise you ‘exposure.’ Bloggers, even those on Huffington Post, often don’t get paid unless they can sell ads on their own sites.
    I’m not bitter, I’m just tired of hearing that newspapers are failing because reporters and editors weren’t responsive. They were, but technology and owner greed did them in.
    The Strib is in bankruptcy, the Chicago Tribune is there, Detroit is sinking, Seattle in on the verge of losing two daily papers, making it the largest city in the U.S. without a daily paper. Minneapolis-St. Paul magazine cut two veterans and is struggling, and national magazines have seen advertising drop 41 percent since last year.
    The problem wasn’t labor costs, but the staggering amount of debt the buyers took on in overinflated deals, leaving them vulnerable when advertising tanked.
    Of course, newspapers will give way to online news sites, just as music and movies and television shows are moving to download on demand. It’s just that the debt and economic collapse turned the transition into a tsunami…
    Eventually, sites will have to pay some writers for quality content to differentiate themselves from the tidal wave of do-it-yourselfers. Sadly, most people will be happy to hang with their friends and share rumors rather than pay for quality information.
    The end result is going to be amazing, but a lot of people are going to be hurt in the process, just as car dealers, small farmers, gas station owners, and small retailers are getting crushed. Of course, the workers are Best Buy and the other big companies are hurting as well.

    January 16, 2009
  7. Anthony, my mother is not going to get a laptop, kindle or ipod (I doubt I will, either). It’s a generational thing. My daughter probably agrees with you. She never reads a newspaper, but she does send me links to a lot of newspaper articles that she reads online.
    At the Northfield Historical Society you will find newspapers bound together dating back to the 1800s (microfilm also at the library). I do a lot of research in the archives and believe me, there is something special about seeing news in this form, not on a screen. I think most of the college students who do research projects here feel the same way. Even if they only read newspapers online.

    January 16, 2009
  8. John S. Thomas said:

    I would like to think that I am an “average” fourty-something… with a slight (ok, not slight) slant toward geek-dom. I take my news from several sources, both electronic and paper based.

    The average morning consists of:
    Wake up, boot the PC, let the dog out, grab the trib out of the snowbank, scan the headlines, let the dog in, make coffee, head downstairs, check out, Weather from, a quick scan of Northfield News, a quick scan of Locally Grown, check my e-mail, then get ready for work.

    I then have coffee, and read the paper cover to cover before I leave in the morning.

    Saturdays are different, as I head out and grab multiple papers, such as the Northfield News and the Weekend USA Today.

    The rule on Sunday is that NO ONE, repeat, NO ONE messes with my Sunday paper before I do. I have a system, and I get an hour with the paper and some coffee. I get up so wicked early during the week, so my body does the same on the weekends, and I have some time before everyone else gets up.

    During the week, there are many periodicals floating around the office. I pick up a recirculated Time, Newsweek, Wired, Mens Health, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, NY Times or whatever else is on the common table.

    If something should happen locally during the day, I will hit the local media sites. If it is national, I will hit, and click through to the various sites. (It is a great aggregation tool.)

    The point that I am trying to put across is that print in my opinion is not dead. It has its place. Print media is more the “document of record” where the stories are more in depth. Electronic sources give me the “one minute” version, so I am quickly updated.

    I will also tell you that I block all ads on my websites with a firefox plugin called ABP or Ad Block Plus. I hardly ever click on banner ads, and GoodSearch ( anything I need.

    Everything has its purpose, and there is a place for both. It is all about how much time you want to spend on them.

    I do see the younger generation moving away from print, and think that as my son grows up, he will be moving more and more away from paper based media. I am trying to instill in him the pleasure of a good book, and how pleasurable reading the paper in the morning can be.

    Enjoy the day… off to pick up some papers. 😎

    January 17, 2009
  9. Ray Cox said:

    I’m probably a bit more of a newspaper freak than the average person. For years I’ve had home delivery of both the Strib and PPress. Last weekend I came home from being away and assumed I’d collect my pile of papers to read. Much to my surprise only the Strib was there in the box. I called the PPress and discovered ‘we no longer are doing home delivery in your area’. I did have to inquire about my prepaid year subscription. I agreed to let them it turn into Sunday delivery only…the one day they are still maintaining here.So making the switch to Sunday only will probably pay me ahead to 2025 or so!

    I also get five local area papers and enjoy each one of them. The Faribault is a daily, the others are weekly or twice weekly It is a great way to stay in touch with what is happening in the area.

    Electronic is fine for some news but I really enjoy holding a nice paper in my hands and reading it in the order I want, and at the pace I want. I know papers may seem like a dinosaur in the electronic world, but I sure hope they survive.

    January 17, 2009
  10. John S. Thomas said:

    There was a small blurb in the paper today regarding the Pioneer Press.

    They have suspended Monday-Saturday delivery in all areas except the Twin cities metro. You can now only get delivery of the Pioneer press on Sunday in Northfield.

    January 17, 2009
  11. Anne Bretts said:

    John and Sue, enjoy your paper while you can. The ‘younger generation’ already has moved away from print. The process has moved much faster than anyone anticipated. And print can’t fight it, due to migration of classifieds to the web, the collapse of real estate and auto advertising due to online listings and the economy, and the ability of even old folks like me to adapt to getting everything from news to music and television shows on demand. And kids are bypassing laptops and growing up getting it all on their cell phones. Within 3-5 years the cell phone, iPod, laptop, video player all will be one device that fits in your pocket.

    January 17, 2009
  12. kiffi summa said:

    I wonder where that big Tsunami of an age group … the Baby Boomers… will fall on this issue? Will they convert to e-lives outside their work, retired, and with more leisure time?
    Or will they still want to hang on to the print, books, papers they grew up with?

    How much of reading is the total experience? I think it’s really pleasurable to sit down with a fascinating book with good paper, and a fabulous typeface. Yeah, they’re still typeface, not fonts. And have you noticed the really impressive, and expensive design being incorporated into the Young Adult book market, which is exploding by the way?
    Example :”The Story of Octavian Nothing; Traitor to the Nation” , 500plus pages, deckle edge paper, magnificent typeface, difficult subject and writing style, and a best seller for months in the YA classification.
    Are publishers working hard, trying to hold that market in a ‘paper place’?

    The youth market is a huge trend-setting buying market, but I think it will be interesting to see what happens when the boomers hit their leisure time… Maybe a lot of them did so well in the big market years that they’ll hold onto their hardback books, and have all the electronics, as well!

    Oh, ye of little faith, “Repent, repent …” as Leonard Cohen would say; and he wasn’t talking religion.

    January 17, 2009
  13. Anne Bretts said:

    Read the business pages. Newspapers are folding now. This is one fight the boomers won’t win, at least as far as newspapers are concerned. Print subscriptions pay just a fraction of the cost of production, with advertisers carrying the burden, and advertisers are gone. My guess is that if your favorite newspaper cost $5 instead of 50 cents, your passion would cool.
    Books will last longer, but it’s just a matter of time.

    January 18, 2009
  14. David Henson said:

    I hate to mention this but MN has been a major source for both paper, printing and direct mail distribution due to trees and a central location.

    January 18, 2009
  15. Bright Spencer said:

    The slow press online press is already behind the times. What works best is watching the process on video, live on tv or online without the third party messenger.
    CNN and Youtube and Locally Grown videos are IT.
    When I was a young woman, it was all about experience and being there at the rallys, in the homes, on the streets, at the concerts, for me. I rarely watched tv or listened to radio news or read newspapers. The news you need to know lives in the air all around you. The only thing you might not see coming right away are those pesky little bombs.

    January 18, 2009
  16. Bright Spencer said:

    IN full disclosure, I voted for myself in the above post.
    Also, I did not mean to imply in said post that being there, at the scene of an important event, guarantees that although we might see the truth unfold before our eyes we would be fully capable of interpreting the event thoroughly.

    January 18, 2009
  17. Bright Spencer said:

    Ooops, I meant C-Span, not CNN. Sorry.

    January 18, 2009
  18. Jerry Bilek said:

    I think book sales will hold on longer than newspapers or compact discs. book sales have remained flat throughout all of this change in electronic media. kindles and the like are still a small minority player. the cost of entry is too high and Gutenberg was on to something. Used book sales have actually increased in recent years. Even the younger crowd that has adopted the ipod and online media has stuck with books.

    January 18, 2009
  19. Griff Wigley said:

    Martin Langeveld at Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab has a blog post today titled Are newspapers doomed?

    Daily newspapers can no longer reflect all this diversity in their pages. The idea of a single mass medium that everyone in a community or metropolis would want to read is no longer logical, any more than we are all likely to watch the same television programs or tune to the same website or radio station.

    The web, of course, has only accelerated this trend of diversification into niche interests. It was not the cause of the decline of newspaper readership, but it’s not the solution, either.

    So, why are newspapers doomed? Because that diversification of interests will not be reversed, so within a few years, the average newspaper reader will be of retirement age, and only the 65-and-up age cohort will still have a majority (but barely, and shrinking) that reads a daily newspaper. That’s not a sustainable business model.

    January 22, 2009
  20. A fascinating link, Griff. I don’t like what it says about newspapers being doomed, but it is very enlightening. The Star Tribune is asking for readers to send them ideas for a story about “what guilty pleasures will you not be willing to give up in today’s economy?” and I am thinking of responding “subscribing to your newspaper.”

    January 25, 2009
  21. Peter Millin said:

    Look at the bright side. Less newspapers means less paper, less paper fewer trees have to be cut down.

    News papers report yesterdays news. Most of the time most people know the story before it arrives in the paper.

    There will be a need for a more specialized segment of news papers, mostly those that have analysis and commentary of past events.

    Would we still call them newspapers ?

    January 25, 2009

Leave a Reply