Well they finally admitted it. Tribune Editor Jim Ripley is seeking feedback on the Tribune's new format and had this admission.
... "If it ain't broke...," they say. The problem is the business model is broke. The newspaper industry has fallen on financial hard times.
For the last few years I've been pointing out that the newspaper industry's fundamental business model was no longer viable. Events of the last few weeks made the proposition so obvious that the papers themselves are no longer denying it.
I focus so much on the Republic that I haven't taken the time to point out that we are witnessing the complete collapse of the Tribune and the Star as well.
One of the comments on the "Retribution" post below indicated that the Tribune laid eight people off yesterday. (The post was anonymous, but remember that I get to see the underlying IP address and source email, so I can verify that the comment was credible.) (The number has since been updated to 23. That plus the numbers from earlier this year takes the total number of layoffs to 42 and the wage freeze that was implemented in January has been extended.)
I don't have much glee over the demise of the Tribune. In fact I'm saddened. The Republic needs the competition and the Governor needs the occasional scrutiny.
I'm sure that Le Templar will be commenting soon. Coming in like Glenn Campbell at the end of True Grit. "I ain't dead yet." And I hope he's right, and even if he's not, it doesn't necessarily signal the end. After all, the Tucson Citizen has lingered in a persistent vegetative state for years.
Now, Lee Enterprises' stock is in free fall. The stock is down 76% year to date, 50% in the last month and 12% yesterday alone.
I've trumpeted the industry's collapse for several years, however, this last month has the look of a tipping point; the business model is untenable and there will be no capital infusion. Every staff member at every major paper has his resume on a flash drive and a minimal amount of personal effects in his cubicle.
I don't know what the future business model looks like, but 2500 people sitting in cubicles in the middle of downtown isn't it.
My guess is that the future business model will be lean with an emphasis on freelance journalists and stringers. The major papers will be written by hundreds of people, not thousands and the mid size papers will be written by dozens not hundreds.
The reporter of the future will look like Howie Fischer--self employed, entrepreneurial, an expert in a single field, working without corporate benefits or a corporate retirement.
Ultimately, I knew that it would end this way. After the Apocalypse, when the seven seals have been broken and the last Mainstream Media trumpet has sounded, there will exist a vast desolate wasteland and the only surviving creatures will be cockroaches, Howie...and, of course, Cher.