I saw a small blurb in the paper last week. It was just a note to explain a big layoff of 192 positions at the Union Tribune. The move came three days after the newspaper’s sale to Platinum Equity of Beverly Hills. A company spokesperson said, “These are tough times for the entire newspaper industry, and a time of transition for the U.T.” Didn’t they trim positions last year, and year before?
This practice is repeated from town to town across the country. Newspapers are reaching the end of their rope. The weekday edition of the UT is a thin cousin of its predecessor from years past. Entire sections like the business or want ads are a just couple pages long. Other papers like the Rocky Mountain News simply closed up shop. Not to worry, Amazon to the rescue! The online book-seller is launching its newest-e-reader. The devices are looking like newspapers last best hope. Imagine, a gadget that could motivate users to pay for newspaper subscriptions.
The e-reader is about 10 inches tall, and a third of an inch thick, and costs $500. Amazon.com Inc.s Kindle DX includes a bigger screen and PD reader. The Seattle based company says it’s forged a partnership with the Washington Post, and New York Times. Both companies would reward subscribers with discounted Kindles if they sign up for the newspapers. The L.A. Times writes “the partnership could be considered a bid by the newspapers to get readers to begin paying for content again, after seeing many of their readers migrate online and cancel their subscriptions.” Amazon pays for the wireless connectivity, so buyers don’t have to buy separate cell, or broadband service. The display monitor mimics the experience of reading print on paper. It’s reported the device is more portable than laptops allowing users to tote them anywhere they’d carry a regular newspaper.
The New York Times, and Washington Post say they’re still working on details of their rebate program to subscribers who purchase a Kindle, and wouldn’t yet specify the amount of the discount. The advantages for newspapers are obvious. They save on printing, and delivery costs, and can reach readers outside the newspapers’ delivery areas. The number 1 cost for newspapers is newsprint, and distribution expenses. Eventually, newspapers hope to run ads on the e-book. If so newspapers could be wind up charging print ad rates on the e-reader. Publishers complain that online advertising doesn’t command very high prices.
I’m old school, I like the feel of a newspaper in my hands. The illusion of actually manipulating pages on a screen sounds interesting. Now if they can only master e-readers that will line the birdcage, or provide a wrap for fish.