monsoon

The Charlotte Observer

85 posts in this topic

There is a blog in Sacramento that has posted the letter sent to the News and Observer employees in Raleigh about plans to layoff another 11% of the employees, cut the salaries of the ones that remain, and requiring most to take a "1 week furlough" which I assume is corporate doublespeak for a week without pay.

Now the reason this is tied to the Charlotte Observer is the same company, McClatchy owns both papers. If you read the letter to employees one notices the following sentence. "We are collaborating more with our colleagues in Charlotte and using technology wherever possible to create efficiencies." This would seem to me to be a signal the same is coming here. However, it's also being suggested that it isn't because the local head of the paper and one of her VPs are out on vacation this week. Seems they can't be inconvenienced at the moment according to some of the comments.

These papers continue to put forth the notion they are being killed by the Internet. I would counter that with the point that most people who bother to read are put off by the childish, simplistic, articles that fill their papers these days. There is little depth to them, they are often incorrect, and they will simply parrot whatever someone tells them without question. I actually enjoyed reading a printed paper but I no longer care to read the Observer (there is a difference) so I canceled my subscription to it several years ago.

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I would contend that while you can't ignore the role the internet has played in the downfall of the local newspaper, I'd heap even more blame on the fact that they were all bought up by huge conglomorates and are managed by people far away who are more concerned with the bottom line than managing a paper with its long-term future and reputation in mind.

I do still subscribe to the News & Observer, though I agree that the overall depth of the paper has dropped. I subscribe to the print edition mostly for the local and state coverage (which I do frequently find to be worthwhile) so I can read it on my bus ride to work. I am concerned, though, and I see no way that these continuing cuts will avoid further eroding the paper's quality of reporting. This will certainly cause me to question at least the price that I'm paying for the subscription if not the subscription itself.

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A buddy of mine who's a news director at a TV station says the same thing is happening to TV news. He attributes his work demise to the internet. He's looking for a new career.

Thing is, Charlotte used to have The Charlotte News, an afternoon newspaper. That folded long before the internet phenomena.

I just don't think people read as much as they once did, period.

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A buddy of mine who's a news director at a TV station says the same thing is happening to TV news. He attributes his work demise to the internet. He's looking for a new career.

Thing is, Charlotte used to have The Charlotte News, an afternoon newspaper. That folded long before the internet phenomena.

I just don't think people read as much as they once did, period.

Agreed, but I have been a Observer reader for years, and I seldom go through it now like I once did, as I get the the stories off their website. I give it one more generation and it's done.

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I would not mind paying a subscription fee to read the paper online...maybe something like 25 Cents a day...or $10 month.

I have not subscribed to the paper in years but I still read the online version just about everyday.

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I've wondered if McClatchy would consider merging their Raleigh N&O and the Charlotte Observer into something like a "Carolina News & Observer" - some sort of state wide newspaper.

In addition, in SC McClachy owns The State (Columbia), Sun News (Myrtle Beach) The Herald (Rock Hill), The Beaufort Gazette (Beaufort), The Island Packet (Hilton Head).

I could see them consolidating the newsrooms of these papers, and maybe have a Myrtle Beach bureau, Rock Hill bureau, etc. They could publish shared content with a section dedicated their particular geographic location and either all used the same name or keep their current newspaper names.

Edited by InitialD

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NPR had shows on this morning about this. It seems a Seattle daily is no longer in print as of this week and will be online only and a few others appear to be following suit. I personally like the tactile feel of a paper in the morning with coffee, i like the relaxing routine that comes with it and i'm a crossword nerd. BUT lately the Observer has become pathetic. A couple of our papers last week literally felt like pamphlets -- maybe the size of what one single section used to feel like. They also rarely do in depth anything other than big spreads here and there like the poultry processing series last year that they can't quit crowing about. Generally AP stories and a little bit of local blurbs are all you get.

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It would probably be called the Raleigh & that other City Observer!

The paper size is more a reflection of decreased advertising than content.

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This may be somewhat irrelevant, but I do find it interesting in a time when people are having financial troubles that they are not looking more towards purchasing the newspaper for the sole purpose of clipping coupons, which you would think would help subscriptions (at least until an American rebound).

I saw a news special a few weeks ago on some major newspapers that are going bankrupt, one in Denver for example. This is an industry that has been dying for years and the only way to survive is for it to adapt to the modern environment.

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This is an industry that has been dying for years and the only way to survive is for it to adapt to the modern environment.

I recently read a truly interesting article/opinion on this very subject. The author posits that newspapers have long been aware of the move to the internet, however they completely and utterly misjudged the move, and the rules by which the internet would eventually work within. After reading the article, I'm rethinking the idea that newspapers in their current incarnation will ever be able to survive. It makes the good point that we need reliable journalism, not necessary organized in newspaper form.

See article here: http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newsp...he-unthinkable/

I think this truly applies to the Observer. Sadly I think they will not exist in 3 years in their current form. The overhead of their physical space in the city, the costs to keep the lights and air on, plus employee payroll costs must be large for their declining revenue streams.

Edited by QCkid

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I recently read a truly interesting article/opinion on this very subject. The author posits that newspapers have long been aware of the move to the internet, however they completely and utterly misjudged the move, and the rules by which the internet would eventually work within. After reading the article, I'm rethinking the idea that newspapers in their current incarnation will ever be able to survive. It makes the good point that we need reliable journalism, not necessary organized in newspaper form.

See article here: http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newsp...he-unthinkable/

I think this truly applies to the Observer. Sadly I think they will not exist in 3 years in their current form. The overhead of their physical space in the city, the costs to keep the lights and air on, plus employee payroll costs must be large for their declining revenue streams.

Speaking of revenue streams, I recently tried to run a want ad (yep we're hiring believe it or not) and The O wanted over $600 for a very tiny ad that would run a week. I decided to try some outlying communities instead. Lincolnton, Shelby and Kannapolis papers wanted $4.00 dollars for the same ad and would run it for two weeks.

Guess where I ran it.

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This may be somewhat irrelevant, but I do find it interesting in a time when people are having financial troubles that they are not looking more towards purchasing the newspaper for the sole purpose of clipping coupons, which you would think would help subscriptions (at least until an American rebound)......
Coupons generally are only good for named brand merchandise that is highly packaged and processed and fairly expensive to begin with. Most of the time people will cut this type if thing out all together in favor for bulk purchases and house brands. The really frugal learn to cook from basic staples which is also much more sustainable, better for you, and very inexpensive in comparison.

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they'll eventually have to go to a pay subscription for online. If you go to websiteoutlook.com and look up charlotteobserver.com, it says they only average 401 dollars in ad revenue per day. That's simply not going to pay the bills.

They average 133,284 page views per day.

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Pay subscriptions won't work. I would just assume not read the Observer than pay for it.

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I can't remember the last time I bought a hard copy of the O. Even without the ease of their website, the hard copy has never appealed to me. Always seems to have too many car ads and tons of fluff . I scan the headlines online daily. I am a news junkie here and value the service papers provide. I used to buy The New York Times every day. Now I read it online during the week and always buy the Sunday NYT. Been doing that since college. That's an ironclad Sunday tradition I can't give up. Technology is going in the other direction though. It's only a matter of time before a major metro has no daily paper. So many are on death watch already.

I love books too and can't bear the thought of buying a Kindle but that cult is growing too.

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they'll eventually have to go to a pay subscription for online. If you go to websiteoutlook.com and look up charlotteobserver.com, it says they only average 401 dollars in ad revenue per day. That's simply not going to pay the bills.

They average 133,284 page views per day.

Don't assume that will be the same if they charge. I think most people will not pay for the online content. I know I wouldn't. I get tired of getting nickel and dimed to pay for stuff that was free. Whether it is worth it or not. XM started charging now $3/month for listening online. Nope, not me. I know it's not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things but it just exceeds my threshold of pain vs. value. I have four active XM radios, but now I listen to Slacker at home and love it.

But anyway, this isn't about XM; The O has gotten so generic, there is little local news in it anyway. The business section last Sunday had maybe one relevant local business story. The rest is filler. Now they are moving business into 'A' three days/week. It's a dying proposition.

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The biggest problem with watching a newspaper go through these stages is that it is more than just the paper you hold in your hands. There are people selling advertising space for that daily paper, on a 3 day distribution, there is no need for them. Rolls of newsprint won't be needed. Observer staff, the ones doing the little things will be cut. Newspapers by nature tell of what's hot now, not all feature stuff. News happens seven days a week, not just three. Editorial staff, agree with them or not will not stay for reduced compensation only to write part time.

It is not just not having something to wrap the fish up in anymore.

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.....

They average 133,284 page views per day.

I can tell you from experience with this site that no 3rd party agency has the ability to accurately determine this. The only people who will know the real numbers are the people running their website and the people collecting data when users come in and hit one of the methods they are using to track people (usually for advertising purposes).

--------------------------------

The problem with the Observer isn't the fact that it is printed. Its problem is that it is not relevant to the local community and thus its major draw and advantage over the Internet has been wasted on efforts to cheapen it up and to compete with the national news sites. I suggest going down to the library and look at the Observer from 25 years ago, 50 years ago and even 100 years ago. Night and day from the rag they put out now. Those older papers were much better written, there were stories at all different levels of local concern, and people could read it and get some connection to their community in Charlotte.

Compare that to what we have now. For the little bit of local content, it's fluff pulp articles, articles that pander to the banks, articles that pander to the local politicians and business interests, and a bunch of adverts. The rest of it is AP reprints which can easily be found on news.google.com. The writing has been dumbed down to the point of being laughable, and it continues to be full of errors and mistakes as they don't even seem to do basic research these days.

As an example of this, look at their "big interview" printed today with Ken Lewis. The only question I can see they asked is if the bank had been unfairly criticized. :blink: Not one question on how do you explain making a "profit" all while getting $45B from the government. And they didn't even bother to ask about the other ~$15B they apparently have gotten from the taxpayers via the AIG debacle. Not one question about Charlotte layoffs. Not one question about the fees and foreclosures hitting Charlotte residents and small business. Not one question on what he was doing to invest in business in NC instead of China. It wasn't an interview, it was a platform for Lewis to cheer lead without risk. This article demonstrates exactly why the paper isn't relevant anymore and it demonstrates why I consider it a waste of time to read.

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I find this blog update to be interesting. They seem to think the Observer may be on a list to be closed down. However, I don't think their math adds up to draw that conclusion.

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they'll eventually have to go to a pay subscription for online. If you go to websiteoutlook.com and look up charlotteobserver.com, it says they only average 401 dollars in ad revenue per day. That's simply not going to pay the bills.

They average 133,284 page views per day.

The revenue number is nonsense, I've spent much more than that on a single day on their website.

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Yeah it is bogus. If you type in both craigslist.com and amazon.com it comes up with the exact same numbers for both sites.

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The revenue number is nonsense, I've spent much more than that on a single day on their website.

Yes, it is all nonsense. Last year TCO's online properties did approx $21MM in revenue, which equates to about $54,000 per day.

On the other hand, four years ago, the Observer did approximately $400MM in total annual revenue. The numbers these days are nowhere near that high. According to a valuation done by Editor & Publisher, the approximate market value of TCO these days is around $50MM -- a mere shadow of what it once was.

One it comes to streamlining and increasing efficiencies, they are working on consolidation (albeit, poorly). The N&O laid off their CFO, and Victor Fields from TCO is now over both newspaper's finances. The Rock Hill Herald closed down print operations, and now prints in Charlotte. TCO closed down the major outlying distribution centers, including the one off Hoskins Road, and everything is now consolidated out of Pressley Road warehouse. The Raleigh N&O is preparing to switch to a 44" web, which from its press-size will reduce paper cost (tremendously) but at the same time, is this not just delaying the inevitable? Next thing you'll know, the papers will go to tab size... then what? Digest size (5x8") ? Then perhaps as weekly "pocket guides?" And lastly, on-line only. RIP ROP.

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The Observer has sent a letter to its employees in Charlotte stating they are going to lay off 15% of the work force and for those who remain there will be a pay reduction. Employees will be told about their pay cuts on an individual basis. Changes to take effect by April 20th. The business section of the paper will be eliminated. I might be wrong, but the business section would seem to be one of those sections they might want to keep.

The management ends the letter as follows: ".....This horrible recession will pass. Thank you for all you are doing to keep us on mission until that day comes. If you have questions, human resources and your division vice presidents will work to get your answers. Please post for those not on Intranet service. Ann, President & Publisher, The Charlotte Observer" Disingenuous way to say "too bad, we executive types, take no responsibility for these circumstances".

IMO this Russian proverb applies, Ры́ба гниёт с головы́., Translated: The Fish rots from the Head.

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The business section of the paper will be eliminated. I might be wrong, but the business section would seem to be one of those sections they might want to keep.

I've always been a big fan of Doug Smith, but other than him I find the Biz Journal to be a bit better in this area.

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I like Doug Smith too. I think eliminating the business section is a huge mistake. I mainly read the paper for sports/business.

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