What is going on with the Sun Herald? A Microcosm of the impacts of too much leverage in a declining industry

Over the past 6 weeks or so I’ve been asked by numerous folks what is going on at the Sun Herald and besides another layoff to go with the one earlier this year the answer is not much.  The complaints I’ve heard from older readers that grew up reading the daily newspaper do not seem very encouraging.

I had a chance recently to spend a few minutes chatting with a member of the media, who told me about canceling their Sun Herald subscription because it had become so expensive while the content of the newspaper seems less and less.  This was a productive exchange of information because I found out that those who canceled are offered far better renewal rates to come back on board.

Not two days after I spoke with a nice lady in her late 70s who volunteered to me she too had just canceled her subscription because of the combination of price and lack of content.  I assured the lady she would be getting a phone call to renew her subscription at a discounted rate, which I later confirmed did happen.  The telemarketer promised this person that with the new Publisher in place content would be increasing.  I took that promise as long term counterproductive sales puffery because it takes people to generate content and the paper isn’t expanding its workforce, the opposite is true. The next time the lady cancels, getting her back will not be nearly so easy.

To be clear, the Sun Herald is not completely devoid of  talent. Anita Lee is still around as is Karen Nelson, Robin Fitzgerald and Margaret Baker. The sports department was cut earlier this year with Patrick Ochs ultimately leaving for sports Coms at PRCC leaving Patrick Magee as a one man sports band.  The coverage of local high school sports has suffered as a result.  For example WXXV did profiles of the coast football teams this past July/August, something the Sun Herald used to roll out in a special section. Cutting sports is huge in my mind because the sports section is typically the most trafficked part of online news sites, so I am not sure what McClatchy accomplished there cutting the second sports reporter. Continue reading “What is going on with the Sun Herald? A Microcosm of the impacts of too much leverage in a declining industry”

Oh SI can you see: I just about fell out this morning when I saw the Sun Herald had two stories from Hancock County in today’s paper.

Folks to my untrained eye it appears that when the Newhouse family cut back on printing newspapers to 3 days a week and McClatchy’s Sun Herald rushed into East Jackson County talking smack to do battle with the Newhouse owned Mississippi Press, the west side of the coast was abandoned by the S-H.  Yeah, occasionally the paper would run press releases disguised as news stories such as when the Froogles opened a few weeks back as followed up by one of the new cub reporters doing a profile on same but actually reporting news everyone didn’t already get from the local beauty shop?  It just ain’t happening anymore folks but today we found out what it takes to get the newspaper of record to cover a story from Hancock County:  Someone either has to get shot or some famous reptilian TeeVee talking head political hack moves to town. To wit:

Carvilles buying Pete Fountain’s Bay St. Louis property ~ Donna Harris

The lone comment left to her piece well sums up my feelings:

Typical political reptiles that make a grand living spinning their disciples like Russian sabre dancers…………….

I’ll note Bob Livingston has a place down the street. Don’t get me wrong, we like wealthy taxpaying political reptiles choosing the Bay for a second home but it doesn’t change the fact they are reptiles.  But be still my beating heart maybe I’ll actually see ol’ James at the Froogles.  😉

Next story:

Police seeking man after shooting in Bay St. Louis ~ Donna Harris

I’m personally happy to see Donna made it over here.  I do not know if this is a trend or if the news editors will put Hancock County back on iggy but I just about have my wife convinced it is time to save the money we spend on a paper that does not cover the area where we live.

Oh Si can you see Part Deux: Errol and the noisemakers.

Well folks I’m not quite sure where to start as Slabbed chips in another 2 cents worth on the remaking of the Times Picayune. By now I hope you guys have “Sometimes Picayune” fatigue but I know that is not the case with some of ya so here goes for those of you that want to get the deep down low on this topic.  I haven’t had more to say on this since late July because Slabbed has been out on assignment doing high quality investigative journalism such as blowing open Aaron Broussard’s use of oversea business ventures as a conduit for graft and bribery and  uncovering a specious real estate transaction involving a small school district. You lifers well know these are far from the only skins hanging on the wall here at the worldwide headquarters of Slabbed New Media as we’ve become a powerful voice in the local media landscape in our own right.

People are naturally resistant to change, to the point where it is to their detriment.  It is a well-studied topic and one in which I am familiar via my interest in behavioral economics. Throw in competing financial interests and it made for an interesting summer as Errol Laborde and the noisemakers made sure their newly disenfranchised voices would be heard loud and clear via sheer mass and repetition. Occasionally something highly insightful would be written, mostly in the new media on websites like American Zombie and Library Chronicles along with certain trade journals.  Since the news broke in May media alliances have been made, broken and remade.  As a long time blogger on stock message boards the business implications of the spectacle were both informative and amusing to me as I often thought of the following while watching the gyrations:

Graph courtesy of The AtlanticNow don’t get me wrong, when the 500 pound gorilla in the room decides it is time to go on a diet the local inhabitants of the forest are going to be impacted especially since local food sources have been on a drastic decline.  My problem is that even when it is shown that the numbers in the new Newhouse business model make sense, old line cognitive biases cause the noisemakers to ignore the “newsonomics” those numbers present. Leaky pay-walls are a joke and are easily defeated.  The concept that the readers will make up for the drastic declines in advertising are a pipe dream along with the notion “the news”, whatever that is, has intrinsic value to the general public. Continue reading “Oh Si can you see Part Deux: Errol and the noisemakers.”

Blood in the water Monday: Since someone has to defend Ricky Mathews…..

Actually folks I’m not going to defend Mathews, the heel de jour in New Orleans.  I will say I’ve been looking at this whole Times Picayune make over “professionally”, that is as a practicing CPA and yes even the Newhouse accountants have been raked over the coals since the announcement of big changes at the T-P in late May.

I do not have time to write the post this subject deserves, at least today, but I would like to point out a couple of things I’ve seen in the news coverage that interested me.

First is Ashton Phelps falling on his sword rather than make the changes Steve Newhouse required.  This is the way things are done in the business world when you lose faith in the plan.  The Phelps’ family has been part of the cultural landscape in the city for a long time and to the extent street talk had the papers editorials being written at the Boston Club, if you want to understand the cesspool that is the City of New Orleans you must understand the Boston Club, the third oldest social club in the entire country.  To the extent I’ve been able to divine the job of a newspaper publisher is to kiss ass and make nice with the rich, powerful and famous, places like the Boston Club would be a natural for people like Phelps and Clancy DuBos. Speaking of DuBos has anyone else noticed he has been bashing Mathews on a fairly regular basis?  Not quite Slabbed style but close.

There are several theories about why DuBos harbors such a distaste for Ricky Mathews. Continue reading “Blood in the water Monday: Since someone has to defend Ricky Mathews…..”