OLD Media Moves

How to fix business sections

January 18, 2006

Jeff Jarvis is a former TV critic for TV Guide and People, creator of Entertainment Weekly, Sunday editor and associate publisher of the New York Daily News, and a columnist on the San Francisco Examiner. He is doing some consulting work for the New York Times Online operations as well.

In a long post today on his blog www.buzzmachine.com, Jarvis lays out how newspapers should be overhauled. Among his suggestions are a number of items related to the business section and covering business news.

They are:

1. Drop stock tables: “Consider the economics: What is the net profit per subscriber? How many of those subscribers need to cancel their subscriptions before you lose more money than you would if you killed the stock tables? The truth is that you’ll likely lose only a handful of subscribers. But even if you lost hundreds, I have no doubt that the consequent loss of circulation revenue and audience to support your ad rates would be far less than the savings you’ll recognize from killing the tables. That is the essential business calculation of this exercise.”

2. Cut back on national business news: “Can a local paper really compete? I don’t think so, or at least I’ve never seen one do it very well. Do you get rid of it? Probably not. But you can reduce coverage to digests and major news — and if enough papers need such packaging, you can be sure the Associated Press will provide it.”

3. Evaluate local business news vs. the competition: “I’d examine the coverage of a daily newspaper section vs. the weekly business paper and consider new relationships: Maybe the weekly can provide daily coverage more efficiently and at a low cost if it drives branding and subscriptions for the weekly. If the daily paper doesn’t want to concede the turf, maybe it should create a product to compete head-to-head with the weekly.”

4. Let the wires provide personal finance coverage: “If you believe you need to provide advice about taxes and mutual funds, you can get it from the wires and syndicates and you can meter how much you buy based on how much ad revenue you generate. If you’re worried about providing the service to readers and don’t get ad revenue, then don’t waste the space and instead just give them links.”

His overall assessment of business sections? “Local newspaper business sections are generally unimpressive and so you need to calculate whether — given the current competitive and ad landscape — it is worth investing more to improve them or whether you can provide sufficient service at lower cost.”

Read the entire post here.

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