And the Washington Post – A Fire Sale?

The Newspaper Industry OverallWhat’s not being said where the surprise sale of the Washington Post goes, is just how badly such newspapers are having it. Pew Research Center data shows the staggering debt abyss the Graham family media company was falling into. But the Washington Post is not alone, and there are so few Amazon billionaires out there to pick up the pieces.

Back in July one of the world’s most respected communicators, Edelman PR CEO Richard Edelman, wrote a post entitled; “Sponsored Content: An Ethical Framework.” In the insightful article Edelman refers to the Edelman Media Cloverleaf and other next generation paid and earned media ideas.

Here’s the interesting part, it’s almost as if Edelman and some others were predicting this Washington Post transition before it happened. And while Edelman, Forbes, and other combinations of partnerships take place in a fashion lately described by Lewis DVorkin’s (New Math of Journalism) and others describes future business (ad) thinking, it’s sure Bezos’ buyout of the Washington Post is not pure altruism either. So behind the scenes, even behind the hundred thirty plus millions in debt Bezos bought, there’s some churning of stakeholders going on.

But back to the “debt” and perhaps death of news. Apparently, even my own prediction mobile ad revenue models will wipe out traditional ads even proves out. Look at the chart below and consider Google rules search, display and mobile advertising.

Ads

The newspaper industry is so done by conventional standards the old saying, “you can stick a fork in it” really does apply. What’s even worse is the fact that circulation revenue is actually going up, while print and Internet ad money is plummeting (top left image courtesy Journalism.org). And the journalists that bring in the value? Newsroom staff reductions follow the curve of lost revenue. If native ads such as Edelman and others advocate don’t take hold soon, us citizen journalists may yet rule the roost where reporting is concerned.

Finally, while big transition thinkers such as Forbes’ DVorkin may suppose such things as “content marketing by brands is the full employment act for editors and reporters”, this is still old fashioned and silo approach thinking. Despite the ad men and women out there chomping at the bit to feed a hungry media beast, somebody pretty important is being left out. The reader, or more importantly the customer.

The Washington Post

While DVorkin does allude to such disruptive elements as Pandora-like mobile fun, the Forbes guru is no fool. He’s not going to give away the goods he knows will really power (or maybe even rescue) news journalism. But he hints at a goose laying golden eggs – Dark social, aptly named. You see the real power of “social”, be it Internet or mobile, is in the conversations behind the curtain. A simple way of looking at Facebook as a marketing channel, for instance, is as a lobby of sorts, with VIP rooms scattered all about for private (even physical world) link ups.

But maybe I should play cards closer too here.

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