Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Two years a publisher

Just over two years ago, for the first time in my life, I became a newspaper publisher.

I've been an editor of multiple weekly and semiweekly papers, and at two of them, had either the actual title, or the essential duties, of a general manager, not just an editor.

But, I never had the thrills — and the responsibilities and chills — of overseeing operations. And finances. And finances.

It's not "Three Years before the Mast" or "Twelve Years a Slave." Nonetheless, on the whole, I wish I were in Philadelphia. (I think.)

That said, I have learned other things about the newspaper business, the structuring of newspaper companies and more.

One is that the smaller companies that primarily own "community" non-daily papers, while perhaps adapting more to the expansion of the online media, and "media," world, than their big daily cousins adapted to the traditional Internet, aren't perfect on that.

Facebook, especially, is a big competitor to small-town papers. Local government meetings and other "spot" news get "published right away. And, if the regular newspaper publishes online not just a fatal wreck or an attempted murder immediately, but too much information about a slightly contentious city council meeting, it's undercutting its print version, even with a paywall.

Otherwise, if the Net in general, and things being free, were a death knell for dailies, Facebook, or free blogging software plus Facebook, is a gut punch to community newspapers.

Oh, and e-editions are reaching the dead end stage. Community papers don't have the money or resources to emulate daily brethren and create reformatted e-editions for smartphones and tablets. (I personally think it's a money- and time-waster for big dailies to do that, but that's another issue.)

The biggie, though, is that community papers, like their larger brethren, have found a variety of ways to legally organize themselves. LPs, LLPs, LLCs, etc., aren't limited to the oil business. Nor is robbing Peter to pay Paul, if you own your own printing presses, or have centralized graphics shops, let alone pagebuilding, doubly let alone "content," whenever that hits the non-daily world.

Newspapers have always been a business, above all else. Doubly so at the community level, at least since we got past World War I and the image of newspapers got spiffed up and away from its yellow journalism past. Of course, there, too, newspapers were ultimately a business, just a bit more louche about it.

Meanwhile, as more daily papers shut their presses and get printed at other dailies, community newspapers that still have presses can charge other companies' community papers more. Or, per what I said two grafs above, have enforced rates on their own papers.

Of course, I have worked for a couple of larger chain newspapers, but not outside the newspaper business. Yet.

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