Joe Strupp, senior editor at publishing industry trade tile Editor & Publisher worked as a newspaper reporter on both US coasts before joining his current title about a decade ago. He chats with PRWeek about the tumultuous newspaper industry.
PRWeek: You're in the frontlines as far as covering the publishing industry. Is it as much doom and gloom right now as the headlines would lead us to believe?
Joe Strupp: On the one side it is undergoing a lot more cutbacks, downsizings, losses, and all of the above than really any time ever before at one time. So when talking about papers folding and stocks and shares plummeting, so from that perspective, it is doom and gloom. On the other hand, there are certain elements to the industry that are still positive, which is that newspapers are still the best and most critical sources for in-depth news and investigative news, and they still have bigger newsrooms than any other outlets in general.
PRWeek: In the 70s there was a big newspaper die off, and there was the end of The Washington Star and a number of New York papers...
Strupp: And we've lost members of the family if you go back to then, there was the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and The Washington Star, and there was at one point a couple of dozen New York papers. The San Diego Union-Tribune was two papers; the Star Tribune in Minnesota was two papers, so the industry has lost pieces. The thing here is that you have not so many papers closing, but a lot of the dailies are slicing severely, and so that is a sign of some of the worse times. The economy is down and a lot of the industries are in trouble - auto and housing - and so are newspapers going to where if a revival were to happen, are they cutting things down to the point where they cant come back? I don't think they are, but they could be in danger of that if they don't carefully watch where they're cutting. Also, of course you have more corporate ownership than you did 10 or 20 years ago, so it's harder for them to weather the recession. And a lot of them have a lot of debt, and they have to pay down that debt…on the other hand, when they come back…they are also dealing with the Web element and they have to learn how to do that. That is yet to be known, because the advertising is drying up at that point.
PRWeek: Are there any positive media stories that are lost amid all the sky-is-falling, newspaper-closing stories?
Strupp: I think the one positive with the Web is that…[newspapers] can use it even better than anyone else because they can use their credibility and large staffs. I think they also better know how to deliver the news with immediacy…With the web it can compete with breaking news outlets in a way it never could before, and that is a positive, but how you use that is what matters. You can go Web only, or Web and print, or throw [items] on the Web as breaking news and not have a print edition. That is a positive element, and you can use the technology in that way.
PRWeek: The more I read, it seems that there is this slow consensus building the newspaper and magazine industries have to move towards a paid content model, but everyone has different ideas on what that is. Any ideas on what the best model is?
Strupp: I like this idea of the pay-per-whatever – pay-per-view, pay-per-day, whatever it is, better than the subscription model like The Wall Street Journal has. It works for them and for some local papers like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, and other smaller newspaper do that.
And online, [consumers] want to go online and they want to jump around to 20 or 30 different sites and sites. So, the Los Angeles Times site or the whatever site it is can take subscriptions every month, but they might be able to take a quarter per [view] for 50 cents a day or a dollar…that will be more likely to work than a full subscription model. And the online advertising [revenue] is not growing the way it was for a while, because in the end, they sort of lost control with the free Web content and the aggregating, and so no one is paying for a lot of stuff.
PRWeek: Speaking of aggregating, isn't there a conflict in that the Web is parasitic by nature in that blogs link to stories? How do you reconcile that with all content placed behind a pay wall?
Strupp: I think the fact that newspapers still have some things that they can do better than anyone else - a system that can handle news with more credibility and experience - and I think if they all tried it at once, or someone took the lead, it would work. The New York Times sort of did that with their columnists and their features, maybe someone has to take the first jump and maybe they'll fall on their face. Maybe everyone has to do it, but right now with this Internet mindset that everything is free and everyone shares, it is something that I am glad I am not having to be the decision maker on But I think the paid concept has to be at least tried since nothing else seems to be happening.
PRWeek: What is the ideal Editor & Publisher story that you write? What's the thing you want people to understand about your stories?
Strupp: The Web helps us in that it helps the publication break new stories, and I like to break stories and I want to find the stories that no one else has, and to find more information on a story and make it better. That's my thinking on the Web and in print…but the challenge is to produce something that hasn't been reported before that is helpful to our audience, and to grow our audience, or something that they need to know, or want to know.
PRWeek: What's been the impact of a news aggregator like Romanesko?
Strupp: Oh he helps us. It's given us a lot of attention that we might not have gotten, and we also, have done stories on things that we have seen on there and he links to us, and we have seized it up and got our own angles on things.
PRWeek: What's your interaction with the PR world? Do you get a lot of pitches?
Strupp: I get a lot of tips from people in the biz, very little from pr people. Although newspapers do have their own spokespeople, I generally get better treatment from people in the biz, and newspapers themselves, or in the unions or whatever it is, as opposed to some sort of fringe company that is not really doing what we cover but wants us to cover them.
Name: Joe Strupp
Title: Senior editor,
Outlet: Editor & Publisher
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