Thursday, March 26, 2009

10 Papers That May Survive the Apocolypse

It has just occurred to me that a certain age group (younger than 30, say) will see this graphic and ask, "What the hell is that?">

The Business Insider is quoting an investment guy who has selected 10 newspapers in the U.S. that he believes will weather the storm and will remain viable businesses in the coming years. Among them is the Roanoke Times in our backyard.

This analyst says--as I have insisted--that newspapers are fat, lazy and spoiled from years of having to do virtually nothing for their 15-30 percent annual profit margins. They haven't reacted rapidly to the changing communications climate and it is too late or most of them--and maybe for the genre as a whole. But a few have potential, he argues (though I'd argue with him about our local daily, which I think he overestimates significantly). He does not volunteer to invest in or buy any of them (and they're nearly all for sale).

Here's what the Insider says the analyst likes about The Times: "Our guy likes almost all of Landmark Communications papers in Virginia. They're in isolated, steady markets without a lot of overlap. The Roanoke Times is a 'good product,' a 'community type paper.' Roanake is the kind of place where if the car dealers start selling cars again, they'll start taking out ads in the local paper again."

His hypothesis about the car dealers, who change advertising strategies more often than I change shoes, is empty. This vital section is in love with TV these days and I'm not seeing any shift away from that in the near future. Fact is, though, that the future of car sales is on the Internet, not in the newspaper. It's the next Craig's List. The Times is often stale and unimaginative, late to catch trends and very often just silly. It has a solid group of local reporters and therein lies its strength. It also has an admired (though not by me) Web site, one I find slow, confusing and jumbled--but one that gets a lot of hits.

You can find the entire rundown here.

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