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British invasion of U.S. online newspaper market just might work, unlike BBC newscasts 7/2/07

Posted by Steve Boriss in Newspapers, U.K..
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Part of the reason that U.S. newspapers are now suffering is that most have not really had to compete for readers for decades and they don’t know how. Many are the lone surviving paper in their metro areas. And virtually all are members of either the Associated Press, NY Times, or Washington Post news services, which in practice have organized newspapers into a competition-suppressing “cartel.” In effect, each paper has implicitly agreed to run nearly identical national and international stories in return for pooled reporting costs so low that no would-be competitor could afford to enter local markets with alternative, more consumer-appealing content. Without the competitive pressures of the marketplace, U.S. papers have devolved to their own, monolithic news formula that offers a combination of left-of-center and establishment thinking in a style that is authoritative, serious, and stripped of partisan passion.

Interestingly, this “numbing-down” of newspapers in the U.S. never really happened in Europe. London papers offer a variety of partisan leanings from the leftish Guardian to the rightish Telegraph, for a variety of tastes from the sensationalist Sun to the staid Times of London. (Broadcast news is another matter, where the British surrendered their news to the nannyish, government-controlled BBC without firing a shot). So what happens when American news consumers, who speak the same language as the Brits, stumble upon the newspapers of their forebearers online? Quite a lot, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune, and some London papers are gearing-up to seize the opportunity. So, just when it seemed like it couldn’t get any worse for U.S. newspapers, it has.

Comments»

1. nigel barlow - 7/3/07

Steve,

Is it simply about lack of competition or are US newspapers not delivering the differing opinions beacause the majority of their readers don’t want it?

Yes here in the Uk we do have a wider range of opinions to choose from,but to say that dumbing down has not occured is wrong.Even the quality daily papers have chased what they perceive to be the agenda amongst their readership.If you compare a paper such as the Times to what it looked like 10 years ago,there are major differences.These have generally been in the replacement of hard news with softer stories.

I read the piece online in the NYTimes about American readers looking to the online version of the British newspapers for their news.I would be willing to bet that it was for coverage of foriegn stories ( such as Iraq) where they feel that the information for them is sadly lacking.

2. Steve Boriss - 7/3/07

Nigel, To be clear, there was a reason a wrote “numbing down” instead of “dumbing down.” I think the British papers are more interesting reads because they include more opinion and sensationalism in their stories — softer stories also being something UK papers offer that many find appealing. In this context, chasing the agenda of their readers is a positive — it is about giving readers what they want. In regards to Iraq, I do think many Americans did not like the coverage in their papers, both right and left. On the left, many shared the typically more negative views of the British populace, but keep in mind there is a strong right here that got tired of the American media’s coverage of servicemen as victims (of bad foreign policy or “lies”) and torturers of prisoners, and wanted more coverage of them as heroes and liberators.


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