Kevin Allen, a smart young writer who works for Ragan Communications, knows my rather strong opinions about the future of newspapers. He sent me a link to this story about Sam Zell’s acquisition of the Tribune Co. and asked for a comment. Here’s what I said:
“I would never want to be quoted questioning Mr. Zell’s wisdom or insight, since he is clearly a very successful investor. I was struck, however, by the fact that neither the Tribune article or the video interview went into any detail on the challenge that digital media presents to newspapers. In fact, I could find the Internet mentioned only once in the Tribune article, in the first paragraph.
“This seems curious to me, since online competition is clearly the biggest challenge facing newspapers these days, particularly in their classified advertising businesses. Longer term, the newspaper’s value proposition as a timely source of information is under siege. This article seems more interested in the Tribune’s ESOP plan and ownership stake in the Cubs than in the serious long-term problems facing its industry.
“It’s been my experience that people of Mr. Zell’s age are almost incapable of relating to the culture and lifestyles of today’s digital youth. This is not their fault, for it’s almost incomprehensible to someone who grew up in the 50s or 60s to relate to the always-connected, always-interacting lifestyle of today’s teens. It’s hard enough for me, at 49, to understand it. I would think that anyone buying a newspaper today would have to look at what they’re going to do to court this next generation of consumers, who have almost no affinity for newspapers. The fact that this critical issue was not addressed in the Tribune interview or video is a glaring omission, in my view. I can’t believe the editors didn’t bring it up.
“Apparently a lot of them aren’t even paying attention to it. As reported last week by MediaPost, “The first Newsroom Barometer survey–conducted by the World Editors Forum and Reuters–found that a staggering 85% of editors and news executives of 435 polled were optimistic about the fate of their publications.”
“As they say, denial is not just a river in