Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why newspapers are dying

It's a basic tenet of business that, in order to be successful, you need to understand your customers and their needs. Perhaps no business has so lost touch with its customers as the newspaper industry.

As an example of how out-of-touch most newspaper editorial boards are with their customers, let's look at yesterday's voting in California. The voters of the Golden State were asked to vote on a series of ballot propositions, the net effect of which was supposedly to close a $21 billion deficit in the state budget. Essentially the voters were being asked to vote in favor of various tax increases and accounting gimmicks that would let the state continue its out-of-control spending.

It hardly seemed like a fair fight: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was strongly in favor of all the proposals, and the teachers' unions and other liberal special interest groups spent more than $30 million in favor of the propositions, compared to less than $3 million spent by their opponents.

Here is how the large newspapers in California lined up editorially on the five propositions. (A "yes" vote is in favor of the tax increase or budget shift. And sorry about the fuzzy reproduction.)

Every one of the propositions lost. The most successful one of the five got beat 62-38, the rest lost by even bigger margins. How's that for knowing your customers?

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