400 Bookstores to Close by End of 2009

From The Book Blog:

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that analysts expect an avalanche of bookstore closings this year. A new report by Grant Thornton report says 10,000 retail stores will have closed by the end of 2009. Of that number, 400 will be bookstores, which is a 500% increase in bookstore closings since last year. Bookstores are just part of the ugly retail picture, as consumers have put the brakes on spending.


The Future of Entertainment Is…Mixed Bag?

CSI creator Anthony Zuiker thinks mixing a novel with a website and a film might at least give the book publishing industry a creative new means of boosting revenue. My question: will a novel produced using this format ever have the longevity of say, Dracula, which is still being read and enjoyed more than 100 years after its first printing? With an integrated format that changes as rapidly as the web, it’s worth asking.

Read more of Zuicker’s interesting comments after the jump.

From Yahoo News:

"Just doing one thing great is not going to sustain business," he said. "The future of business in terms of entertainment will have to be the convergence of different mediums. So we did that — publishing, movies and a website."

He said he did not believe the digi-novel would ever replace traditional publishing, but said the business did need a shot in the arm.

"They need content creators like myself to come in the industry and say, ‘Hey, let’s try things this way,’" he said.

Zuiker put together a 60-page outline for the novel, which was written by Duane Swierczynski, and wrote and directed the "cyber-bridges." He said the book could be read without watching the "cyber-bridges."

Journalism School Offers a Course in Twitter

Building on my recent post regarding the evolution of the newspaper, DePaul University is now offering a class on Twitter to budding journalists in its College of Communication. Click the read more link for full details.

From Editor & Publisher:

The notice states that the "College of Communication is exploring the new frontiers of journalism through courses on Twitter, entrepreneurial journalism and backpack reporting, providing students with cutting-edge knowledge in this rapidly changing field."

Advertising Spending Falls 15.4 Percent in First Half of 2009

From Forbes:

Spending on advertising in the U.S. fell 15.4% in the first half of 2009, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to an annual report released Tuesday by The Nielsen Company. For the six-month period, ad spending plummeted more than $10.3 billion to $56.9 billion.

National newspapers saw ad spending decline 22.8%. Local newspapers dropped 13.2%. National magazines, outdoor media and network radio similarly fell 21.2%, 14.9% and 9%, respectively. Even the Web took a hit. Ad spending declined 1% through the first six months of the year.

New Television Show Creator: ‘Publishing is a lot like sitcoms’

Love the quote from Gail Lerner:

CBS has landed a highly sought multicamera comedy script by "Will & Grace" alumna Gail Lerner.

The project, tentatively titled "Open Books," has received a pilot commitment from the network. It revolves around book editor June and her circle of friends.

"I like the frustrations, the collaborative process," Lerner said of publishing. "Publishing is a lot like sitcoms. Although both are supposedly dying, that only makes people more passionate about creating the next great novel or show."

Complete details at Yahoo! News.

He Said the Magic Word!

Can high-power corporate executives run a local newspaper like a local newspaper? At least one of Star Tribune‘s potential new board members (who was once president of the UK Starbucks Coffee Co.), thinks so.

The Star Tribune said Monday that unless another buyer emerges, its board of directors will include L. Gordon Crovitz, former Wall Street Journal publisher; Michael T. Sweeney, managing partner of the Minneapolis private equity firm of Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison; former banker and investor William F. Farley of Minneapolis; and Michael E. Reed, head of GateHouse Media Inc. of Fairport, N.Y. Two additional board members are expected to be named later.

"I think a local newspaper company like the Star Tribune is the epitome of a local business," said Sweeney, who previously served as president of Starbucks Coffee Co. (UK) in London. "So it’s a pleasure to be involved in such a local business."

Click "Read more" for the rest.

Faced with plunging ad and circulation revenue and heavy debt, the Star Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection last January. The Chapter 11 filing came less than two years after Avista Capital Partners, a private equity firm, bought the Star Tribune for $530 million from The McClatchy Co.

Full story at Yahoo! News

Publisher of 30 Newspapers to File for Bankruptcy

Full details at Yahoo! News:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Freedom Communications, owner of the Orange County Register and 30 other US newspapers, is expected to file for bankruptcy protection this week, according to published reports.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times quoted unidentified sources as saying that the bankruptcy filing would lead to Freedom’s lenders taking over the company, which is owned by the Hoiles family.

The Times said the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which protects a company from its creditors while it restructures, could come as early as Tuesday.


Should Newspapers Really be Saved?

Some months ago I was invited (about a dozen times) to join the "Don’t Let Newspapers Die" cause on Facebook. Most of the well-meaning folks who invited me to the cause were, in fact, people in the newspaper industry with whom I have worked for many, many years. As a nearly 20-year veteran of the business, I can forgive my Facebook friends for assuming that I would be interested in preserving the newspaper industry as it exists today, and as it has existed for the bulk of my career.

It was with a not-so-heavy heart that I silently ignored the pleas for my participation in this particular cause.

Why? Because information gathering and reporting, like any other human industry, must be allowed to change and evolve with the technologies and the demands of the times.

We no longer live in an era when the common man, he who puts his nose to the grindstone every day just to feed his family, is restricted to digesting a filtered, dumbed-down hashing of the day’s events with his breakfast bagel or his evening meal. News delivery today is consumer-participatory. We read it, we digest it, we "tweet" it, and we do not necessarily glean what we regurgitate from traditional sources.

The print newspaper business must evolve if it is to remain a viable information utility. To date, it has been the slowest overall of the more traditional news reporting sources to successfully leverage the Internet in the daily lives of news junkies. Granted, it’s had more to overcome. Flipping on the television or radio and sponging the news in spoken or visual form is still easier than putting it together yourself from various blogs, feeds, and editorial content online, even with technologies like RSS and social media sites.

Let’s look at it this way: no one hires a scribe to manually copy, translate, and distribute documents anymore. Why? Because Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type printing and the printing press. Even as far back as the 1400s, technology was changing the way news was delivered.

And then there were newsboys, who are famous in American history for shouting headlines on street corners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in order to sell papers. Word-of-mouth, in fact, was one way newspapers managed to attract readers and subscribers throughout the ages. "Did you read that story in the…?" was most often the phrase that led to more eyeballs on a particular column.

These days, there’s nary a newsboy to be found and no one uses movable type printing anymore. Why? Because we have desktop publishing applications that make it simple to put words on a page, and we have television, radio, blogs, advertising, social media, and a host of other means of spreading word-of-mouth.

Now fast-forward to 1997, when Matt Drudge "revolutionized" online newsgathering by becoming one of the first aggregated news sites on the Web to both make news and break major political scandal. Suddenly, people were turning to the Internet in droves to read news from sources that were not ABC, NBC, CBS, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal. What Drudge did was successfully break a Newsweek work-in-progress on the Internet. Although it wasn’t Drudge who uncovered the story, his action on it was the very beginning of what would become the medium accused of destroying the newspaper.

For years, I’ve heard that craigslist is killing print media because of free online classifieds, and that bloggers are killing print media because they have become the new, true "community" journalists, that they are performing original local reporting rather than just spilling something from the Associated Press into an empty hole every day.

In the end, though, it is up to the newspaper to maintain (and build) its readership, and not up to craiglist, bloggers, twitterers, or whatever the next generation of newsgatherer becomes, to protect the old gray print media from wasting away to nothing.

Should traditional print media go the way of the dinosaur? Absolutely. It should evolve.

Intensely Local Magazines Resist Recession Slump

Forbes.com interviews Larry Platt, chief of Philadelphia and Boston magazines on why local-centric publications have fared much better during the recession than their broader-based advertising competition.

City magazines have suffered surprisingly little damage during the recession. Of the nearly 100 members of the City and Regional Magazine Association (CRMA), only two have closed in 2009, the group reports. Drops in city magazine ad pages this year hover in the high teens, half that of some national magazines (though major market titles, like New York and Los Angeles have been harder hit).