Newspapers’ New Business Model

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel recently ran a 5 part series called The Preacher’s Mob: The Rise and Fall of a Milwaukee Crime Boss, detailing Michael Lock’s criminal escapades over a 10 year period.

The series is fantastic.  It provides an in depth view into Lock’s rise, his criminal exploits (including murder, drug dealing mortgage fraud and prostitution) and the investigation that ultimately led to his conviction and sentencing to life in prison.  As a huge fan of HBO’s series The Wire, I love hearing the real life versions of the show.  For fans of The Wire, Lock’s rise and fall is similar to Season 1 and 2’s Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell.

This series is a perfect example of how newspapers must change if they want to survive.  Currently, the only news source that I pay money for is The Economist.  Otherwise, I get my information from free online newspapers, blogs and videos.  The Journal-Sentinel’s series on Michael Lock is news that I would be willing to pay for.  Long term, local, investigative reporting is the niche where newspapers can not only survive, but thrive.

Newspapers have to realize that people are not going to read them for breaking news.  We have the internet and tv to tell us about stock quotes, sports scores, who won an election and who was shot the night before.  Newspapers that report this information are simply rehashing what people already know from real time internet and tv sources.  The old business model will no longer work.

Newspapers should focus on investigative reports that take more than a day to research.  They should provide analysis of the situations, but with limited or no political bias.  In depth stories about gangs, schools, political corruption, environmental lapses and corporate greed will sell newspapers.  Positive stories about people and causes will increase paying readership.  Newspapers could cover these types of stories with decreased staff and decreased stories that are already duplicated in other sources.

Even if this solution does not work, it would be better than sitting around waiting for the papers to go bankrupt and would be more interesting to see than the current information that is in newspapers.

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