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Newspaper contractor-dom


I blogged here about a large row that’s going on in the US about the worth of animating political and news cartoons – and implied that was coming about because of the economic changes which are challenging print journalism – of all sorts.

One of the people I referenced, cartoonist Clay Bennett has kindly sent the details of an interview with him which has been published in the American Journal of Political Science this month. It’s well worth a read for anyone who works in the print industry. I’ll link to the whole pdf of the interview here, but here’s one of the accurate points I think he makes about one of the reasons for the decline in newspaper circulations in industrialised western societies.

Clay > The bulk of the [job] positions lost over the past thirty years have been as a result of the virtual extinction of two-newspaper towns in America. <
And
> Our problem now is not the newspapers were lost, but the ones that remain. No longer engaged in a competition for readers, a newspaper loses the ambition and aggressiveness that rivalry inspires. Without a cross-town rival, the features that once made the paper unique, and the journalists whose work most distinguished the publication from its competitor became expendable.<

I think this is an elegant summation of what has happened to our printed media (and cartoons in them), inspite of the variety of national press we have. I believe there will be a role for unique and distinctive content in the digital age, but we all still wait for business to work out that in order to get good content (and branding recognition) for the multiplicity of digital devices, one must be prepared to pay for the people who can make it.

Leave a Comment

  • Morten

    Very true.
    Excellent interview.
    There is bound to be a demand for unique content in the digital age, but everything is still in flux with regards to how, where and when this is going to happen.

    Have you had the chance to see my post on this, and listen to the Commonwealth Club panel discussion, Matt? Mostly stuff about being a cartoonist, but some very interesting points from KAL and Mark Fiore about the current state of affairs – and the future.

  • Tim Worstall

    “No longer engaged in a competition for readers, a newspaper loses the ambition and aggressiveness that rivalry inspires.”

    Absolutely, competition drives up standards in a service business as people compete for customers. Be interesting when people grasp this about, say, education, health care…..

    “I think this is an elegant summation of what has happened to our printed media (and cartoons in them), inspite of the variety of national press we have.”

    Tee Hee. Have you actually seen how bad those papers in the US are, the monopolies? Entirely drear, nothing at all of interest. Yes, I’m aware that many do not likethe shrillness of the Mail (or the Indy for that matter) but that’s exactly what’s driving the diversity we have, the competition for readers.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry for going off subject, but did any one see peter Mandlson on the last question time accidentally refer to Tony Blair as ‘Teddy Blair’. There was almost a hint of colour in the faces of mandelson and every one else on the panel.
    Classic TV.
    This comment was made as I wished to join in the debate but couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say on the real subject matter.Sorry for going off subject, but did any one see peter Mandlson on the last question time accidentally refer to Tony Blair as ‘Teddy Blair’. There was almost a hint of colour in the faces of mandelson and every one else on the panel.
    Classic TV.
    This comment was made as I wished to join in the debate but couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say on the real subject.
    When they make a PSP priminster question time game there may be hope.

  • Anonymous

    Bloody technology…

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