Now in the News: Omnibus Spending Bill Reportedly Omits Assistance For Local News

December 23, 2022

Can Print Editions Survive The Decline Of Advertising At The Boston Globe And Elsewhere?

One of my correspondents urged me to look at the print edition of today’s Boston Globe and count up the ads. I did — and I didn’t even have to use the fingers on two hands. There were two quarter-page ads and two smaller ads in the A section and a full page of auto dealers in the sports section on page C3. And that was it. Monday’s paper was actually a little meatier, and here we are just a few shopping days before Christmas. Tuesday is generally a down day for newspaper advertising, so I expect it will pick up the rest of the week. Still, the ongoing decline is real.

The perennial question is whether the Globe will cut back on print days, as a number of daily papers have across the country. Not necessarily. The Globe charges about $1,400 a year for home delivery of the print edition, and that’s a lot of money. Maybe it’s also enough to keep seven-day print alive. After all, it would be difficult to offer just four, five or six print editions a week without also cutting the price.

At some point, I think it’s likely that most daily papers will have one big weekend print edition with digital-only the rest of the week. But when that will happen is anyone’s guess. As recently as a year ago, about 55% of the Globe’s consumer revenue came from its print edition even though digital subscriptions have long since left print circulation in the dust. Print will last as long as it continues to make sense economically

British Newspaper The Guardian Says It’s Been Hit By Ransomware

British newspaper The Guardian has confirmed its systems have been hit by a “serious IT incident,” which it believes is likely a ransomware attack.

The Guardian, whose media editor was first to report the incident, said that the incident began late on Tuesday and has affected parts of the company’s IT infrastructure. “There has been a serious incident which has affected our IT network and systems in the last 24 hours,” Guardian Media Group chief executive Anna Bateson and editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said in a note to employees: “We believe this to be a ransomware attack but are continuing to consider all possibilities.”

As a result, the publisher said it’s experiencing disruption to “behind the scenes” services, and employees have been told to work remotely for the rest of the week. However, the company says that online publishing is largely unaffected, adding that it was “confident” it could still produce Thursday’s print newspaper.

Further details about the attack remain vague, and it’s unclear how The Guardian’s systems were compromised, whether data was stolen or whether it received a ransom demand. Ransomware actors typically exfiltrate then threaten to publish a victim’s personal data unless a ransom demand is paid.

It’s also unclear who is behind the attack, and the incident doesn’t yet appear to have been claimed by any major ransomware group. When reached by email, a spokesperson for The Guardian — who declined to provide their name

— would not answer TechCrunch’s questions.

News organizations have become regular targets for cyberattacks. In September, hackers breached the internal systems of U.S. business publication Fast Company to send offensive push notifications to Apple News users.

The New York Post also confirmed that it was hacked in October. However, the company later claimed that a rogue employee was to blame for the “unauthorized conduct,” but declined to say what evidence the newspaper had to show that the employee was to blame

Kentucky Press Association Receives $12,500 To Develop Curriculum That Teaches The Role Of Media In Democracy

The SNPA Foundation has awarded $12,500 to the Kentucky Press Association to help fund the development of curriculum for schools that helps restore the belief that a strong media presence is essential to our democracy. The goal is to build a generation that understands the value of local journalism, who will stand as advocates today and in the future for their local newspapers.

“This is not a NIE program,” said David Thompson of the Kentucky Press Association. “It is a program designed to help newspapers make trips to local schools, regardless of where they live, and teach important concepts such as why a free press is protected by the US Constitution, how to distinguish between truth and misinformation, news versus opinion.

“We want this program eventually to be accessible to any newspaper across America and are currently developing curriculum for fifth grade, middle school and the high school level.”

SNPA Foundation Chair PJ Browning commented, “We appreciated the different approach to education and connecting newspapers to communities. We are pleased the Kentucky Press Association is planning on opening the results of this effort to papers all across America.”

The SNPA Foundation considers funding requests for programs and initiatives that support educational opportunities for the advancement of newspaper industry leaders, the creation of sustainable business models, and the technology that supports the advancement of the news eco-system.

The SNPA Foundation is especially interested in seeding projects that may start “locally,” but include the possibility of scaling to a national level; that have a broad impact on the public; or that enrich the racial diversity of professional ranks by drawing more talent into the newspaper industry

Omnibus Spending Bill Reportedly Omits Assistance For Local News

The $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that’s making its way through Congress reportedly contains nothing to ease the local news crisis. An emailed news bulletin from the trade publication Editor & Publisher, citing unnamed sources, reported this morning that both the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) and the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (LJSA) have been excluded from the bill.

For those of you who don’t follow these issues obsessively, let me unpack this a bit.

The JCPA would allow an antitrust exemption for news organizations so that they could bargain collectively with Google and Facebook for a share of their advertising revenues. You often hear news executives complain that the giant platforms are republishing their content without paying for it. That is a serious distortion. On the other hand, there’s no doubt that Google and Facebook, which control about half the digital advertising market, benefit significantly from linking to and sharing news.

The LJSA would create three tax credits that would benefit local news organizations. The first would allow consumers to write off the cost of subscriptions. The second would provide a tax benefit to businesses for buying ads. The third would grant tax write-offs to publishers for hiring and retaining journalists. That last provision was included in President Biden’s Bill Back Better bill, which Senate Republicans, joined by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, killed last year.

The demise of the JCPA is not entirely bad news. I thought it might be worth giving it a try to see what the two sides might come up with. Still, there was a lot of merit to the argument made by critics like Chris Krewson, executive director of LION (Local Independent Online News) Publishers, that most of the revenues would be diverted to large legacy newspaper publishers — including those owned by corporate chain owners and hedge funds — rather than to community-based start-ups.

The LJSA, on the other hand, was more intriguing, even though it would also benefit legacy newspapers. For one thing, the tax credits could provide a real lifeline to small local news projects. For another, the third provision, for publishers, would reward the large chain owners only for good behavior — Gannett and Alden Global Capital could not tap into that credit if they keep laying off journalists.

I’m guessing that this is the end of the road for both proposals given that the Republicans will take over the House in the next few weeks. That’s not entirely a bad thing. As Ellen Clegg and I have found in our research at “What Works,” local news organizations across the country, from for-profit legacy newspapers to nonprofit digital start-ups, are finding innovative ways to continue serving their communities.

The economic challenges facing news organizations is real, but in many cases they can be managed with innovative thinking and committed local ownership.