This young man’s got potential

I filed a rather flippant post a few days ago about the boss man of McClatchy, the company that is about to buy Knight Ridder (which owns The State). Respectful, of course, but flippant.

Well, let’s get serious for a minute. I was much pleased with this piece in The Wall Street Journal the other day. There’s definitely more to this young man than an obsession with The Ramones. Note that I say "young man" not merely because he’s four years younger than I, but because he looks much younger than that. One of my colleagues (whom I will not name) made a passing reference the other day to "our new 12-year-old boss." That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course. Mr. Pruitt looks, I would say, thirtyish — which to me is still a kid — but everyone knew to whom the description was meant to refer.

But if he is a kid, he’s a kid with potential. I’ll have to keep my eye on this young man; I have high hopes for him. And yes, I’m saying that because he seems to think about the future of newspapers in much the same way I do. That makes him a smart guy, right?

In case you have trouble linking to the piece, what with the WSJ being all regulation about wanting everybody to be a subscriber, I’ll explain that I’m referring to an op-ed by Mr. Pruitt in the March 16 edition headlined, "Brave News World." Here’s the beginning of it:

Last year, the world celebrated the 400th birthday of the newspaper. Those of us in the business also recognized it as the 399th anniversary of the first prediction of our demise. Speaking as someone whose company is writing a $6.5 billion check to triple its newspaper holdings, I beg to differ.

To many, ink spread across newsprint pages seems old-fashioned and destined to disappear. This conventional wisdom has become so pervasive that you can buy the nation’s second-largest newspaper group, Knight-Ridder, for a price that would have seemed an unimaginable bargain only a few years ago. But while that kind of thinking might be good for our company — we were the buyer, after all — it’s wrong. The fact is, newspapers are still among the best media businesses — and the most important.

He goes on to explain that while readership has declined, it’s still healthy. And while everybody touts the power of TV, he presents some interesting stats to put that into perspective. Here’s one illustration I thought was revealing:

When the Steelers faced off against the Seahawks in SuperBowl XL last
month, 90.7 million people turned in, television’s best day of the
year. But on that Sunday — indeed, on an average Sunday in 2004-2005
— about 124 million people read the Sunday newspaper. Look at it this
way: We won Super Sunday, 12-9.

That may seem an odd comparison: One TV network versus all the papers in the country. But think about it — newspapers are community businesses, not national businesses (with the freakish exception of McPaper, aka USAToday). The local stations are our competition, not the overall network. And we routinely beat those local stations like a drum. So think of his illustration as being about every network affiliate vs. its community newspaper. The papers won in a walk, in terms of market share that day. And there’s no question we beat them in news coverage, every day.

I’ll finish with this excerpt, which addresses the canard that we are being driven out of business by the Web:

While it may seem counterintuitive to suppose that a
company founded before the advent of electric lights would be a media
leader in the age of blogs, podcasts and text messaging, that’s exactly
what has happened. We certainly have competition from Google and
others. But in each of the communities where we compete, almost every
newspaper has the largest news staff, largest sales force, biggest
audience and greatest share of advertising in its market. Whether it’s
on the Internet or off the presses, we are capturing that business.

Adding the unduplicated reach of newspaper Web sites
to newspaper readership shows that, far from shrinking, our audiences
are growing steadily. Simply put, more people want our products today
than wanted them yesterday; this is hardly the profile of a dying
industry. But of course our products have changed as we have all been
forced to adapt. Today’s daily newspaper is the engine driving a
multimedia company that includes popular Web sites, foreign language
publications, direct marketing initiatives and much more. Replacing the
notion of "readers" with "audiences," we’re fast becoming
multi-platform, 24/7 news companies — and it’s working.

Just in case the WSJ gets ticked about my excerpting their material, let me finish by saying that is a fine product, which I would recommend to my friends — but only if they are already seven-day subscribers to The State. If they aren’t, they have no way of knowing what’s going on in their communities. And something they don’t know about on their own street is a whole lot more likely to jump up and bite them where it hurts than something happening in New York or Washington.


5 thoughts on “This young man’s got potential

  1. The Cackalacky Candidate

    Note to Blogosphere:
    Not every household in the United States has a computer. A January, 2004 article published by Investors Business Daily indicated that about 20% of U.S. households did not have PC’s, when the survey was taken. The primary reason give was low household income level. (Of course, by now the number of non-PC households has likely decreased.)
    Also, please consider that most of the people in this country learned to read at a time when the predominant new medium was black ink on white newsprint. It’s what many people feel most comfortable with. (…and newspapers do a better job of absorbing coffee cup rings)
    Brad, does the new boss prefer the term “fish wrapper” or “bird cage liner” to describe The State???

  2. Brad Warthen

    Hey, good for Cackalacky for coming up with three more advantages that newspapers have over Google.
    Not very original, but let’s give him credit anyway. Or give her credit, or whatever. “Cackalacky” is one of those names like “Leslie,” or “Pat;” it’s hard to tell.
    Seriously, folks, why all the secrecy? Why not just be who you are?

  3. The Cackalacky Candidate

    Nope…”peanut shelling mat” would probably work better than “fish wrapper” or “bird cage liner”.
    Brad Warthen asks, ” ….why all the secrecy?” Some bloggers give anonymous, androgonous monikers and some don’t (ref. your blog roll.) For the Cackalacky Candidate the reason is: The Magic is in the Mystery.
    As the serious, concerned, Average-Shmuck-on-the-Street citizen, you will find the letters and writings of yours truly laying in the bottom of dumpsters, located behind the office buildings of state elected officials and political candidates across the State of South Carolina.
    However, when written in the vernacular of the Cackalacky Candidate and posted on the Official NonCampaign website, those same ideas for economic growth and education reform have found a considerably more receptive and responsive audience audience.
    I will be in Columbia this week to file my election papers with the SCSEC to start my Official run for No Office in the State of South Carolina. (or maybe I need to go to the OneStop center at the SCESC to file my unemployment claim.) The Cackalacky Candidate shall be running for No Office under the banner of the Tender Party: Because politics runs on U.S. Legal Tender.
    The Cackalacky Candidate hereby challenges the Candidate of Brad Warthen’s UnParty to an April 1 debate to determine who is the best candidate for No Office in the Great State of South Carolina.

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