Keeping comics in newspapers

Interesting piece in The Baltimore Sun over the weekend on the future of newspapers — well, US newspapers, although the issues they’re facing as new media gains in popularity across all age bands is affecting all print media.

Howard Weaver, the head of news for the McClatchy chain — which bought the Knight Ridder chain of US newspapers and then sold off about half of them — argues “There will be lots of audio and video” on future newspaper sites. “It should not be the mirror image of the newspaper. Newspaper content is a tremendous starting place, but it is only a starting place.”

There’s a clear recognition of the way the Internet is developing ‘niche’ audiences in the article, and recognizing that the newspaper audience of the future will be a specialized one means giving up the department-store, something-for-everyone approach. I think that’s possibly true, and as an editor of various ‘niche’ magazines down the years, if you can get the economics right, then you’re on a winner.

As part of that ‘niche’ marketing Peter M. Zollman, a former journalist, now a newspaper industry consultant, says he would keep the comics — “You can’t blow up your entire core audience” — but, for instance, jettison stock tables as up-to-the-minute prices are available on the Web.

This is one of those rare occasions where comics have been recognised as a piece of ‘unique content’ that helps retain readers that I’ve read in a while, and it’s a welcome argument on these pages…

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