Circling the Drain – Part 2


Following up on our previous examination of the newspaper business in Seattle, two breaking developments have emerged this weekend.

All The News That Fits in the Pits

A special correspondent sends photographic evidence of a local marketing effort by the New York Times in Seattle:


This is near the hydroplane pits at SeaFair, an annual summer event in Seattle dedicated to drinking beer in the sun under the pretext of watching hydroplanes turn left around Lake Washington and periodically flip over.  I read that there was a thrilling ending this year in which the Beacon Plumbing boat was disqualified for being “off plane”, allowing the Ellstrom E-Lam Plus to win with the O Boy! Oberto taking second.  Think aquatic NASCAR, only louder and more provincial.

It is great to see the Times experimenting creatively and aggressively as they seek to revoke their “death watch” status.  No one can deny it is a bold move to place the Times alongside the  powerhouse plumbing (Beacon Plumbing), machine tools (Ellstrom E-Lam), dried meats (O Boy! Oberto) and replacement window (above) sponsors that dominate the hydroplane circuit today.  Presumably this outreach to new demographics is part of an well-orchestrated plan that extends to the editorial side of the house.  I, for one, would welcome more O Boy! Oberto and less opera in the Times.

While bold, the effort does look like it could use a little refinement, starting with actually having someone in the booth.  And West Coast Vinyl next door still tops them in tech savvy, with a prominent free Wii offer.  But in all, a commendable effort.

All News is Only Fit to Print

Meanwhile, over at the Seattle Times, there is continued focus on the core challenges they see facing the business.  No, not the Internet.  Not even inroads by national newspapers amongst local hydroplane and vinyl window fans.

Evidently the problem really is consolidation of the media by large, publicly-traded conglomerates that have the gall to diversify beyond the newspaper business.  Never mind that those same conglomerates are “getting killed” by the Internet as well, one wouldn’t want to lose focus on your eternal nemeses.  Ryan “The Scion” Blethen, from his fifth-generation, family-owned Seattle Times opinion page pulpit, calls upon journalists to speak up and take a stand against media consolidation.  The editorial itself suggests there isn’t much interest amongst journalists in this topic, but is having journalists “speak up” really the best strategy a publisher can come up with to stop industry consolidation?  A time machine might be a better approach given the consolidation in question happened decades ago.  And if you’re a journalist, do you really want to denounce consolidation that might provide a way for newspapers to continue to exist through subsidies from healthier businesses?

My suggestion: more energy on the web site, less time hoping the FCC will somehow hobble your fellow buggy whip competitors.

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