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The Music Business Is Unbundling The Song. Now The Newspaper Business Unbundling The Paragraph

Posted by: Jon Fine on March 8, 2007

The Washington Post’s Frank Ahrens’ writes today about how the tiny local newspaper remains a good business. (My BusinessWeek colleague Tom Lowry previously did an excellent piece on the same topic.)

Good business, if not exactly good reading.

Ahrens points out one example of what’s passing for creativity at these papers (emphasis mine):

Freedom has made the Shelby (N.C.) Star the chain’s laboratory paper, and the 15,000-circulation daily has run with the mandate.

Under editor Skip Foster, the Star last spring began abandoning the paragraph story form for a barebones rundown that simply lists who, what, when, where and why an event happened. The Star’s front page on the morning after November’s midterm elections, for example, displayed only one succinct headline, “Dems Dominate,” and no stories. Instead, the page explained three local races in bite-size info-nuggets.

“For many readers,” Foster has said, “the paragraph is a dinosaur.”

I am still in my thirties but evidently I am an old, old man. A few months back I was getting all cranky about how the shift to the ringtone equals unbundling the song.

I’m all for tossing overboard many pieties over how newspapers should do things. But call me crazy: I still like paragraphs.

Reader Comments


March 8, 2007 7:19 PM

You may like paragraphs but you didn't include a single one in the above posting. I was taught a paragraph was an introductory sentence and 3-4 supporting sentences.


March 8, 2007 9:28 PM

You effete snob.
A daily under 15,000 is "tiny."
What do you call 2,000 circ. weekly?
Miniscule, nanopaper?
There are 6700 weekly newspapers with an average circulation of 7500
And only 112 daily newspapers have circulation over 50,000.

Mary Specht

March 10, 2007 12:54 AM

I haven't seen the Shelby paper, but it sounds like the USA Today philosophy--short, easy to read articles with lots of bullets and graphics--taken to the extreme. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing for some articles, but I agree that it's probably unwise to shed the paragraph entirely.


March 12, 2007 1:48 PM

Would I be a snob to call a paper with an under 5000 circulation as a hobby? I printed a fanzine from my parents basement that sold 5000 issues. That's not a business, that's a blog.

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