How I Would Save The Star-Tribune

Obama Star
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The newspaper business is on the ropes. Subscriptions and newsstand sales are down while advertisers move their money elsewhere. A new generation is coming of age hardwired to the internet, electronic distribution and social networking. They don’t read newspapers. And print production costs continue to rise.

Here in the Twin Cities we are still a two newspaper metro. The Star-Tribune on the Minneapolis side of town and The Pioneer Press on the St. Paul side. And like a lot of other papers around the country, the Star-Tribune is doing the worst of the two, has declared bankruptcy and is looking over some bleak prospects. Within a couple years, I think, we will be down to one paper here unless the economy improves faster than anyone is predicting or the Star-Tribune is bought by someone looking for a big tax deduction.

So what can the management of the Star-Tribune do in such a situation? Plenty from my perspective but it’s tough medicine.

Here’s my 5 point plan to transform the Star-Tribune into a profitable business:

Get Out Of The Print Business: Print is dying and it’s also a large part of the cost structure for the paper. Sell the printing department to someone else. Since the Twin Cities still has a good sized print community, this should be pretty straightforward. Now look for a print partner to do your production for the lowest price (this might be the same company who bought your printing department).

Cancel Weekday Hardcopy Editions: Yes, go down to 3 print editions a week from Friday-Sunday. You’ll take a hit on the subscription revenue but that’s the least of your worries right now. The savings in printing and delivery costs should make up for the shortfall.

Get Behind The Kindle: Electronic distribution is the future and the Star-Tribune should have a $5.99 monthly Kindle edition. Do a contest to educate readers on how great the Kindle is and give some away. Even consider working out some deal with Amazon for a Kindle discount in exchange for a 2 year electronic subscription.

Adopt Blog Software Online: Change the current website CMS to WordPress or Blogsmith. Run the online site like Engadget with a core of staff writers and a ton of freelancers. Post often and repost on all the social networks and messaging services. This will create more online traffic and more advertising revenue.

Embrace User Generated Content: There are a lot of good writers in town who would contribute to the paper in return for link-backs and/or a little bit of money. For niche content this would be a lot more cost effective than having staff positions. Encourage people to send their camera-phone pictures and videos of breaking news like CNN does. Good things will happen.

I really don’t think the Star-Tribune will do any of these things but some paper somewhere might. The news business is not going anywhere; the newspaper business is going away. Those who change now will still be around in 5 years. Hopefully one of these papers will be the Star-Tribune.

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18 thoughts on “How I Would Save The Star-Tribune”

  1. Your ideas for the Star Tribune are right on. I think they need to change the fundamental way they do business right now and not tomorrow. I believe that people want the news more than ever, but in a fundamentally different format. Some people will be left behind, but that is the obvious cost of change.

    Excellent post.

    Kyle Henderson

  2. Your ideas for the Star Tribune are right on. I think they need to change the fundamental way they do business right now and not tomorrow. I believe that people want the news more than ever, but in a fundamentally different format. Some people will be left behind, but that is the obvious cost of change.

    Excellent post.

    Kyle Henderson

  3. Tim, I just linked your article to my blog where I’m talking about newspapers closing and the need for creative thinking to forge new systems.The handwriting was on the wall years ago, but print media was arrogant. Now they’re paying the price–and sadly, we along with them. We’ll miss those dear old dinosaurs once they stop showing up on our doorstep. After all, you can’t train a puppy on a KIndle!.
    Bonnie Boots

  4. Tim, I just linked your article to my blog where I’m talking about newspapers closing and the need for creative thinking to forge new systems.The handwriting was on the wall years ago, but print media was arrogant. Now they’re paying the price–and sadly, we along with them. We’ll miss those dear old dinosaurs once they stop showing up on our doorstep. After all, you can’t train a puppy on a KIndle!.
    Bonnie Boots

  5. @Kyle: Thanks; hope the Strib will get their act together before it’s too late. I fear it already is for them.

    @Bonnie: An interesting twist on this post; thanks for remixing 😉

  6. @Kyle: Thanks; hope the Strib will get their act together before it’s too late. I fear it already is for them.

    @Bonnie: An interesting twist on this post; thanks for remixing 😉

  7. No remixing involved, Tim. After I wrote my blog post, Zemanta suggested I link to your post because it also mentioned the Mpls Trib and new ideas. Zemanta is a WordPress plug-in that lets you quickly make related outbound links–and Google likes those!

  8. No remixing involved, Tim. After I wrote my blog post, Zemanta suggested I link to your post because it also mentioned the Mpls Trib and new ideas. Zemanta is a WordPress plug-in that lets you quickly make related outbound links–and Google likes those!

  9. Tim,

    You miss one key point. The ‘Strib’ has for many years has been nothing more than a propaganda arm for the DFL and DNC. It has insulted the intelligence of so many people for so long that it is no wonder why so many don’t trust its editorial and news content, refusing to take it even when it is offered for free. It is a sad thing that there are those that work for the Strib that don’t use it to further their own political agendas that are the ones being hurt the most.

    Scott

  10. Tim,

    You miss one key point. The ‘Strib’ has for many years has been nothing more than a propaganda arm for the DFL and DNC. It has insulted the intelligence of so many people for so long that it is no wonder why so many don’t trust its editorial and news content, refusing to take it even when it is offered for free. It is a sad thing that there are those that work for the Strib that don’t use it to further their own political agendas that are the ones being hurt the most.

    Scott

  11. I agree with Scott. If being a spokesman for the DFL and DNC wasn’t enough, they also alienated every NRA member with their anti-gun retoric. I suspect they wish they hadn’t alienated half the population. If I had advice for the Star Tribune, it would be to change it’s name and get rid of their editorial page. Just report the news without biased opinions.

  12. I agree with Scott. If being a spokesman for the DFL and DNC wasn’t enough, they also alienated every NRA member with their anti-gun retoric. I suspect they wish they hadn’t alienated half the population. If I had advice for the Star Tribune, it would be to change it’s name and get rid of their editorial page. Just report the news without biased opinions.

  13. Perhaps if the Strib wasn’t so slanted, it would not be struggling! It is apparent that whoever believes in non-bias reporting does not work for the Strib. I think it’s a great thing…get rid of it! All you people with your sympathy stories and memories of the Strib during your childhood…cry me a river…you’re nothing more than sheeple…baaaaah. What are you going to do once the Strib’s voice (not the people’s voice) is silenced? You just might have to begin thinking for yourself…and oh, what a hard thing that may be!!!

  14. Perhaps if the Strib wasn’t so slanted, it would not be struggling! It is apparent that whoever believes in non-bias reporting does not work for the Strib. I think it’s a great thing…get rid of it! All you people with your sympathy stories and memories of the Strib during your childhood…cry me a river…you’re nothing more than sheeple…baaaaah. What are you going to do once the Strib’s voice (not the people’s voice) is silenced? You just might have to begin thinking for yourself…and oh, what a hard thing that may be!!!

  15. I would be glad to pay higher prices for my home delivery. Ad revenues have subsidized home delivery, but with ad revenue declining, a price increase may be necessary. The financial model has changed, and a price change may be necessary. It should at least be considered.

  16. I would be glad to pay higher prices for my home delivery. Ad revenues have subsidized home delivery, but with ad revenue declining, a price increase may be necessary. The financial model has changed, and a price change may be necessary. It should at least be considered.

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