Digitization and Bay Area’s newspapers: Six newspapers combine into two


Newspapers globally have not figured out their business models yet. A great start would be for their leaders to ask this question: What problems are we here to solve? The newspapers need new answers to this question.

The reason for this is that the problem newspapers solved for us previously  – providing information – is no longer a problem. We have way too much information. What we need is relevant and insightful knowledge that we can act constructively on. A service innovation focus would, as I explain below, help newspapers find profitable business models a lot.

On April 5th 2016, the 142-year-old Oakland Tribune dropped the city name from its nameplate. Instead, you will find the East Bay Times, a consolidation of the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, the Daily Review in Hayward, and the Argus, which serves Fremont. This is reported by the San Francisco Chronicle – click here to see the article.

The financial pressures and changing media landscapes have plagued newspapers around the country. In the South Bay, the San Jose Mercury News will absorb the San Mateo County Times. The new publication will drop ‘San Jose’, to be named Mercury News.

These six papers are administered by the Bay Area News Group. This group is owned by Digital First Media, the New York publishing company. Digital First Media is controlled by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital. So, it is a long way from those who control the newspapers to the journalists in these papers. And by the way, 20 percent of the journalists lose their jobs during this transition.

This transition will serve readers better, the Bay Area News Group claims. The Group’s publisher Sharon Ryan told employees in a memo that “We’ll give them better focused from page stories that cover national and Bay Area news from each region’s point of view”.

Oakland is a city of 400,000. What happens now is the end of an era. It may be the start of a new era though. But it is primarily something that happens because newspapers haven’t figured out their new business models. Think about this: What problems are newspapers there to solve, in our days? Do we really need newspapers? We do need news, yes. But on paper, delivered after you go to work. Hmmm, perhaps no.

Newspapers need to reinvent themselves. My solution to them is to listen to what information needs readers actually have. Understand that, and deliver on that. Personally I want news from a journalist I have learned to trust.Not necessarily from a laudable person who has graduated with the best degree from a university. OK, so I have only half of a solution, or perhaps not even that. But I think I, as well as the Bay Area News Group, see the problem.

I also wonder about what a hedge fund thinks of the newspaper industry. Thoughts anyone?

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