Remember how we used to eagerly open the Wednesday Des Moines Register the day after an election to get the local and national results? Don’t bother this year.
Editor Carol Hunter writes in her Sunday column: “A heads-up for print readers: In part because close races may not be decided until late into the night, we do not expect to publish any results in Wednesday’s editions.”
The editor of “the newspaper Iowa depends upon” — sorry; that’s ancient; the slogan on the masthead now reads “the news Iowa depends upon” — says don’t bother paying to read the newspaper.
This gibes perfectly with the lack of need to buy the Saturday paper if you’re looking for Friday night high school sports results. The Register quit publishing those at the beginning of this season. You can read on Sunday about what happened Friday — the way it used to be before automobiles made it possible to transport items over great distances and made the Register a statewide newspaper.
“It’s all tied to the changing media landscape,” Hunter explains. “Much of our delivery outside the Des Moines metro is handled by distributors of other newspapers, so we must meet their deadlines. [The Register used to distribute its own papers — Gannett ended that to save money.] And as more readers shift to online reading and fewer take the print edition, carriers often must drive longer distances to reach enough customers to make routes profitable.”
Well, at least she’s honest. It’s not about informing Iowa readers. It’s about making enough money.
It doesn’t take a simpleton to figure out that if your intended customers perceive your product or service as valuable, you will get customers. If you devalue that product or service, you won’t have customers. But when the Register laments that fewer people are buying their smaller product that contains less news, they are singing the same dirge of transit companies wailing that they have fewer rider after reducing the number and frequency of buses while raising fares.
I get it: the immediacy of the internet makes it anachronistic to publish breaking news on a printed sheet a day or more after it happens. But who’s kidding whom? This isn’t about Iowans as news consumers. This is about Gannett Inc. wanting to keep its profit margin high.
And, frankly, we aren’t getting that much more from the Register’s website. First of all, Iowa ranks below the national average in broadband penetration, and the Register site is not geared to slow-speed internet. It’s crammed with obnoxious and loud pop-up ads, is difficult to search, and has a poor archive structure.
Also, although Hunter writes, “our print editions have transitioned to become less a source for breaking news and more a premier source for rich context, analysis and enterprise reporting,” a lot of that rich context, analysis and enterprise reporting is printed one or even two or more days after it appears online.
So here is a longtime print reader’s response to Carol Hunter: I agree with you. Don’t buy the daily newspaper. You can no longer count on it for news. Oh, and by the way, there are other news organizations in Iowa that can provide rich context, analysis and enterprise reporting. Here’s one of them.
Editor’s note: Gannett has instructed all of its newspaper properties to “adhere to their current print publishing deadlines,” rather than delaying so that some election results can be included in the Wednesday paper, Ken Doctor reported for Nieman Lab on November 1. According to the Register’s politics editor Rachel Stassen-Berger, Thursday’s print edition “will be result-rich.”