Friday, November 13, 2015

They've Forgotten Their Audience

In 2011, Stephen Harper garnered the editorial support of 95% of Canada's newspapers. This time around, that number had dropped to 71%. A good portion of that 71% came from the Postmedia chain, whose  chairman -- Paul Godfrey -- told his editors that he would brook no dissent from the chain's support of Harper. Michael Harris writes:

Godfrey committed what the late senator and Globe and Mail editor Richard Doyle said was the unpardonable sin of the industry: he held up the newspapers he runs and got a reflection of himself. And remember how this was done. On the weekend before the election, Godfrey disfigured the front pages of all his newspapers with a full-page attack ad in support of the Harper Conservatives.

From the Ottawa Citizen to the Vancouver Sun, the same fear-mongering ad advised readers that voting Liberal or NDP “will cost you.” Godfrey tried to impose the PM’s plan for re-election, the magic mantra of fear and forgetfulness, on the Postmedia audience. And just to be sure to catch the eyes of the dullards, that front-page wrap was bright yellow. A good choice of colour, given what Godfrey was up to.

The problem is that those who support the chain's editorial position are a distinct minority. And Godfrey's first job is to sell newspapers:

Godfrey’s forced march of Postmedia editors through the swamps of political partisanship could cost the chain dearly. The National Post is already floundering under a $650 million debtload, kept afloat by U.S. hedge funds that extract big interest returns on their “investment.” No one is happy about that and many others in this besieged industry are taking on water.

In the meantime, Godfrey is totally out of touch with the people who hold the chain’s fate in their hands — his dwindling band of subscribers. According to a new report from the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project, Canada’s newspapers were, as the Huffington Post put it, “in the tank” for Harper for the past two elections.

Canada's newspapers are in trouble. That's because they have forgotten who their audience is.


ron wilton said...

Even reading the same old, same old wailings of NP which pre-election was entertaining for their crass and stilted stupidity but still worth enduring but now their farts are really really foul so I 'finally' clicked on the Facebook' edit thingy and have had all postmedia farts removed and not allowed on my page.

To relieve unnecessary and unwanted stress in my headspace I encourage others to do the same, except for the hardcore cons who wallow in it of course.

Dana said...

Not only have they forgotten their 'audience' they aren't even entertaining any more.

Seriously, how often do you see the word 'citizen' or any of it's derivatives in the pages of a newspaper? We're stake holders or tax payers or any number of other corporatist euphemisms. The various owners of modern newspapers have clearly rejected any of the traditional responsibility of a free press for the health of democratic society - with the probable exception of The Star in Toronto and The Guardian in Britain. I can't speak to non-English newspapers because I can't read them but the trend is probably consistent across the western world.

And here in Canada the rag that likes to bill itself as our national newspaper is the only English language paper I am aware of to protect and continue to employ a known serial plagiarizer.

I wish I could subscribe to ipolitics but I just can't bring myself to help pay the salary of Tasha Kheiriddin.

Owen Gray said...

In the end, Dana, they will be responsible for their own demise. The digital revolution has caused the death of a number of information sources. But, regardless of the source, there has to be an audience for the information.

Owen Gray said...

Your reaction, Ron, illustrates why Postmedia just gets deeper in the hole. I suspect that, eventually, it will go the way of Sun News.

Dana said...

Owen, the digital revolution has increased our possible sources of information by an order of magnitude beyond the capacity of the 19th century model of traditional newspapers to cope. They, almost all of them, dismissed the digital revolution as irrelevant for so long that by the time they came to their senses it was too late.

Toby said...

Owen Gray said..., "Canada's newspapers are in trouble. That's because they have forgotten who their audience is."

It's worse I think, Owen. I think they believed that by painting the world with their brush that we would all join them. I suspect that such as Paul Godfrey are shocked to find out so many Canadians will never join with them in their screwed up vision.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Dana. They are the victims of their own poor decisions.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Toby. They assumed they could shape opinion. They thought that "the people" couldn't think for themselves.