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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Shrinking Cincinnati Enquirer: Must Shed Jobs Or Feature Section

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The NewsAche says the morning metro daily in Cincinnati is faced with eliminating eight jobs or a Friday feature section. It must squeeze $500,000 from the newsroom budget next year. Either way, the daily paper and its online alter ego will be lesser products.

It looks like the Cincinnati Enquirer's business strategy now seems to be the elimination of content -- or content gatherers -- at the same time it is attempting to match fierce competition from increasing numbers of Internet-based information sources. Rather than surge and spend to meet or defeat the challenges, the Enquirer is scaling back. How long can it maintain its brand as the dominant news source in Cincinnati? How long will it be attractive to advertisers when the print edition becomes a hollowed out shell, and the online editions contain nothing that can't be found elsewhere?

The Friday "Life" section that is on the chopping block is about entertainment and leisure, and it is so watered down by prior cuts that it is pretty lifeless. If it had been stimulating, lively, or lived up to its name by being full of life and entertaining stories, it might have drawn readers, especially online readers. But the fare was lifeless. Typical: This Friday's interview with the new marketing director of the Cincinnati Symphony, who is looking for a new slogan to bring in customers. But no potential slogans -- no matter how silly or untried -- are trotted out and kicked around in the interview. (Bach Beer & Beethoven; Oboes Are For Lovers; Pete Rose Bet On The Bugles) And a marketing director just isn't interesting enough to carry a story. NewsAche sees the Enquirer in a downward spiral, a circle-the-drain spiral:

"You can't do more with less. You can only do less with less. Killing Friday Life and folding it into Weekend will allow the Enquirer editors to say they're giving readers the same with less. But it's just less. Eight newsroom employees may have dodged the bullet. It zinged right past them and hit the readers, who will still pay 50 cents for a smaller product."

Bottomline: Any business that thinks it can grow or succeed by selling and delivering a second-rate product -- online or in print -- is delusional. Ask the guys who ran the car companies in Detroit.


  1. How long can it maintain its brand as the dominant news source in Cincinnati?

    The question is, when was it ever?

  2. Hi George --

    If you really are George. I suppose I am curious, George.

    Anyhow, the Enquirer has been the dominant news source in Cincinnati, and remains the dominant news source in Cincinnati, albeit it is shaky on that throne. My guess is that within 24 months it will be in serious trouble as a business operation. It has dry rot and termites are chewing away at the foundatin -- the blogs, alternative news sources like City Beat, The Cincinnati Nation, a colony is chewing up that empire built on cellulose. They could rebound, they could come back, but they don't have the leadership nor the investment strategy. The corporate owners are demanding that the cow be milked dry.