How to Lose Friends and Alienate Customers

Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

“Today’s elite loathes the public. Nothing personal, just a fundamental difference in world view, but the hatred is unmistakable. Occasionally it escapes in scorching geysers. Michael Lewis reports in the New Republic on the ‘96 Dole presidential campaign: ‘The crowd flips the finger at the busloads of journalists and chant rude things at them as they enter each arena. The journalists, for their part, wear buttons that say ‘yeah, I’m the Media. Screw You.’* The crowd hates the reporters, the reporters hate the crowd -- an even matchup, except that the reporters wield power and the crowed (in effect) wields none.”

David Gelernter, from his book Drawing Life, 1997.

Unless you have a monopoly, you can’t get away with sneering at your customers for very long. The newspaper’s monopoly died in 1995, when the internet brought information to the fingertips of anybody with a modem. The dinosaur media never understood that they were in a tar pit from that moment on, and now it’s too late for them to change their ways and crawl back out.

—Blogger Will Collier, 2009.

Print newspapers are going to die; at this point they’re living off coupons, on the print side, and old people, on the readership side. Newspaper circulation has fallen only a little bit among readers older than 65, but it has started low and fallen lower among the under-35 demographic. It doesn’t seem reasonable at this point to believe that those folks will ever pick up the newspaper habit. So as the readers die, and the advertising fades, the newspapers, too, will die one by one. The magazines, which already look anorexic compared with their earlier ad-stuffed selves, will undoubtedly follow.

"Stick a Fork in Your Newspaper," Megan McCardle, Bloomberg View, yesterday.

*The late journalist and editor Ginny Carroll wore a button with that exact slogan when she appeared on C-Span in 1992:

“My reaction to that button [`Rather Biased'] and others, in part, is a button I bought yesterday that says `Yeah, I’m In The Media, Screw You!’….I do understand why a lot of people are upset with us, why we rank somewhere between terrorists and bank robbers on the approval scale. We do criticize. That’s part of our role. Our role is not just to parrot what people say, it’s to make people think. I think that sometimes I want to say to the electorate `Grow up!’”

When Carroll died in May of 2001 of hypertensive cardiovascular disease at age 53, the Chicago Tribune reported the above quote in her obituary, and that she had spent a decade as Newsweek’s bureau chief in first Detroit and then Houston.

Newsweek was founded in 1933 by a former editor of Time. The Washington Post purchased the magazine in 1961 for $8,000,000, and offloaded it for one dollar in 2010, perhaps having concluded that they had sufficiently alienated enough former and potential customers. Its new ownership would cease publishing a print version of the magazine at the end of 2013, and offload the tainted brandname itself last year.