Add to My MSN

What Is a Newspaper For? Really?

10/6/2009 3:22:31 PM

Tags: Media, newspapers, news, Clay Shirky

Cutting the Newspaper

When everything but the news is stripped out of a newspaper, publications tend to look a lot thinner. Inspired by a blog post by Clay Shirky, I decided to perform a “news biopsy” of the today’s issue of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I wanted to separate the news from everything else in there.

I began by buying two copies of the newspaper, cutting them up, and separating the articles. One copy was for the odd-numbered pages, the other was for the evens. I then separated the articles into three categories: “news,” “advertisements,” and “other.” The “other” consisted of the opinion columns, sports, weather, comics, anything that was neither an ad nor reported news.

Here were the results:

News Ads and Other

News: 3.9 oz
Ads: 4.9 oz
Other: 7.3 oz

I then took the news pile and separated that into two categories: “created” and “acquired” news. The created news was anything with a byline from the Star Tribune. The acquired news consisted of articles sourced from the New York Times, the Associated Press, or anything outside of the Star Tribune.

Here were the results:

Created V. Acquired

Acquired: 1.5 oz
Created: 2.3 oz

The paper fared better than the Columbia Daily Tribune, the paper tested by Shirky, where two-thirds of the news was acquired and only one-third was created. Still, out of more than 16 ounces of newspaper, just 2.3 were news created by the Star Tribune. The rest, according to Shirky:

It’s not news, and it’s not hard to do, and it’s not hard to replace. No one surveying the changes the internet is bringing to the newspaper business is saying “My God, who will tell me about Big 12 football! Where will I find a recipe for spicy chicken wings!”

Source: Clay Shirky 

Content Tools

Post a comment below.


1/13/2011 6:15:11 AM
It's a nice post over here. ===================

Tom Hendricks
10/7/2009 11:48:53 AM
Well done. The media revolution that I am helping to lead, is one that puts readers ahead of advertisers. To do that we have to have newspapers that are free of all ads; and that get revenue from sales to readers not from safe puff pieces that don't upset advertisers - like the part that you cut away with your scissors..

Pay Now Save $5!

Print and DigitalWant to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here