Newspapers, El Diaro, and the Crisis of Relevance

Is it really all about courting and serving the overlooked working class?

There’s enough conventional wisdom out there about the success of “niche” print publications. Now, take a listen to On The Media’s March 13 interview with El Diaro-La Prensa editor Alberto Vourvoulias.

In it, he reframes the whole discussion — of why he’s selling wood-pulp while newspaper’s nationwide are basically going out of business — around serving communities, delivering quality, and, in general, working to be relevant to a working-class audience that is overlooked by “mainstream” mass media.

He has an added advantage in that much of his immigrant audience may simply not be as “wired” — and thus more inclined to BUY wood pulp — as the more moneyed citizenry that has up till now been the primary focus on newspapers seeking added value for their advertisers, and now simply logs on to the Internet to get the news for free.

Still, compare the basic issue of relevance to the San Francisco Chronicle losing a million dollars per week, enabling Hearst to threaten to shutter it unless the union rolls over and accepts massive newsroom cuts.

Beside the fact that the Chronicle is giving all its content away for free online, can it be that what the SF Chronicle has committed to printing simply isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on?

Would the SF Chronicle actually be doing better if its editors more aggressively courted a widespread audience interested in, for example, labor issues and public health, as opposed to expensive restaurant reviews and snarky pop-culture writing?

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