Friday, November 30, 2007

Why Newspapers Are Dying, Example XXXVIII

Sherman Oaks, California

Want to find out who in the newspaper business gets it? Check out the subscription rates.

Most large cities have a daily or weekly legal newspaper that prints recent judicial opinions, obsequious profiles of judges and op-ed pieces on whether Congress needs to revise the wording of the supplemental jurisdiction statute. Lively copy it ain’t, but it serves a purpose.

I thought about subscribing to the Los Angeles Daily Journal, the principal legal newspaper in town. A subscription would save me the hassle of visiting several different court websites every day to read the newest decisions, plus the paper publishes a useful guide every month listing the telephone numbers of every courtroom clerk in California.

A one-year subscription: $667.

“Oh, that’s print,” I thought. “I bet the print subscription rate is inflated to drive people to the lower-priced online edition. No publisher these days wants to pay for paper and ink and delivery.”

A one-year subscription to the online edition: $667. An introductory rate lets new subscribers into the digital fold for only $583.50 a year.

Resolved, That the publishers of the Los Angeles Daily Journal Do Not Get It.

Daily Variety delivers a physical newspaper to your door in the Los Angeles and New York metro areas for $299 a year. It’s in color on fancy paper, to boot.

The Wall Street Journal will drop off a print edition six days a week for $99 a year or save you twenty bucks if you go digital only.

But if you want to read quotes from lawyers flattering the judges deciding their cases, that’s almost $700 a year whether or not an atom of ink hits newsprint.

I’ll keep reading the decisions on court web sites, thank you.

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Blogger Tom Salemi said...

Paul, is it fair to call the Los Angeles Weasel Review or whatever it is a newspaper? Sounds more like a trade pub, and trade pubs generally cost considerably more than general pubs.

In fact, I'd suggest that newspapers like this one will thrive in the future. They offer unique content and have a niche audience with high salaries. Nice formula.

It's the more general papers that will suffer because most of their content is already free. And the content that isn't free just really isn't all that necessary.

12:52 AM  
Blogger Paul Karl Lukacs said...

What you're saying is correct, except that the "unique content" of the legal newspapers isn't particulary good.

Every once in a while, their reporters do a better job of covering a high-profile case or take the time to explore an issue of particular interest to practicing attorneys (like the recurring controversy of whether lawyers should be required to purchase malpractice insurance).

But most of the reporting is the same stuff found in regular papers, like coverage of speeches or re-drafted press releases.

The most useful part of the legal papers is the round-up of yesterday's court decisions, which are mostly available online.

In any event, my issue with the LADJ is that the online edition costs the same as the print edition. No sane reason for that.

5:41 AM  

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