why can’t some newspapers figure out new media?

“i read the news today, oh boy…”
Yep, there it was front page of my Richmond Times-Dispatch (www.inrich.com), an article from the publisher saying there will be 16-20 pages less in my newspaper every week. 2 weeks ago, the OpED piece Tom Silvestri wrote mentioned that circulation is down again.
Less circulation + less ad revenue = less pages in the paper.
Despite the “spin” and I really feel bad for these folks, the numbers just don’t add up. Printing, creating and distributing a newspaper is an expensive proposition…and in the meantime, the online unit is getting more hits than ever (despite an ill-conceived website with medicocre content and a nightmarish end-user design).
Can newspapers, like the RTD, rebound by embracing new media and garnering more revenue? Yes, but it will probably take some time.
Some publishers like the Gannet and Wall Street Journal get it…(USA Today and WSJ subs are up and most other papers are down) and fully embrace new and exciting ways to deliver content and get paid for that content.
The answer to the dilema is more about branding the papers as a key information source rather than it is about following the latest trend in technology. The powers that be, in the case of RTD—it’s parent company Media General—fail to “get it.” Bogged down by proxy fights and shareholder discontent, the leadership team at MG, are more concerned about personal survival than the long-term survival of the newspaper. Slashing pages, raising subscriber rates and ad rates are short-term fixes. Imagine if any publisher did this; cutting content+raising rates-fewer subscribers=catastrophe. Anyone can see that.
The long-term solutions are not going to be found in MG’s core mission of “convergence,” streamlining and condensing print, tv, web into one flowing source, etc. The properties have to re-brand themselves on the local level, re-invent themselves as content providers. Tout the strengths and make people want to access the info (and put ad content in front of them).
And then they have to, are you ready?, FREELY INTERACT WITH THEIR AUDIENCE THROUGH PRINT, WEB, VIDEO, FORUMS, ETC. Something that their reluctant to do. Papers historically have held tight editorial control and the thought of “wild west” mentality of the web scares the piss out of them.
And for God’s sake, overhaul that website. Yech.