Newspapers around the United States have tried a lot of approaches, newsy to fluffy, parochial to international, voluminous to sparse — and all are in trouble.
Mr. Zell’s plan is an accelerated version of what many newspaper companies are already undertaking in the hope of staving off the kind of huge dislocation that occurred in other industries, like the steel business in the 1980s or the domestic automobile business today. In those cases, the pressure came from legacy costs, labor and foreign competition. In the newspaper business, which struggles with those costs as well, the biggest threat is the migration of advertisers and readers to the Internet.
But watering down the product hurts staff morale, he said, and if taken too far, “could accelerate the migration of readers to the Web or other sources of news.”
“To the extent you diminish your product, I think you diminish your success, in print or online,” he said. “In the long run, it’s going to be harmful to newspapers’ brand names, which is the strongest thing they’ve got."