The Curious Case of the Seattle Times

16 Feb

An underlying tone of most journalism classes is that the newspaper industry is dying. In most cases, it’s true. But in the instance of The Seattle Times, it seems the biggest can be the strongest. With a relatively large staff and a multitude of talent, the Times is on track to survive the financial stress the Great Recession placed on it.

What I appreciated most about the paper wasn’t its sheer numbers in subscriptions but its recognition of the importance of research. Curtis Huber, single copy operations manager of the Times, and his team of researchers focused on the reach and demographics of the Times’ audience. After pairing up with researchers from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, they were able to break down their viewers into specific marketable groups. Each group was expanded by income, technology use and niche. I found this analytical information interesting and very pertinent to the industry. And eventually, this information will be put to use once the Times creates a pay wall of content. They’ll know more about who’ll leave and who’ll stay.

There’s a reason the PI has faced financial instability. When its competitor (The Seattle Times) does extensive research and knows its audience, it’s easy for them to develop a gap in loyalty from its members. Give your readers what they want faster than your competitor and expect to see a disparity in followers. The Times did just that, and the PI is now stuck sweeping in the fanatical sports fans and more digitally savvy consumers as their main support, which we all know is hard to handle.

Seeing what goes on behind the scenes in the Times’ newsroom and what the editors had to offer in terms of advice about their future, it shows that the company isn’t looking to go out of business any time soon. Their focus on a sound digital presence was the topic of our conversation. No reporter is OBLIGATED to have a twitter account, but it seems that the Times’ content received more traffic if a report maintained an account. Specifically anyone reporting on sports. Seattle really seems to like its sports.

Overall, the insight from The Seattle Times was appreciated. Having seen a near-failing newspaper and then a sound newspaper gave me a better opinion about where things are going in the future for the industry.

Author: Matt Mazick

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One Response to “The Curious Case of the Seattle Times”

  1. kartemas February 18, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    I completely agree with your positive review of The Seattle Times and its approach to journalism. The audience research not only benefits financial models, but informs reporters who they are talking to so they can continue to build that loyalty. The lack of requirements to innovate in the social sphere with Twitter being optional adds a sense of independence to each reporter, making them happier about their workplace.

    You’re a great writer, Matt – very well-spoken!

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