To say the least, all around the nation newspapers are sinking like a rock.
The cost of newsprint is always rising, circulation and ad revenue are always falling and the demand for a healthy, unreasonable profit margin never dies down.
In the Bay Area employees at MediaNews papers are facing a week off without pay between now and the end of March (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/29/BAPC15JEIE.DTL&hw=medianews&sn=001&sc=1000) and employees at the San Jose Mercury News are trying to dodge a 15 percent pay cut (http://sjguild.org/index.php?ID=5931).
So when I noticed that the San Francisco Chronicle has a free online classified service called Kaango (http://sfgate.kaango.com/) I thought I'd give it a try since I've been trying to clear a ton of junk out of the guest bedroom to make room for our soon-to-arrive baby.
Why not throw a bone to a starving newspaper as it spirals down the drain?
As always, I posted my stuff on Craigslist before logging on to Kaango. After taking twice as much time and 10 times as many keystrokes to post the same number of ads on Kaango as I did on Craigslist I sat back and waited to see what happened.
It's been more than a month and the good news is I've sold almost everything I set out to sell.
The bad news? I didn't sell a single item through Kaango. I never even got one bite about anything I was selling on the Chron's free online classified service.
So what's the freakin' point of Kaango?
Does anyone even know Kaango exists?
The Chron advertises it on its Web site and in print but is anyone even looking at newspapers anymore? If the Chron wants to give Kaango some exposure they should probably try advertising on TV.
Or better yet, try posting an ad for Kaango on Craigslist. It works for me every time.
* THEY'LL LOOK GREAT AT AN OPEN CASKET FUNERAL FOR DAILY NEWSPAPERS: By the way, the Chron may be bleeding money at an alarming rate but it sure looks pretty ( http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/02/02/MNCD15KIK3.DTL and http://update.snd.org/miscellany/entry/first-look-san-francisco-chronicle/).
It's nice to see that the Chron is focused on what really matters: Polishing brass on the Titanic.
Maybe a new look will distract the Chron's dwindling number of readers and advertisers from the fact that they're being overcharged for a paper that is rapidly shrinking in terms of physical size and quality content.
Sure enough, the Chron is apparently planning to raise their rates with an expected plunge in readership sure to follow: http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2009/02/sf_chronicle_plans_to_charge_m.php
It seems like newspapers are caught in a vicious circle.
When ad revenue and circulation decline papers slash staffing and combine and shrink sections. That just gives readers and advertisers a smaller, lower quality product and the bleeding never seems to stop because after a while people take their money elsewhere.
Of course that just leads to more cuts across the board which just drives away more readers and advertisers.
Why pay for rapidly declining newspaper content when it's all online for free?
That's an old nagging problem for newspapers but no one has figured out how to solve it yet.
If the most important thing at this point in the slow death of daily newspapers is to leave an attractive corpse then the Chron is blazing a trail for the Rocky Mountain News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and company.