Save The Strib!

As Ellen Mrja of The Same Rowdy Crowd pointed out last week, the launch of arrives with a heavy dose of irony. The employees of the Star Tribune have turned to the very medium that helped render obsolete the very economic model that has sustained newspapers in an effort to save theirs.

I grew up reading the Star Tribune sports pages so I have the same fond nostalgia for newsprint and I’m just as concerned as the next guy about the future of journalism in the face of its crumbling economic model.  And it’s that emotion that the site appeals to but it seems to me that appeal preaches to the choir.  The problem newspapers have is the only readers they retain are Boomers and some Xers.

The video on the site features a parade of esteemed local Boomers extolling the virtues of a bygone age.

Bishop Peter Rogness of the St. Paul Area Synod says “To be able to settle in and soak in information and reflect on it and then hear public conversation around it; there’s no other vehicle that does that for us.”

Really? Really?!? Makes you wonder if the Bishop has ever gone online.

That quote really gets to the problem with the site as a marketing vehicle. Boomers may have money to give, but what the site is trying to is convince prospective owners that there’s an audience for the Strib that can sustain it economically.  To prove that, they need to appeal to Millennials and and younger Xers, who largely don’t like print.

And their language is that of social media, a tongue appears to barely understand.

As I said, the whole site is demographically mis-targeted.

The video, in addition to featuring no Millennials and only two or three people who could be Xers, is not portable: The site offers no code to copy and paste into a blog or Web site in order to extend their message.

In the About section of the site, they discuss their predicament and ask for ideas yet at the bottom of the page, no comments are allowed. That’s about as old media as you can get. - Comments Are Closed - 04/08/09

The Twitter presence is much better, with some actual conversation occurring there, but there again, Twitter is largely an Xer medium, so they aren’t reaching many Millennials there.

They’ve created a Facebook Group with more than 1700 members but there is little activity within the venue that has the most promise for attracting Millennial support. There is not even a link to Save The Strib’s online petition on the page.

I support them and wish them success–I really do–and I don’t mean to be harsh, but it seems to me their online advocacy isn’t doing nearly what it needs to do.


  1. taylor on April 13, 2009 at 9:11 am

    You should do a chart that puts the “save the Strib talking points” in a column next to “reality”.

    The Strib has the unique opportunity as the driver of the local news cycle to show the Twin Cities market how to convert into an online presence, and free their news products from its packaging and push it around the market with ease and personality.

    Are they doing more infographics? No. Are the doing more distribution of their content? Actually, no, their teasing it and talking about how awesome the teasing is. Are they switching their production cycle to fit with the rest of the media landscape, locally/nationally? No. Do they push mobile alerts to directly connect with their readers? No.

    No, they’re talking about how great papers used to be; the irony is unfortunately not at all funny.

  2. Ellen Mrja on April 14, 2009 at 9:06 am

    David: Thanks for the mention of my post on The Same Rowdy Crowd.

    I’m with you. There’s nothing I want more than for the Save the Strib campaign to work. I’m a professor of mass communication who knows many of the reporters and editors at the Strib; former students work there, a source of great pride to me. And, of course, as a Minnesotan the Strib has always been seen as my family’s flagship.

    But this online campaign won’t work unless it is to convince cold-hearted investors that the Strib, in whatever configuration, is a place to be in the 21st century. It’s good that the paper is finally reaching out on twitter, Facebook, etc. but it’s going to cash that’s needed, not followers.

    I also agree with you, Taylor, that the unique opportunity the paper has is to use its current established brand presence (it’s greatest form of social capital, actually)to offer newly-conceived news and content..and by that I mean local. Hyperlocal. Local that people can only get on the Strib. Be the local aggregator of all things Twin Cities.

    To me, it’s not as much about “pushing” the product as it will be about convincing Gen Y and Gen X that there’s a specific reason why they ought to “pull” the Strib’s content in. Don’t ask me to pay for your content; perhaps you ought to think about “paying” me for visiting your pages and those of your sponsors? What can the Strib offer that no one else can?

    I predict the answers will lie with techno-geeks, who tend to be in their 20s and worth hundreds of millions of dollars because they “see” ways to change our concepts of communication that no one else does. (And that’s why it’s fascinating to be on a university campus.) Nice discussion.


    Ellen Mrja

  3. deerickson on April 15, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Thank you both for your comments and insights. So, the big question that I’ve yet to figure out is: What is the new economic model for journalism?

    If it’s not traditional advertising or banner advertising or classifieds or subscriptions, what is it?

    I’m skeptical of tip-jar journalism because I think it will only really work when there’s a brand name journalist asking for the tips.

    Is it foundation funding? The member-supported public radio model?

    I keep tossing around the idea that there needs to be an online community space where people can go to to find out what’s going on locally, socialize there, find out about new stuff, including commerce and that if news organizations can be that meeting space, they have an opportunity to be the community transaction engine.

    What model do you guys think is the right one?

  4. taylor on April 15, 2009 at 9:39 am

    There’s no *one* model for it. We know that there’s different outlets that make up the media ecosystem, but still think that all online distro should have a common revenue model.

    If you look at overheads for major news institutions, they need different funding than smaller, independent journalists that can still have big market impact. (I think the number for a NYT mag coverstory was like $850,000, which is an obscene amount of micropayments every week.)

    I’m really liking the deal that Mischke cut to get paid while doing a podcast–he get direct sponsorship. That of course can’t work for the STrib, who spent $26 mil in the first quarter and only made $24, but it could for independent sites with lower overheads.

    How to raise $24 mil for an inefficient news org is way different question than how to fund upstart bloggers with cache.

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