About Me

  • I've spent more than 25 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. I've helped to invent ways to read and interact with the news and advertising on computer screens and iPads, and before that, I wrote news stories on typewriters and six-ply paper. I co-founded WashingtonPost.com and hyperlocal pioneers Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland; and have done product-development and strategy consulting for all sorts of media and Internet companies and startups. You can read more about me here.

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« Doing the Math on Online Newspaper Subscriptions | Main | R.I.P. Jim Bellows »

March 05, 2009



Smug comments from an employed ex-reporter. No argument here that our profession has badly reacted to the Web, but "million bright, shining, new sources of news" is a load of b.s. It takes full-time pay to support a full-time reporter.


Nice post, Mark. I recall you recently reposted a piece you did on all the skills journalists have and can re-apply elsewhere. I think you should consider having that be a permalink in your site nav as there are many in that camp. If you can relink it in the comments, that would be great. I'm trying to help some local journalists recently laid off and wanted to send this post to them but wasn't able to easily find it.

John Reinan

Jim Hopkins, former USA Today reporter, gets something like 30,000 unique visitors and 300,000 page views a month at Gannett Blog. He's broken significant stories any number of times and has an audience keenly interested in his topic.

He's been written up in a half-dozen premier MSM publications, including the NYT and WSJ.

Yet he struggles to make $1,000 a month.

How many ex-newspaper reporters are going to be able to create as good a site as Jim's? Not many. So what are the odds that dozens or hundreds of them are going to carve out a living with their websites? Pretty slim, I'd say.

Mark Potts

I'm not saying everybody is going to make a living with blogs. But the Gannett Blog example is not a good one. It has very limited advertising potential, because of its narrow subject matter. So it just doesn't get significant CPMs. By contrast, a site like perezhilton.com, covering entertainment and celebrity—essentially a one-man show—reportedly is bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in ad sales.

John Reinan

I'd say Perez is not a good example, either. Your average ex-newspaper reporter who starts a blog or website is not going to become the next Perez Hilton. They're going to write about what they know -- say, Denver County politics or San Antonio water issues or Seattle businesses or whatever. These are also topics not likely to bring in CPMs.

Mark Potts

Actually, local CPMs in AdSense are surprisingly high. But that wasn't my point. I'm by no means saying that individual blogs are the only answer—indeed, most of the examples I cite are group efforts. The business model, as I said, is uncertain; in many cases individual blogs may only work if they're side businesses for their proprietors. But for towns that are losing their papers, all of these attempts represent new potential sources of information, and proof that the death of a paper doesn't necessarily mean a 100 percent loss of reporting and coverage.

Mark Potts

Dave: Watch this space!


From today's (March 12) NYT:

“It would be a terrible thing for any city for the dominant paper to go under, because that’s who does the bulk of the serious reporting,” said Joel Kramer, former editor and publisher of The Star Tribune and now the editor and chief executive of MinnPost .com, an online news organization in Minneapolis.

“Places like us would spring up,” he said, “but they wouldn’t be nearly as big. We can tweak the papers and compete with them, but we can’t replace them.”


Exactly. Newspapers pay reporters to pursue the story and without even a miserable reporter salary to keep body and soul minimally functional, who's going to have the time to cover, say, local & county government? It's not a part time endeavor that can be squeezed in between other obligations. And as pointed out above, there's a lot of important content that won't double as advertiser linkbait. Part timers and volunteers are no subsitute for a real paper.

Again, no contradicting your main point that papers fumbled the Web. But journalism's demise is no reason for celebration and netroots b.s. of "a thousand journalistic flowers" is wrong. There will be no flowers, just a brownfield.

My Blog On Flowers

This was great reading on flowers for the day.

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