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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November 22, 2009



Here's what I don't understand. Yes, the new ABC rules are goofy (but they are transparent -- nobody's fooling anybody), but why are people apoplectic that newspapers now want to count their Web "circulation?" The people complaining about this seem to be the same ones who think newspapers have been too slow and awkward in embracing the Internet.

So, please, complain away, but perhaps you'd like to offer a potential solution or two?

P.S. Circulation audits have never been perfect, but my competitors have no audits whatsoever. Which is better?

Mark Potts

Counting (paid) Web circulation alongside print is fine. It's double-counting it that makes no sense.


Of course it doesn't. But you don't want us to use the numbers from web analytics, either (despite the fact that people are, indeed, reading us online). So, we publishers, who so delight in dodgy numbers, are trying very hard to figure out how to work our way through this particularly challenging time. What is increasingly hard for me to fathom is why so many "recovering journalists" like you and Alan Mutter and others (many of whom you seem to consider "essential reading") take such delight in our difficulties. Taking potshots is very easy; finding solutions is far more difficult.

Mark Potts

I've spent most of the past two decades actively looking for solutions through innovation, and I work at it every day as CEO of GrowthSpur—which is helping local publishers large and small to develop revenue streams—and as an advisor to various media and internet companies. I'd be happy to talk more to you about those efforts offline.

I can't speak for Alan Mutter, but as an industry veteran, I'm frustrated by publishers who think the solution is to somehow juggle the numbers, whine about new competitors rather than trying to compete with (or gasp, partner with) them, live in the past and hide from reality rather than truly innovating to find solutions to the industry's problems. That's the source of my criticism. There's no delight in it whatsoever.


In that event, you and I apparently agree on a great deal. Until about 10 years ago, it took no great skill to run a newspaper profitably. That is no longer the case, and that's not a bad thing. I do believe that good newspapers are important to their local communities and the key to their survival, aside from finding sustainable business models, is good journalism.

I met Alan Mutter at the Media Technology Summit and we swapped stories over pinot noir. His constant pot-shotting frustrates me. I know Dave Chase pretty well -- he and I met several times about a potential collaboration in Sun Valley last year. He's a smart man but I could never quite catch his vision. Steve Outing is particularly perplexing to me -- his columns are cartoonish and never propose real solutions.

Newspaper publishers might be more interested in looking for partners (as I am) from people who aren't so apparently dismissive of our own passion and intelligence.

You may (or may not) be interested in my takes on all this: http://www.gumpole.blogspot.com/

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