Opinion: 3 of a kind: The Post, the Globe and NancyOnNorwalk?

NORWALK, Conn. – We never really thought we would have so much in common with The Washington Post and the Boston Globe.

I guess you could add The New York Times, the Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press, the Cleveland Plain Dealer – you get the picture.

The Post was sold to Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos for $250 million this week. The Boston Globe was sold to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry for $70 million. Both were cash deals, although I suspect electronic transfers rather than, say, a satchel full of 20’s or a postal money order. And the sales were, in fact, not to Amazon or the Sox. They were to the individuals, who may have brought in other individuals to participate.

The point is that both papers – both icons – were draining the resources of their owners, who had to cut them loose. The Graham family got $250M for the Post, which might have brought more than $5 billion a decade ago. The New York Times purchased the Globe from the Taylor family for $1.1 billion in 1993 and dumped it for $70M in a fire sale this week.

Why? It’s no secret. The Internet has done two things: It has changed the way individuals and businesses advertise, and it has changed the way people get their information.

Notice I did not say “news.” The shift to the Internet for information – much of it free from non-traditional sites masquerading as news outlets – has been accompanied by a dumbing down of the population. Instead of getting their news from trained journalists, too many people turn to infotainers with agendas to hear reports that support their beliefs that are often borne of misinformation or personal prejudices.

As for advertising, the newspaper business long ago lost the majority of its classified advertising – once a huge revenue source – to sites like Craigslist and various real estate and auto sites. Many businesses pulled back their ad dollars, opting for a combination of their own websites and social media pages along with hyperlocal ad services that target individuals based on online profiles.

And this is where we come in. NancyOnNorwalk exists, in part, because the Internet drove print to the breaking point, costing thousands of journalists their livelihoods. Some, like us, chose the “if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them” route. We started this site because we saw a need, and the response has been terrific, given a total lack of promotional budget, or any budget at all.

We also started it for self-preservation. It’s hard enough to live on two journalists’ salaries in Fairfield County, let alone one. Then the hammer fell at that other site, and we lost that salary, too.

So now we find ourselves in the same position as the Post and the Globe. Newspapers have never supported themselves through subscriptions or newsstand sales. In fact, free weeklies and shoppers abound. Why? Advertising. It has always been about the ad dollars.

It has also been about rich people, or people who believe in a free press that holds the feet of the powerful to the fire, and who have enough money to donate to the cost.

Advertising dollars are always slow to materialize for a start-up. They are even slower when businesses feel pressure from those who don’t like the glare of the spotlight to not support the effort.

That means we must depend, for the coming months, at least, on a rich benefactor or two, or a substantial number of people who believe in what we do, no matter where it leads.

Some people have suggested asking readers to pay, be it by subscription or by the day. We tried that with our Florida site, and lost most of our readers. The monthly charge was $7. Ezra Klein of the Post reports that, when people were asked to pay $10 a month to read the Post online – a major discount from the print price – readers balked. Many said they could not afford $10 a month. For the Washington Post.

Journalism is at a crossroads. More local sites will appear as print continues to cut back until it dies of a thousand cuts. Many of those companies, and many of the start-ups, will continue online but will shun the watchdog role for fear of antagonizing what few advertisers they have.

And so the paradigm is changing. No, we are not a non-profit, although we might try to go that way in the future. That takes time, and we do not have that time right now. Still, we must go the route of public broadcasting and reach out to our audience, hat in hand, and ask for continued support in the form of donations to keep NancyOnNorwalk alive and shining the light on Norwalk’s government and other public institutions.

To donate, see the box near the top of the right side of the page. We will soon add a recurring donations option to make it easier for monthly amounts to be given. And we do thank those who responded to our call in mid-July. In two weeks, we received about half of what we need monthly to survive. Carried out over four weeks and we would be solid for another month.

That’s the key – to keep the ball rolling. We don’t have an Oldies concert to offer donors, backed up by CD’s, DVD’s and coffee mugs. We can’t even offer a tax deduction. We can only offer to continue to do real journalism to keep you, the readers, informed.



7 responses to “Opinion: 3 of a kind: The Post, the Globe and NancyOnNorwalk?”

  1. Bill Dunne

    Mark… See if you can put that “donate” button next to every post, including, for example, this one. Otherwise the reader has to go to the extra trouble of searching for the Home page. Every little thing, to make it easier to do, helps.
    Seems a bit disingenuous, by the way, to put yourself on the side of the print media. You are obviously not print. It’s the paradigm in which you operate that has traditional newspapers on the ropes. Which is not to say that your task is easy or that ultimate success is assured. But if you are successful — and I hope you are — it will be because you continue to bring us news and information that we don’t get from The Hour. Your paradigm actually undercuts your argument that we’re getting less “news” these days, supposedly because “professional” journalists (i.e., the ones with big capital resources behind them) are no longer in control of what constitutes the “news” we, the great unwashed, are allowed to see. You and Nancy are pioneers in the democratization of news, and that’s a good thing.

  2. Mark Chapman


    First, thanks for the suggestion. We have programmed the “donate” button to appear on each story page.

    Second, while I recognize that we are part of the new paradigm, we also have some things in common with the old, as do the overwhelming majority of web-only sites that try to do what we are doing. The parallels are real and ironic: As more people move to the web for news and information, print suffers, as does print’s misguided efforts to simply throw their newspapers online — with some extras, like video — with little regard for readability and user-friendliness.

    But it isn’t all about the news. Small start-ups, especially those run by journalists, suffer from the same inability to attract advertisers as print. While the web is flooded with readers, it is also flooded with ad opportunities. Print and national websites — and large regional sites — can attract national advertisers. Small, local sites are looked upon as being unable to deliver enough bang for the buck for the local businesses, even though ads stand out so much more on sites like ours.

    And then there is the intimidation factor, as local businesses worry about comments made on the site, and comments made to them in person, that give the impression that to become associated with the site would cause them problems, political or financial. And yes, we have heard this. But to change what we do for the sake of advertising would be to corrupt our mission.

    Obviously, I could go on all day talking about the state of the business. I have no hard answers. No one does. Word is the Patch will close a third of its sites this week, about 300. The Daily Voice… we won’t go there. We are, indeed, pioneers. All we can do, with the help of our readers and others who believe in independent local journalism, is keep plugging away, looking for answers.

    Thank you for your support, and your input.


  3. Bill Dunne

    Mark… With regard to “the intimidation factor, as local businesses worry about comments made on the site, and comments made to them in person, that give the impression that to become associated with the site would cause them problems”:

    One way to reduce that risk is to require real identities for commentors. The problem comes from providing a forum in which people wearing masks can be as nasty as they want to be. It’s amazing how civil people will be if they can’t wear masks. Another is to be fair to all sides on the ideological spectrum. I think you already do that for the most part.

  4. oldtimer

    Suddenly Bill Dunne wants to be your new best friend and get you to stop taking comment from people who don’t use their given name. He has sounded like a spokesman for the Moccia administration and, I suspect, has posted under pen names himself. Makes me wonder which of us he (they) are trying to quiet down.

  5. L boogie

    Talking money with Mr. Bill DUnne could only lead to trouble. This dude came to the council meeting and said recordgate was an attempt at extortion. Really Mr. BILL DUNNE? Did the hizzhonor put you up to it? Now you want to be a policy advisor to the site. Come on homeboy you talk too much. Everyone knows you ride the bench for Moccia inc.

  6. Bill Dunne

    Hi David… er, I mean, L boogie. What’s happening?

  7. L boogie

    Mr. Dunne did the mayor put you up to this? If the GOP ask you to pen another attack letter or come to the council chamber and trash someone..just say no. I know you want to be apart of the good old boys club but notice they always make you do the dirty work. Wake up, my brother. I know you want the coach to put you in the big game but you dont get there by trashing people.

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