January 19, 2016

The (rise and) fall of the Dallas Morning News, Part 2

Snooze Editor Mike Wilson: Should he
be getting the Titanic lifeboats ready?
The part 1 was written last September, shortly after the Snooze got a managing editor — after a year without one — and a little more than two months after six-months new executive editor Mike Wilson offered buyouts to nearly 170 employees.

Given that Wilson came from 538, which is probably barely above water at ESPN, and managing editor Robyn Tomlin came from Digital Last Media, per my first link, that buyout number didn't totally surprise me.

Nor did the fact that the Snooze remained paywall-less, until a month ago, Publisher Jim Moroney announced it would take a third stab at one.

As noted as part of my blogging about that, a "third stab" means you got it wrong twice. Coming from the company that doubled down on the CueCat, that had a former Google veep apparently think one of the benefits of failed version No. 2 needed to rely on readers being clueless about AdBlock and its siblings, and that, after that, sounded even stupider when it killed the second fail, that too was not surprising. Nor was the typical Snooze arrogance that this was just part of the fiscal solution, that new marketing and PR services from not Belo, but The Belo, of course, were going to be loved, and used, by many and sundry.

(Update, Feb. 15, 2016: Per a good piece by Michael Wolff, given that ad agencies are struggling themselves, and that fact may be true of marketing shops as well, Belo and publisher Jim Moroney may be barking up the wrong tree on "Belo Services" for yet more reasons. Wolff ironically notes that print ads can't be blocked by ad-blockers — observing that newspaper companies have probably noticed this, like all things digital, about 10 years too late.)

And now, yet more layoffs.

The entire NeighborsGo set of suburban weekly tabs killed. (That said, speaking from experience, even with someone I know working there, some of them, or one at least, probably should have been killed long ago.)

But, you laid off, don't totally despair. Wilson says suburban news coverage will be reconfigured in some way, and you'll get to apply for the handful of recreated jobs, surely at lower wages.

Stuff like this is why I don't get why Robert Wilonsky left the Observer to join the Snooze. Yeah, as a digital guy, he's probably getting boatloads, relatively, of Belo money. But, Bob, they're fucking clueless on how to make digital pay. Shouldn't that be a warning sign?

Maybe the Snooze's failure on op-eds to keep up with the Metroplex is part of sinking subscriptions, too (as, of course, is the lack of a paywall). I mean, not just op-eds, but their lifestyle and other columnists as well, have long ago done nothing but zip for me.

Speaking of the editorial and op-ed pages, though ...

Dallas County turned decisively "blue" in the November massacre in 2006, and, except for DA Susan Hawk, which is less about politics and more about Craig Watkins, has remained very much that way. Collin County, either despite or because of the shenanigans of Ken Paxton, state district judge cronies of his and others, is edging to a more pinkish-purpose and out of the red zone. (Obama got a full one-third of the 2012 presidential vote. And the same is true in Denton County.)

But, the Snooze can see fit to, at best, endorse 1 or 2 Democrats running for statewide office, and, unless they're locked-in incumbents like Congresscritter Eddie Bernice Johnson, the same holds true at the local and regional level.

Latest example? Whomever including or besides Robert T. Garrett is responsible for its national politics coverage, had no problem live-tweeting last week's GOP debate. The paper's Politics-section Twitter account was AWOL from Sunday's Democratic debate.

And, as long as Belo's cold dead claws hold on to the Snooze, that ain't changing.

Other than all of the other issues above, as I've also noted before, Belo has no more room for error. It's sold all of its TV stations. It's sold all of its papers other than the Snooze and related Dallas properties, which are now two less (taking Neighbors as a group plus FD) than they were at the time Moroney talked about how users would flock to the Snooze's marketing and PR services. Without other papers, you can't make yourself into a mini-Gatehouse or something.

My schadenfreude, of course, does not extend to past employees there who I've known. I'm sure you enjoyed the pay, and the relative ease of hours at times as compared to community newspapers. And it's sad that Belo's now dangling the carrot of rehiring you — for newly created and shuffled jobs, at lower pay than before, and competing with others. I'm sure your bennies clock restarts at zero if you're rehired, too.

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