Oregonian Saved by Free Online Site

The Oregonian is losing print subscribers faster than they can be counted. Weekday circulation is down 8.45 percent and Sunday circulation is down 7.12 percent. These losses come after nothing but losses the previous several years. The once mighty Oregonian is fading, and fading fast.

The Oregonian is cutting an additional 100 positions and is “buying out” employees who have at least 5 years of service. This liberal bastion of knowledge and political force is firing people with families — putting them out of work and on the street — despite its calls for a living wage for everyone. It is getting its “news” from nameless bureaus with unknown writers because it has few reporters remaining. Its once mighty impact on the state is rapidly waning. Remember, if no one reads what you write then what you write is irrelevant. So, has the Oregonian actually slipped into irrelevance? Could it possibly be?

Some very, very wise people say no — and the reason is their website. The Oregonian actually has seen its readership increase if you count the website traffic. This is GREAT NEWS! I wonder if they will be able to report on it? But can the website save the Oregonian from itself? Let’s look at the facts as we decide.

First, the Oregonian doesn’t even run its own website. It uses a packaged site design from an outfit in Jersey City, New Jersey, that is replicated all over the country by many other newspapers who also can’t figure out how to create and maintain their own website. So, the Oregonian has to PAY MONEY for the website and while doing so is outsourcing Oregon jobs to New Jersey while all the while saying that Nike is evil for having its shoes made elsewhere. That’s not helping Oregon or the Oregonian.

Second, last time I looked, the website was “free” for all to use. Not totally free – I actually have to pay for my Internet access because the Portland free WI-FI thing went down in flames and wasted a bunch of money, but I digress. If what you create is given away for free and costs you money, then the net result is a loss, even if you had trouble with math in school. I know the Oregonian has ads on the website, but I wonder if they even represent enough in income to offset the cost of the site? Would the Oregonian tell us if it did? I think not. So that’s not helping Oregon or the Oregonian.

The Oregonian could close the public free access to the website down and only allow paid subscribers to access their “not created here” website. That might help, but then circulation would be DOWN even more and how do you sell ad space to people if you have to tell them fewer and fewer readers are reading? It might be worth a try, but I fear the Oregonian would find out pretty fast that very few people would ever pay to access their site. Very few. So that’s not helping Oregon or the Oregonian.

There is a dirty little secret about the Oregonian’s “circulation”, too. Much of it is reported as paid but it is, in fact, not paid. Here’s how they do it. When your subscription expires simply give them a call and tell them you are not renewing. Within minutes (or maybe days if they are understaffed) you will be offered the daily Oregonian for “free” if you simply take the Sunday paper. If you say no to that you are offered the entire subscription to the paper for nothing. Usually, for months at a time. This is true especially around election time and circulation audit time when they need to show good numbers. I received the Oregonian for free or for the cost of just the Sunday paper over many years by simply canceling the one paid subscription I had. As pointed out earlier, if you have to give something away that costs you money you end up losing money. So that’s not helping Oregon or the Oregonian.

What could help, you ask? The Oregonian is always telling us how to live our lives, how to vote, how to be green, how to think, what to read, etc. I guess it is time for them to listen to us so they can learn how to save themselves.

How about some real reporting — unbiased — just the facts — no liberal slant day in and day out? How about some local stories on the business page rather than canned junk from the AP about companies that have nothing to do with Oregon? How about some originality in their writing rather than a cloning of the New York Times? How about some humility? Maybe admit they did something wrong rather than blaming the “stupid” people who quit reading the paper? How about making their own website rather than some canned creation from another company in another city? How about running the cartoons Oregonians want to see — even if they sometimes have religious overtones (remember B.C.?)? How about some true investigative reporting into the wanton waste in city and state government and the truly antagonistic attitude of both state and local government toward business?

How about just the news? That might work. If only they would give it a try. But will they?

No, not the Oregonian, a newspaper sadly and steadily slipping down the slope to insolvency each and every day. It is too proud to do that. And way too smart.