Newspapers: A Lost Cause? Strategic Management of Newspaper Firms in the United States and the Netherlands

Article excerpt

Newspapers: A Lost Cause? Strategic Management of Newspaper Firms in the United States and The Netherlands. Patrick Hendriks. Dordrecht, The Netherlands; Boston & London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999. 251 pp. $72 hbk.

Patrick Hendriks, formerly at the University of Amsterdam's School of Communications Research and now working for his publisher, studied how the newspaper's "economic fundamentals" and "industrial context and strategies" have changed over ten years (roughly 1987-1997), and drew conclusions about the newspaper's future as a product, organization, and industry. Hendriks discusses in detail, including plenty of statistics, the industry's economies of scale, service to mass markets, and the price elasticity of subscriptions and advertising. Hendriks also covers suppliers (including technology), labor, government policy, and competition. Finally, he analyzes the industry's successes and failures at vertical integration and mergers/ acquisitions, and diversification into other mass media. Newspapers: A Lost Cause? might be a supplemental book for a newspaper management course, but U.S. students will not be interested in his analysis of Dutch newspapers, not least of which because the Netherlands' experience provides little insight or guidance for them.

The book might work in a graduate-level media economics course. But the growing subdisciplines of "empirical economics" and "behavioral finance," in which social scientists interview real people instead of making assumptions about them, has apparently made few inroads here. In spite of dozens of interviews, Hendriks still doesn't understand U.S. newspapers (or U.S. ad agencies, or the U.S. public, whom he lets off the hook with "not enough time" while it watches TV six hours per day). One major problem is that in the United States he interviewed executives only at major metropolitan dailies and large chains, in a country in which more than 90 percent of daily newspapers are small-tomedium-sized. …


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