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Keller @ Large: Do Newspapers Matter?

BOSTON (CBS) -- It's 2018. With information and news accessible through television, radio, and the internet, do newspapers even matter?

Yes, they do, according to media analyst and Northeastern journalism professor Dan Kennedy. The expert and author of The Return of The Moguls spoke with Jon Keller Sunday.

The book details the efforts of John Henry, Jeff Bezos, Aaron Kushner to come up with a sustainable business model for newspapers.

"Newspapers, and by the way when I say newspapers I don't think it matters whether we're talking in print or digital, but newspapers I think are unique in that they combine national, international, local news, sports, they still reach a mass audience, although certainly not as much as they used to," said Kennedy.

He said about 80% of the "accountability journalism" that helps govern society originates with newspapers.

His book discusses how Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, and Henry, owner of the Boston Globe, hope to keep the newspapers alive.

"Bezos was able to reposition the Washington Post, which had traditionally been a regional newspaper not that much different than the Globe. He really repositioned it as a national, digital news organization."

"Henry has a different challenge. There is no worse place to be in the news business these days than the owner of a large, regional newspaper. The Globe has struggled, what they have finally arrived at is charging as much as they can for the digital enprint product and trying to cut their costs by moving to less expensive places to do business. It's been very difficult for them. The printing has not gone well at all."

Henry and the Globe have experimented with different niches and focuses, but nothing has worked overly well, said Kennedy. There are aspects of their business model that work well, though.

"They are set to pass the 100,000 mark for digital subscriptions sometime during the first half of this year. They have said that if they can get to 200,000, they'll start to look like a sustainable operation," said Kennedy, who is allowing himself to be "cautiously optimistic."

The Boston Herald declared bankruptcy in December and it "ended up in the hands of Digital First Media, which has a reputation of being perhaps the most avarice of the corporate chains. It's controlled by a massive hedge fund and they seemed to be concerned only about the bottom line."

Kennedy fears the downsizing currently going on at the Herald may only be the beginning.

He concluded that while he is not good at predicting, he believes that in ten years, print newspapers will still be floating around.

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