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Slots at the newspapers?

November 18, 2009

The Herald-Leader’s Tom Eblen has a sharp column today suggesting another signature industry – journalism – get in line for the profits from slot machines.

From his column

But I have an idea: What if newspapers could persuade the General Assembly to give them another way to replace the advertising revenue they used to have?

What if newspapers were allowed to put slot machines in some of that empty space where reporters and editors used to work? Big newspapers might even have room for full-blown casinos.

People who went to their local newspapers to gamble wouldn’t go out of state so much, so more of their money would stay in Kentucky.

Of course, that idea isn’t without its complications. As Eblen notes, gambling revenues might be used to boost journalistic endeavors for a while, but would succumb to the demands of investors.

According to Eblen –

Even if newspapers could hang onto most of their new gambling revenue, I’m not sure it would be good for journalism in the long run.

Some media companies would use their cash infusion to invest in journalism — for a while. But corporate executives have a duty to maximize return for investors. If media companies could make big profits with slot machines and casinos, why would they want to subsidize journalism?

Even “signature” industries aren’t exempt from the laws of economics, no matter how special they think they are.

My guess is that journalism must find a way to adapt by attracting more loyal customers, doing a better job of marketing and selling its products, creating new business models and proving its value. It no longer can be totally dependent on something else, even advertising.

So maybe my newsroom gambling idea isn’t so good after all.

Cast the push by the horse industry for their gambling monopoly in a different light.

Thoughts?

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