Capitalizing on News in the Digital Era: MediaNews Group’s Response to the U.S. Newspaper Crisis

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This paper analyzes the newspaper chain MediaNews Group’s efforts to respond to the challenges facing the U.S. newspaper industry in the twenty-first century. The company’s efforts are conceptualized as attempts to capitalize on digital news consumption by channeling and exploiting the digital audience labor of its readers. This paper first argues for a rethinking of the political economy of news through the concept of audience labor. That process is outlined in order to show that news is capitalized through control over activities of news consumption and the use of that control to extract value. The second section of this paper presents a study of MediaNews Group’s response to the crisis from 2006-2013, focusing on its clusters of newspapers in California, and how that response should be understood as an effort to create ways to exploit digital audience labor. Finally, the implications for the future of news are considered.

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