Billionaire Mort Zuckerman has been the publisher and owner of the New York Daily News since the early 1990's and heads up U.S. News and World Report, so when he suggests how the U.S. newspaper industry might be rescued, people listen. They were listening at recent gathering when he suggested that bingo could be the newspaper's salvation.
Bingo? He was referring to the success that The Sun newspaper in the U.K. has had operating a bingo game on its web site. Zuckerman claims that The Sun rakes in millions from the online game, the only profitable part of its business. The newspaper also offers online slot machine games such as Yeah, Baby!, Poochie Slots and American Dream.
And The Sun is not alone. Independent News & Media is the publisher of top newspapers such as the U.K.'s The Independent and owns radio stations and other media in several countries. It also has an 18.7 percent share of Cashcade Limited, an online casino and software business that provided branded gambling sites for third parties, including Trinity Mirror, another of the island's largest newspaper publishers. Trinity publishes 140 regional and five national newspapers, as well as operating web sites such as dailyrecordbingo.com.
From reading the financials of these companies, it's hard to confirm that bingo really produces enough revenue to offset the shortfall in advertising and circulation that, like American papers, the U.K. ones have suffered. Regardless, Zuckerman's suggestion, which I presume was tongue-in-cheek, wouldn't do much for our newspapers. With the ubiquitousness of online gaming, casinos, and lotteries, I can't imagine our nation has many wagering dollars uncommitted. And if a newspaper had enough readers to grow fat on the gaming of its readership, it probably wouldn't have to resort to bingo to make its nut.
What can save the American newspaper? Try bingo!