Random Idea: Newspaper Tycoon

(Note: This post was originally posted on May 8, 2009, but I’m reposting it now since the original was lost in the Great Blog Re-Install Catastrophe of a few years ago. I think it’s still relevant)

Railroad Tycoon Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia

The other day driving to the ACES convention in Minneapolis, I was thinking about journalism and gaming, and the problems of the news industry. So many people are proposing new ideas, or bemoaning the moves made by industry titans. But what do we really know?

I’d love to see how much a major newspaper chain spends on various cost centers (printing, distribution, sales, management, editorial, etc.), and then see how those cost centers could be managed to make a reasonable profit without gutting the editorial division.

Which is when it hit me: Newspaper Tycoon. I’ve seen several versions of the Playstation/PC game “Railroad Tycoon,” and when I was just out of college, I got wrapped up in the SimCity craze when it came to the Macintosh.

So why couldn’t someone create a version of that “real-world” simulation for newspapers (or any media in this crazy environment)?

Imagine being offered the chance to purchase family-owned newspapers, and trying to juggle the debt created by such purchases, and figuring out how to survive the Internet cuts in your classified income. Trying to come up with new ways to boost circulation, dealing with labor strife, advertiser complaints over negative coverage, etc.

What lessons could be learned from such a game that had accurate figures that depicted the real business decisions that have to be made, and the competing “stakeholder” commitments that newspaper execs have to deal with.

I think it’s a good idea. And it would also help with anyone who wanted to teach or take a “business of journalism” class. Maybe this has already been developed, and I’m just not aware of it. If so, please let me know in the comments. Otherwise, it’s an idea that I’m giving away for free.

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