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Decline In US Newspaper Readership Accelerates

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the stop-the-presses dept.

The Media 420

Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that US newspaper circulation has hit its lowest level in seven decades, as papers across the country lost 10.6 percent of their paying readers from April through September, compared with a year earlier. Online, newspapers are still a success — but only in readership, not in profit. Ads on newspaper Internet sites sell for pennies on the dollar compared with ads in their ink-on-paper cousins. 'Newspapers have ceased to be a mass medium by any stretch of the imagination,' says Alan D. Mutter, a former journalist and cable television executive who now consults and writes a blog called Reflections of a Newsosaur. According to Mutter only 13 percent of Americans, or about 39 million, now buy a daily newspaper, down from 31 percent in 1940. 'Publishers who think their businesses are going to live or die according to the number of bellybuttons they can deliver probably will see their businesses die,' writes Mutter. 'The smart ones will get busy on Plan B, assuming there is a Plan B and it's not already too late.' Almost without exception, the papers that lost the least readers or even gained readership are the nation's smallest daily newspapers which tend to focus almost all of their limited resources on highly local news that is not covered by larger outside organizations and have a lock on local ad markets."

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How small is it? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903087)

Rob Malda's penis is so small that when he was at the glory hole last night, his penis was confused with that of a toddler's.

Re:How small is it? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903307)

What were you doing at the glory hole last night? How familiar with toddler's penises are you?

Re:How small is it? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903387)

kdawson told me about it. Him and CmdrTaco hit the glory holes almost every night together.

Rupert Murdoch called !! He's says it ain't so !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903089)

Rupert Murdoch called !! He's says it ain't so !!

and to eat his shorts !!

Re:Rupert Murdoch called !! He's says it ain't so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903361)

Haha come on. I thought it was funny!

Where are the ads? (1, Redundant)

ggraham412 (1492023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903091)

I clicked over to the Washington Post to read the story, and there were no ads there.

Re:Where are the ads? (4, Funny)

ggraham412 (1492023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903149)

Never mind - I had "Ad Block Plus" enabled. (Oh I'm so embarrassed!)

Re:Where are the ads? (0, Offtopic)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903399)

I'm surprised that web developers have not developed a method to detect Adblock, and then pop-up a page, "You may not access this site while you have ad-blocking software turned on. Please turn it off. Thank you." - After all nobody has to give you access to their site for free.

Re:Where are the ads? (5, Informative)

smclean (521851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903441)

Re:Where are the ads? (2, Informative)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903549)

However, the trick to counter this little menace is to block the anti_adblock js-file. Works like a charm.

I seriously doubt that there is an easy and hard-to-defeat method that will stop adblocking software(I haven't seen any).

Re:Where are the ads? (1)

The Dancing Panda (1321121) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903673)

And this is easy to counteract. Just make your page do an ajax call to get the body of the article. Put that call after the anti_adblock file has run.

Re:Where are the ads? (1)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903181)

Adblock?

first (0, Offtopic)

outsider007 (115534) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903095)

washington post

Re:first (1)

ggraham412 (1492023) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903171)

Not quite - that honor goes to the goof above.

Re:first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903221)

Clap

Clap

Clap

Re:first (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903445)

Undoing accidental +1 Interesting when I meant to hit -1 Offtopic.

(Can we have an "undo moderation" button that appears for 5 seconds?)

Re:first (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903645)

You have to post while signed in to undo moderation.

Try again.

Evolve or die..... (5, Insightful)

bagboy (630125) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903103)

It's the way the world works. When the telephone came around did telegraph operators keep their business methods - or did they evolve to use the new technology?

Re:Evolve or die..... (4, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903215)

They went into the sending money business. (And yet, they never saw Paypal coming).

Re:Evolve or die..... (5, Interesting)

omeomi (675045) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903247)

I still enjoy reading the paper. I've been a daily subscriber to the Chicago Tribune for the past 8 years. However, in the past few months, their delivery service has taken a major turn for the worse. The paper is supposed to be on my driveway by 6:30AM, and it absolutely never is. I leave for the train at 7:00AM, and it took weeks of calling and threatening to cancel my subscription just to get them to start getting me the paper before 7:00. I still call most days to complain that it's not there by 6:30. I get a credit for the days that I call, so they're not making much money off of my subscription at this point. Overall, if anything is going to cause me to cancel my subscription, it's that the delivery service that used to be fantastic has become abysmal. Mostly I'm probably waiting for the larger, magazine-sized Kindle (or some competitor) to come out.

Re:Evolve or die..... (1, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903623)

I've never read a newspaper a day in my life, other than some stupid school assignments to cut-out articles and write reports about them. I simply didn't see the need when local news provided all the information that mattered, and with the purchase of my first 1 kbit/s modem in 1988 it became even less important. I could read the news online.

That was the 80s/90s.

Now today local news has expanded from 1 hour a day to 5 hours a day, plus cable news, plus web. I didn't need the paper then and I certainly don't need it now.

Re:Evolve or die..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903683)

I have the opposite problem with delivery. I don't subscribe to any newspapers, yet, without fail, I will end up with one or two of the local ones on my driveway every morning. I don't want the papers - they just go straight into the recycling bin. I frequently go out of town on business trips, and I don't want a pile of newspapers on my driveway advertising that I am not home for burglars. Calls to the paper don't result in anything - "Oh, I'm sorry, we'll stop delivery." Yet, it's always there the next morning... I wonder if the papers are doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, or to artificially inflate their subscriber numbers.

Re:Evolve or die..... (5, Interesting)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903337)

The problem is, newspapers isn't being replaced by anything superior. I really don't see blogs and sites like digg and slashdot taking over journalism. They are great for commentary but don't produce original news, unless if there is an agenda.

Re:Evolve or die..... (1)

DeeZee (84216) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903667)

It will be. From the ashes, a phoenix always rises; though not always in the same form. //I think I'm gonna go write an epic poem now...

Re:Evolve or die..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903629)

Bell offered the Telephone to Western Union --- who rejected it.

Are you surprised? (2, Insightful)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903123)

In other news, water is wet.

The last Buggy-Whip manufacturer was heard gloating with his buddy the Spittoon manufacturer about how they had 100% market share in their respected fields.

 

Re:Are you surprised? (4, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903251)

Actually the buggy whip companies aren't all gone:

http://yp.bellsouth.com.wvproxy.com/sites/buggywhips/page3.html?wvsessionid=ebd943fc8586457288938663beb3c962 [wvproxy.com]

I'm sure it's a pretty niche market these days though :D.

Re:Are you surprised? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903365)

I'm sure it's a pretty niche market these days though :D.

A lot of people still ride horses (for fun) and buggy/carriages (especially with ponies) are still pretty popular. Not for most city-folk, of course, but once you get into rural areas where people still like "land" and not just "Starbucks" ... :)

Re:Are you surprised? (1, Offtopic)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903505)

My Amish-american neighbors use a lot of horsewhips, although they probably just make them from last years' dead cow skin, rather than buy them.

The Amish are smart. We don't hear them whining about economic collapse, do we? In fact this past year was one of their best years with a huge bumper crop and plenty of excess food to feed their families. They are also exempt from income, SS, and medicare taxes. I wish I was exempt.

Re:Are you surprised? (1, Offtopic)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903633)

I wish I was exempt.

Of course you don't! What you really want to do is pay more so that you can have your health care, income, and retirement completely managed by the federal government. It will make everyone much happier. [/sarcasm]

Re:Are you surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903369)

Where do you people come from? Forever churning out the same inane crap just you can get your feeble voice heard early on a slashdot story. It's like you have some reaction to a new story that causes you to involuntarily wretch up the first thing that comes to mind. What have buggy whips and spittoons got in common with the printed press? Serious question... And another is - where would 99.9% of those who write on the web copy and paste their content from if the press vanished?

Re:Are you surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903521)

Where do you people come from? Forever churning out the same angry crap just you can get your feeble point heard early on a slashdot story. It's like you have some reaction to a poster that causes you to involuntarily wretch up the first thing that comes to mind. What has a dying industry got in common with the world wide web? Serious question... And another is - where would 99.9% of those who write in the printed press get their content from if Reuters and the Associate Press didnt exist?

Re:Are you surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903691)

where would 99.9% of those who write in the printed press get their content from if Reuters and the Associate Press didnt exist?

Reuters and AP don't do investigative journalism. For a large story a good newspaper will send out their own journalists to cover it, even if it was extensively covered by AP. Some journalists who write for online media or who freelance will do the same, but not many, they seem to prefer developing their own angle independently of the original news source. One thing is for certain, online journalists are not, on the whole, in the same league as a senior writer at a national paper, by a long shot.

Bellybuttons? Wha? (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903125)

I am trying to figure out what the heck that means. In this context, does it match any of these [wikipedia.org] definitions?

Re:Bellybuttons? Wha? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903161)

Yes, it's talking about the Jellyfish's debut album.

No, it's talking about how many "eyes" or "people" are getting the paper. It's a cute way of indicating individual people, that's all!

Re:Bellybuttons? Wha? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903381)

It's a cute way of indicating individual people

I'd say that depends on the individual's abdomen... :P

Re:Bellybuttons? Wha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903647)

I think it's a reference to those annoying ads featuring shots of people's navels. I'm not sure if they're selling mortgages or weight loss products. But they're pretty prominent on news sites these days.

a saying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903153)

I remember hearing that you should get two papers: The NY Times and a local paper.

It looks like less and less people care about the first one.

Re:a saying (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903225)

It looks like less and less people care about the first one.

Good!

Bay area (3, Insightful)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903173)

I live in the bay area and the only big newspaper around here is the Mercury News.
Without trying to start a flame war, it's much easier finding an unbaised article online.

Re:Bay area (2, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903609)

Without trying to start a flame war, it's much easier finding an unbaised article online.

I think what you really mean is that it's much easier to find an article on-line that agrees with *your* particular bias, rather than the local newspaper's editor.

Re:Bay area (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903659)

I live in the bay area and the only big newspaper around here is the Mercury News.

San Francisco Chronicle?

Possible causes (3, Interesting)

TonTonKill (907928) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903185)

I wonder how this trend compares with non-internet related events, such as:

  • Increase in popularity of highly opinionated "news" talk shows and cable TV shows (and similar decline in the popularity of objective reporting)
  • Consolidation of news businesses (particularly acquisitions by News Corp.)
  • Reduction in staff and budgets of the journalism and reporting departments within newspaper organizations

Re:Possible causes (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903567)

Ya know "objective reporting" is a myth. Prior to 1950 the Philadelphia Inquirer proudly trumpeted that it was pro-Republican. Many papers had the words directly in their names - "The Peoria Democrat".

And I see nothing wrong with that. Newspapers were invented as a way for the owner to express his views. If you didn't like those views, create a competing newspaper. That's what liberty and "free press" means... to say whatever you want to say, even if it's biased towards your own view.

Re:Possible causes (5, Informative)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903709)

Ya know "objective reporting" is a myth. Prior to 1950 the Philadelphia Inquirer proudly trumpeted that it was pro-Republican. Many papers had the words directly in their names - "The Peoria Democrat".

And I see nothing wrong with that. Newspapers were invented as a way for the owner to express his views. If you didn't like those views, create a competing newspaper. That's what liberty and "free press" means... to say whatever you want to say, even if it's biased towards your own view.

Spot on. Newspapers in the UK and Ireland are still pretty open about what parties they support, they really nail their colours to the mast. If you want to win a British general election, you're on an uphill task if you don't have the tabloid press on your side.

Broadcast media is a bit different though. In the UK and Ireland people expect a certain amount of objectivity in the broadcast media. In the UK political parties cannot buy advertising time on TV, instead they each get the same amount of time allocated for "party political broadcasts" that are usually about ten minutes long before the main nightly news, and that's about it. The power of television is such that in the UK they prefer to make sure it's not open to political influence, which is why British people are a bit shocked when they turn on Fox News or MSNBC and see the blatant editorialising on the air.

Re:Possible causes (2, Interesting)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903661)

This is a good point: Many (most?) local papers are now nothing more than regurgitation of wire-feeds from the AP or whoever. Who needs to subscribe to the paper for that? And the sale coupons come in the mail now...

By the time you read it ... (3, Insightful)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903203)

... it's nearly 1 day old

Re:By the time you read it ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903463)

Are we talking about newspapers or Slashdot?

Re:By the time you read it ... (0)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903471)

haha, pretty ironic from someone posting on slashdot.

Not believing it (4, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903213)

I'm skeptical that there's an actual decline happening. There was nothing about this on Drudge.

I'm ruined! (1)

sizzzzlerz (714878) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903229)

Along with my investments in Trans-Atlantic Zeppelins and Amalgamated Spats, my newspaper stocks are worthless!

Any alternatives? (4, Interesting)

symes (835608) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903235)

I'm not sure I see this as a good thing. There's no obvious alternatives to salaried journalists in national papers who are willing to dig in and develop a good story. I just can't see the internet producing people like Bernstein and Woodward, Nancy Maynard, Anna Quindlen and others like them.

Re:Any alternatives? (3, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903293)

Why can't the internet have Salaried journalists?

Re:Any alternatives? (1)

lee1026 (876806) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903349)

There is just less money in new online compared to print media. Advertisers are just not as willing to pay as much.

Re:Any alternatives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903371)

Because the Internet is free.

Re:Any alternatives? (4, Insightful)

symes (835608) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903419)

It used to be the case that a lot of people would pay for their daily newspaper. How much are you paying for your online news these days? I really worry that the internet is turning us all into quick fix news junkies unable to spend more than a few seconds grazing headlines and that considered prose is slowly passing.

Re:Any alternatives? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903511)

But someone must be getting paid to write articles - otherwise no one would write them.

Re:Any alternatives? (1)

nate nice (672391) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903641)

Right now, sure. Most papers make their content available for free in hopes their site will make money one day. Their paper still makes money. So what happens when their paper doesn't make money and they can't put their news up for free any longer?

Re:Any alternatives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903581)

tl;dr

Re:Any alternatives? (2, Interesting)

Ragzouken (943900) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903669)

At least we'll still have BBC news.

Re:Any alternatives? (4, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903421)

>salaried journalists in national papers who are willing to dig in and develop a good story.

This is dying and has been for years. Editors, and more importantly their owners (http://www.thenation.com/special/bigten.html) prefer light, cheap puff pieces that don't disturb the citizenry or alert them to little things like the fact that the treasuries of the world are being looted by the worlds wealthy and that oil depletion issues are going to start rocking our world in an unpleasant way in the next decade or two.
.
So we get Yahoo and MSM, where the top stories are "10 ways to know if he/she's cheating on you!" and "How to tell if you're a f***king idiot." (Hint, you're reading Yahoo's front page.)
.
The internet, however, is still relatively free although who knows for how long. If net neutrality is withdrawn, you can forget that too.

Re:Any alternatives? (3, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903437)

I'm not sure I see this as a good thing. There's no obvious alternatives to salaried journalists in national papers who are willing to dig in and develop a good story.

There also are essentially none of those left in the national papers, so the lack of an "alternative" is less relevant. Actually, with many papers retooling to shift toward less focus on advertisers for revenue and more focus on readers, there is a good chance that the decline in per-paper circulation will revive journalism, as the business of the papers becomes, once again, delivering news to readers, rather than delivering an audience to advertisers while avoiding offending those same advertisers.

I just can't see the internet producing people like Bernstein and Woodward, Nancy Maynard, Anna Quindlen and others like them.

While you don't see a lot of people like that in any media, at any time, the internet sure isn't doing any worse of a job of producing investigative reporters than the modern print dailies. Which isn't meant, particularly, as praise of the internet news outlets.

Re:Any alternatives? (3, Interesting)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903481)

The ability of the internet user to make his/her own inferences by cross referencing multiple sources basically makes the iconic journalist largely moot.

Moreover, the internet has the Tron Guy [tronguy.net] ...the newspapers/journalists don't stand much of a chance.

The bright side (4, Funny)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903257)

At least there are some robust areas [theonion.com] in the declining newspaper market.

Weakest Link (2, Interesting)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903273)

My best guess is news outlets that have deep links and high tech will win out. My best back of the envelope strategy would be to embed news stories in elective layers of deepening context. Readers would be able to elect to go ever deeper into a news story and link to information nodes that would shed light on how news events impact their neighbourhood, income level, etc. You should be able to enter a news story at a world wide level and exit at the neighbourhood mall. The problem would be how to allow for in depth news reporting without the content being lost in a jungle of links. National news outlets have the ability to provide just such coverage. The News_paper_ is dead, news reporting has morphed and the readership has morphed to meet the new coverage. The message is still strong, it's the medium that needs to change.

I heard the WaPo online guy speak a while back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903283)

His talk was on hyperlocality, ie covering things in your back yard (well, not literally, although if he could help this winter... err, wait). Shortly after this, WaPo launched a section on Loudon County (a suburb VA county outside of DC). It was a flop.

Re:I heard the WaPo online guy speak a while back (1)

nate nice (672391) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903415)

At least he had an idea and tried it. Eventually he'll get it right.

Newspaper Culture (2, Funny)

allknowingfrog (1661721) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903285)

It would be odd to see the newspaper disappear altogether. What will we roll up and shake at our dogs? What will spies hide behind? What will we line cages with?

Re:Newspaper Culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903353)

I work at a newspaper. A while back, we had a squall come through (drenching rain, driven by 90+ mph wind). Water started coming in under the newsroom door. People, including some from our online group, were mopping it up with the old papers that are everywhere.

"Try doing that with a website," I observed as I walked by.

Re:Newspaper Culture (3, Funny)

Zey (592528) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903533)

Anonymous Coward on 2009-10-29 6:08 (#29903353) wrote:

People, including some from our online group, were mopping it up with the old papers that are everywhere. "Try doing that with a website," I observed as I walked by.

When your newspaper's remaining unique feature is its absorbency, you know you're really in trouble.

Re:Newspaper Culture (5, Insightful)

wtbname (926051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903601)

I work at a news web site. A while back, we had a troll come through (drenching sarcasm, driven by 90+ wpm). People on our forums started modding him down, reducing his comments to irrelevancy. People, including some from our print group, were marveling at how online participation and comments in the news can provide so much value.

"Try doing that with a letter to the editor," I observed as I walked by.

Re:Newspaper Culture (1)

nate nice (672391) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903663)

Peoples comments and participation hardly ever add value to a news story. Including mine.

Re:Newspaper Culture (1)

c_sd_m (995261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903451)

Ad flyers.

Had an issue with national news for a while (4, Insightful)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903301)

Why do I care, that some anonymous person five states over was murdered?
If it's of national import, it's going to be all over the web and television anyway.

Newspapers should give very deep news on local issues, sports, local editorials, etc.

Re:Had an issue with national news for a while (2, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903343)

I agree that local reporting is important. But how much do you care about receiving it in print, rather than on a web page?

You know... (1)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903305)

It's all been downhill since we gave up the clay tablet for paper...

Why are ads so much cheaper online though? (2, Interesting)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903313)

Every time I see a story like this I ask the same question to myself, and have yet to hear an appropriate answer.

Why can a newspapers and magazines charge 100 times more for an ad on ink, that reaches a tiny fraction of the people that an online ad reaches? The economics of it make no sense to me. Is there some research that shows people are more likely yo pay attention to print ads than online ads? Because I have never paid attention to a print ad in my life.

Why don't newspaper websites (which are very popular) just charge more for online ads, comperable rates to what they charge for print ads?

What happens when the newspapers and magazines have such low subscribership that they can't justify their high ad prices anymore - will then THEN feel justified to charge more for their online ads?

Re:Why are ads so much cheaper online though? (1)

zonky (1153039) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903363)

As John Wanamaker said: "I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted ... I just don't know which half."

You do know which half on the interspaz.

Re:Why are ads so much cheaper online though? (1)

nate nice (672391) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903385)

I often wonder the same thing. I don't even understand the advertising model for the Internet. everything is still a link to this day. Why? Why aren't there just plain Coke and Pepsi ads. Why haven't tobacco companies advertised more on the Internet. Is it illegal for them?

But mainly why is everything a link to another Website? Why aren't there more ads that are just ads for every day consumer things we see in magazines and papers? Why not small, unobstructive ads all over the place? Just little corporate logos wherever?

I think the advertising and journalism industries need to get together and hammer this out.

Re:Why are ads so much cheaper online though? (2, Interesting)

QuincyDurant (943157) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903429)

Retail advertisers (like me) need saturation coverage of small geographical areas and the (highly annoying) big splash ads over two or three days that drive customers to sales days. Of course, we could all start selling online all over the world, but then every storefront mom and pop would have to adopt radical (and expensive to implement) new business methods. I'll try to quit whining. It's doggy dog out there.

Well the elephant in the room is that (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903461)

advertising doesn't work as well as everyone thought.hat means that they ahve been over charging for it..or over selling it's value.

The internet brought that into sharp focus when you couldf get a real time response for an ad and pay for ads you know people have looked at.

Plus this is a transition period from a time you are probably too young to know. As such it all appears 'obviouse' to you.

Re:Well the elephant in the room is that (1)

nate nice (672391) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903617)

That's not entirely true. Advertising works extremely well but there are diminishing returns on it. When newspapers were the only game in town you knew you had to advertise (you do) and you didn't have many outlets to get them out in. And since the newspapers had very real limited space, they could and had to charge more for the space.

A newspaper ad is like an apartment in Manhattan. There is only so much space and more demand than supply so the prices go up. You have to live so you pay the price.

With the Internet there is essentially unlimited space. And there are unlimited places to put the ad. So you have the opposite effect. Suddenly advertising as a support structure requires A LOT more views. 100,000 print ads are invariably worth more than Internet views.

The benefit is that the Internet also has an infinite distribution model. And it scales with distribution.

So where as before 100 news outlets could exist for a few million people, now those news outlets need a larger base and we end up with fewers outlets.

in the end it shouldn't really change since most papers just reprinted AP content and NYT/Washington Post content. Individual newspaper outlets will shrink, but I believe journalism as a whole will sustain.

It's their own fault (5, Interesting)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903325)

I don't really intend this to be politically controversial, though that is probably inevitable. Of course newspapers have been challenged by the Internet, but this is not the first competition they've had. TV has been competing with newspapers for decades and they survived just fine. It isn't that newspapers have lost a competitive edge; they've lost a monopoloistic edge. It used to be they were the only game in town. A rare city had two newspapers. If you wanted to sell your car or post a job, the Classifieds was your only choice. Ever tried to sell a car through the Classifieds lately? Yowzaa! $100 easy just for an ad too tiny to read! But put it on cars.com for $24.95 with a bunch of pictures, and whaddya know, it sells. Happened to me anyway two years ago.

The second issue is that newspapers once stood for something. They were either avowedly and unabashedly partisan in their outlook, or they proclaimed journalistic objectivity. I think that no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, the Internet has allowed you to broaden your horizons, and THAT has lead to a realization that 'journalistic objectivity' is an oxymoron. It's not so much that newspapers lean one direction or another--though my local one never seems to like a Republican candidate, even for innocuous posts, but that you can see "sins of ommission." The real power of a newspaper is in what they choose to publish. They get a tremendous amount of information 'over the wire' and then they choose which stories to print, ignoring the stories they don't wish to print.

When you suddenly have the Net and a tremendous number of news sources to choose from, you can see this. You can see what the newspapers have been leaving out, so the newspaper becomes less relevant to your 'news needs' and you drop it. I dropped my paper because they couldn't seem to get it in the box. After continual complaints of poor service I finally decided I really didn't need it. I don't miss it.

Re:It's their own fault (5, Insightful)

aafiske (243836) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903459)

"I think that no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, the Internet has allowed you to broaden your horizons"

Or more likely the internet provides a convenient place to get opinions that agree perfectly with mine, so why should I read a newspaper that I sometimes disagree with and that is therefore stupid and wrong and biased?

Re:It's their own fault (3, Insightful)

JohnFen (1641097) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903579)

The second issue is that newspapers once stood for something. They were either avowedly and unabashedly partisan in their outlook, or they proclaimed journalistic objectivity.

And whichever kind they were, they strove to be at least somewhat accurate rather than just a PR outlet.

This is the newsbiz's real failing: they have become entirely unreliable. You can no longer read a newspaper and have any confidence that you're getting even an approximation of the facts. Newspapers used to do journalism, or at the least give it the old college try.

This means that newspapers (and TV & radio news) have no real innate value. It's hard to retain readers when you aren't offering them anything worthwhile.

Quality, Distribution Method, and Price (1)

dlevitan (132062) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903347)

First problem is that most newspapers are useless except for very local news. It used to be that you actually needed to subscribe to the local newspaper to know what was going on. With the web (blogs and the like)...that's simply not the case anymore. Which means that (at least for me) there are very few newspapers that actually provide anything of value...and that's primarily the investigative reporting. Sadly, this also seems to be one of the things that is being eliminated first.

The newspapers' only chance to survive is to differentiate themselves from the cable networks and actually write their own interesting articles, rather than just use articles from Reuters/AP. They should also adapt to the growing number of smartphones and realize that this is the delivery method of choice going forward. If they offer a low price ($10-20/month?) service and restrict free articles to one or two per day per person, they can open a new revenue source, and I think many people would have no problems paying for this for good newspapers (the NY Times comes to mind), especially if they were able to get articles delivered in a good format for smartphones.

Other notable exception: WSJ (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903377)

In fact.. yay, a graph:
http://www.theawl.com/2009/10/a-graphic-history-of-newspaper-circulation-over-the-last-two-decades [theawl.com]
( via Cool Infographics blog )

The LA Times has just been sucking overall, explaining their sharp drop.

Most of the others had been stable until relatively recently, as more and more people realize that they all just regurgitate the same news they can get online for free.

The exception noted in the article summary - the local publishers - and the major publisher lonely at the top and holding relatively steady, share the opposite of the above in common. They don't regurgitate news so much as that they report on the actual news and provided added value. In the case of local newspapers.. local news that strikes at the heart of the community (I've always wanted to say that). In the case of the WSJ.. in-depth investigation and background information, catering to their major audience (which tend not to be the target audience for the other major papers).

Re:Other notable exception: WSJ (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903475)

"The WSJ began including paid online subscribers in their circulation in 2003."

Making their numbers from that chart practically useless.

Hey newspapers: (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903409)

Quite trying to recapture the good ole days and look forward. You can make money, you can exist you just need to realize you are 1 part of a larger media expectation.

I would be happy to talk to you about it, my consultation fee is 250 per hour.

I look forward to the edifying spectacle... (5, Interesting)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903425)

...of hordes of ./ readers taking time out from flaming one another and bitching about the poor quality of editor control on the site and the dubious submissions which make it through to the front page to sanctimoniously celebrate the death of "old" media.

Question: would Wired and the Huffington Post have broken the Watergate scandal? Do they even have the resources? Would they have survived the commercial and political pressure resulting from pursuing the story (the Post nearly didn't)?

Newspapers have failed to adapt, but they do have a number of useful features which IMHO the web has so far failed to replicate, such as strong editorial structures, proper investigative journalism (not just "in today's blog blog, we blog about a blog about something which someone wrong somewhere else"), accountability (once it's printed, it's printed), a selection of content which does not automatically conform to every pre-defined interest and prejudice of the reader, and a delivery method which involves passivity from the recipient rather than requiring the recipient to go out and proactively seek the information they want.

Does all of this mean they deserve to prosper in their current form? No. But I am scared if the Drudge Report is what is going to replace the Washington Post. On one level the issues facing newspapers seem to me to be facing society more generally: how do we manage our apparent addiction to short, semi-meaningless factoids now that we have a series of electronic systems for delivering them faster and more meaninglessly than ever before?

Dinosaurmedia (1)

patrickthbold (1351131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903431)

I saw the dinosaurmedia tag and thought this article was about something much cooler.

More victims of news piracy! (3, Funny)

Tsar (536185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903433)

Obviously, the Internet is to the American newspaper publisher and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone.
Information wants to be free, you say? Well, so does Charles Manson!

Advertising Price Difference (1)

smclean (521851) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903477)

It seems strange to me that the advertising price is so different, can anyone give me a good explanation why an advertiser's paper advertisement would be more successful than the same advertisement on the web? The only good argument I can come up with is AdBlock, but given AdBlock's install base, I don't see this as being enough of a factor to account for the difference. Why would a printed ad be more successful than an online ad?

Re:Advertising Price Difference (1)

nate nice (672391) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903695)

Space. Newspapers have limited space and for a long time were the only game in town. Internet news sources have infinite space and have lots of competition.

Fortunately (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903535)

Of course this is because of PIRACY. People are turning to the internet to access FREE NEWS, and therefore are STEALING NEWS. Hundreds of thousands of reporters are out of work because of these criminals that are costing the industry trillions per yer.

At least, that's what Rupert Murdoch would like to bribe governments into thinking. Of course Mr. Murdoch, you don't actually "own" news either. It's stuff that happens, you know...

Investigative Journalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29903537)

Most investigative journalists turn their research into books and make more money. Since most papers have already slashed their newsrooms, this leaves the papers to print what's on the newswire or Op-Ed pieces.

Sad (1)

JesseBHolmes (1063676) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903583)

I recently had the opportunity to speak to the vice-president of a major academic institution. He told me that, in his opinion, paper in general was on the way out. I hope not. Paper content, despite its faults, can be trusted not to disappear with the flick of a digital switch. It is relatively durable, lasting for hundreds of years. And it is accessible; if it's on paper, you don't have to unencrypt it or have the right software or hardware to access it. If print newspapers die, it will be a disservice not only to us in the present, but for our descendants who might wish to study the way we were.

Money (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903591)

So the biggest recession for decades has nothing at all to do with it ? Considering that the locals have been gaining readers, I suspect that more people are looking for jobs close to home, and thinking FTW.

Too bad, really (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903631)

Newspapers, magazines, and pretty much anything else that was considered to have mass viewership 30 years ago is pretty much dead.

The summary mentions something about "Plan B". Well, the bad news is that for the most part, there isn't a Plan B. There is nothing that anyone can do about this - the readership numbers that kept newspapers alive are gone. Magazines have fewer readers and any "serious" magazine is pretty much dead today unless it is kept alive by huge subscription fees - the advertisers aren't interested any longer. So we have Cosmo and National Enquirer at the supermarket checkout and that is about it.

Plan B would have been online, but online is free and there isn't any mass viewership. That doesn't pay salaries. So where there might have been a reporter in 1975 there wasn't one in 1995 because of cost cutting. Today, the newsroom is empty because there isn't any way to pay anyone any longer. They can try to hang on by reprinting wire stories, but that isn't going to work.

News is now free and nobody is going to pay. And even more importantly, nobody is going to focus on a single web site enough to make it possible to get any real ad revenue. Wall Street Journal has a dedicated following for their speciality, but I wouldn't consider them a "newspaper" any more than you would consider Nature to be a magazine. Wall Street Journal and Nature are probably both going to survive, but I don't think anything like what we consider a newspaper to be is going to be around in five years.

News? Maybe you should start reading fark.com for its inciteful commenting and news selection. Or try to balance between dailykos.com and freerepublic.com - between the two of them you might come up with some idea of what is happening in the US. If you care.

What about the other guys on the web... (1)

gedrin (1423917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29903711)

Politico gives better national poltical coverage than my paper.

Michael Yon had some of the best field reporting on Iraq anywhere.

Analysis of security issues is amazing at Stratfor.

These cost less than a weekly subscription to my local major paper (Stratfor being the high dollar site).

Anyone who says there's no such thing as investigative journalism these days from the web is living under a rock. Anyone who thought there was once non-partisan investigative journalism took out a long term ARM on the rock.

Still, whenever I hear people lamenting the state of journalism and the loss of...whatever it is they think they're loosing...I wonder what they think should be done about it. A business that provided a valuable service is being replaced by other businesses that provide a similar service at a better percieved value. So what? Why is this an emergency?

It seems there is a great deal of dissatisfaction with the information being propogated. People seem to think something should be done about it. You'll have to fogive me if I'm less concerned about the failure of newspapers than I am about the idea that those dissatisfied with the content of current news reporting think something should be done about it.
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