August 24, 2006

Who Killed The Newspaper?

The Economist:
“A GOOD newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself,” mused Arthur Miller in 1961. A decade later, two reporters from the Washington Post wrote a series of articles that brought down President Nixon and the status of print journalism soared. At their best, newspapers hold governments and companies to account. They usually set the news agenda for the rest of the media. But in the rich world newspapers are now an endangered species. The business of selling words to readers and selling readers to advertisers, which has sustained their role in society, is falling apart (see article). Of all the “old” media, newspapers have the most to lose from the internet. Circulation has been falling in America, western Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand for decades (elsewhere, sales are rising). But in the past few years the web has hastened the decline. In his book “The Vanishing Newspaper”, Philip Meyer calculates that the first quarter of 2043 will be the moment when newsprint dies in America as the last exhausted reader tosses aside the last crumpled edition. That sort of extrapolation would have produced a harrumph from a Beaverbrook or a Hearst, but even the most cynical news baron could not dismiss the way that ever more young people are getting their news online. Britons aged between 15 and 24 say they spend almost 30% less time reading national newspapers once they start using the web.
Related: Warren Buffet: "Newspapers are a business in permanent decline." I think the roots of the problem can be found in this post by Brenda Konkel. Daily newspapers, despite generating tremendous margins and cash flow, have in my view, shied away - in general from the more challenging issues. A friend refers to this as "not wanting to offend anyone". At some point, this desire will be fatal to their business models.

Finally, like any organization, with the founders long gone and the remnants simply part of larger corporations it's unlikely that most dailies will do what's necessary in a new media age. Posted by James Zellmer at August 24, 2006 1:22 PM | Subscribe to this site via RSS:
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