Newspapers Now Red All Over
Not to repeat myself, but there's an issue I've written about, which will appear in next month's print edition (March "Bits and Pieces") that is near and dear to my heart. And that is the subject of newspapers. Many magazine writers cut their teeth slinging newsprint hash, including yours truly, and the demise of newspapers seems to me, at least, to be a fait accompli. How I hope I am dead wrong.
I won't repeat the argument from the column, but I would like to throw in some groundswell of opinion in the same vein. An article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently provided an excellent outline for perspective. As advertising completely drops off the table in the midst of our nation's worst recession since the Great Depression, some newspapers are threatening to close their doors or are seeking buyers. Two dailies in Detroit cut their publishing slate to three days a week. New York Times Co., Gannett Co. and McClatchy Co. saw ad revenue declines of 13 percent.
The WSJ, quoting analyst Jon Swallen of TNS Media Intelligence in New York, estimated that roughly 60 percent of ad revenue comes from retail, automotive, financial services and real estate marketers. Clearly, these have been the biggest losing horses in the recession derby the past year-plus.
These aren't just podunk townie rags going by the wayside. Major titles are filing for bankruptcy (Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., which publish the Inquirer and Daily News, joined those ranks this week). Hearst Corp. is threatening to sell or shut down the San Francisco Chronicle should it not get concessions from its union workers. Some chains, like Gannett, are making employees take unpaid vacations to avoid cuts. The Rocky Mountain News needs a buyer. Ditto for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Tuscon Citizen, both of which are in danger of closing.
In a sense, the hole in the roof becomes most evident during heavy rains. Advertising and circulation have been dropping slowly, but steadily, in recent years as the Internet continues to take away share. How could this have been prevented? Did newspapers make a critical mistake in giving away their content online? Were they slow to diversify online content? You, as a printer, are quite aware of the benefits that come with expanding into ancillary products and services. Are newspapers a one-trick pony, destined to go the way of the typewriter and the VHS tape? Or can they survive and, if so, how?
One thing's for sure. The newspaper business is a rock and has taken quite a few blows in the past. But the Internet age appears to be its greatest challenge yet. Is survival possible? Let us know what you think.