Arnold Kling  

Death of Newspapers

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The Washington Post reports that newspapers are struggling.


"Print is dead," Sports Illustrated President John Squires told a room full of newspaper and magazine circulation executives at a conference in Toronto in November. His advice? "Get over it," meaning publishers should stop trying to save their ink-on-paper product and focus on electronic delivery of their journalism.

The Post provides statistical evidence of the drop in newspaper mindshare. It looks at the percent of people reading a newspaper in daily in 1967 and in 2004, broken down by age group.

Age Group1967 readership rate2004 readership rate
18-2470.839.0
25-3472.738.8
35-5481.053.0
55+75.567.4

This is old news. In my News of My Death , which I updated for my book, I pointed out that these demographic trends, along with the migration of classified advertising to specialized Web sites, portend the demise of for-profit newspaper publishing.

Online, newspapers still suffer from what in my book I call the silo mentality. That is, they want to keep their content separate from other content that is just a click away. The most dramatic example recently was a newspaper that threatened legal action against other sites that even link to its stories.

For Discussion. Will newspapers have to escape the silo mentality in order to survive on line? Will this mean a convergence between blogging and reporting?


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The author at AnumatiNews in a related article titled Newspapers Dying a Slow Death writes:
    The Washington Post reports on the rapidly declining readership of newspapers: The changes come as circulation... [Tracked on February 20, 2005 1:01 PM]
The author at The Raw Prawn in a related article titled Carnival of the Capitalists writes:
    Welcome to the President's Day edition of Carnival of the Capitalists, the weekly round-up of business and economics blogs. While you're here, please take a look at a few of the other posts. The Raw Prawn primarily deals with business, economics, ... [Tracked on February 21, 2005 12:46 AM]
The author at Tim Worstall in a related article titled Carnival of the Capitalists writes:
    COTC is up at The Raw Prawn (and what a great name for a blog that is). Two to look at are Arnold Kling on the economic pressures on newspapers (something I’ve written about myself but he gets the figures [Tracked on February 21, 2005 2:51 AM]
The author at Roth & Company, P.C. in a related article titled PRESIDENT'S DAY CARNIVAL! writes:
    This week's Carnival of the Capitalists is up at The Raw Prawn. The Carnival is a weekly roundup of economics... [Tracked on February 21, 2005 8:19 AM]
COMMENTS (6 to date)
Lawrance George Lux writes:

The Silo mentality is present, but not truly the inhibiting factor. The problem is the Forum. Journalism wants to maintain it's lofty symbolism, but faces the ability of the Non-ordained to reach as great a Readership as themselves. They will have to go fully Online, except for local Printouts; there will one day be local area Printers who print 50-100 separate Newspapers per day, paying so much per copy.

Newspapers will evolve into a R&E mechanisn, searching the Net, finding good Pieces, checking the accuracy of the Piece, paying a royalty for publication, and publishing it; without any consideration of who was the Author. Newspapers, Magazines, etc. will survive, but only in a form desired by their Readership. lgl

Joshua Sharf writes:

It's probably even worse than this. The Instapundit has referred a number of times to studies showing that newspapers are inflating their circulation numbers.

cameron mulder writes:

I think we are about to see a huge transformation of just about all media.

Few people read newspapers when they can get what they want online.

young people are tuning out on TV since we can download all the shows we want, when we want, with no ads, or just view it on DVD via netflix

Now podcasting is starting to be a big thing. Why listen to radio when i can download shows i like, the music i like, and have no ads.

The problem i see with this new future is how to ensure that people don't get totaly stuck in a echo chamber.

If we all start to just read the news we want to read, we will go even farther away from being well infomred. We already see this shift in cable news, where they are targeting specific people instead of trying to inform the masses.
How do people get that piece of information when they get stuck in there own little media world?

jan writes:

Newspapers have survived radio, TV and I predict they will survive the internet. I checked the newspaper stocks on Yahoo. They seem to be profitable and sales are growing. I would guess that local advertisers like local papers for advertising better than their alternatives. Their readership may be going down since 1967, but there has been a lot of new competition since then. I would guess it would level soon.
Newspapers and TV news are getting in the most trouble when they are dishonest and/or try to control the news. The obvious case is Dan Rather. The newspaper that theatened the blogger also was trying to control the news by preventing any criticism. Any powerful organization would hate to lose its influence to a bunch of ankle-biting bloggers who are writing in their pajamas.

Brad Hutchings writes:

I have been a fan of Arnold's Club/Silo example since I first stumbled upon it a few years ago (2000-ish). Back in January 1997, I actually organized (very quickly) what was probably the first multi-vendor downloadable software vendor sold though a major ESD system. Digital River was just starting up and they were eager to experiment.

But... reading this post, I wonder if club/silo in this context isn't just a polite variation of "information wants to be free". During the mid-1990s, AOL was the ultimate club. Back in the day, there was Prodigy, CompuServe, AppleLink/eWorld. Lots of information providers grouped under one umbrella, tied together by dial-up accounts. And those services as information services all succumbed to the Internet. If 5 of the major newspapers of record formed a "club" for their online content, and still insisted on paid accounts, display ads, and draconian linking policies, how would that be much different in the eyes of the Internet (which, as the politically correct lore goes, routes around all obstacles) from them doing it individually?

What I'm saying here is it may not be the silo mentality that is killing them. It may be a declining public-perceived value of information, maybe just newsie information or maybe of digital goods in general. Or the papers may not really be dying. Circulation may be down, people may not like that they have to register to view stories online, etc. But they may be eeking out a profit being selective about who gets to read their stuff. That is possible too.

Jon writes:

There is already convergence between blogging and reporting. Many newspapers and "MSM" sites include discussion forums and even blogs. Some even have online chats!

The challenge is for the newspaper to make this profitable. Many bloggers don't have this problem. They are either academics who have the ability to use university resources to maintain their blogs; others are funded by political or commerical interest groups who support the bloggers agendas.

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