Monday, March 7, 2005
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Bad news or really bad news for newspapers?
Is print dying? A Pew Internet survey of how Americans got their information during the 2004 campaign suggests that maybe the answer is yes. Anick Jesdanun explains for the Associated Press:
Click here for Editor & Publisher's take on the report. I'm not sure how much newspapers should be panicking in terms of content -- what appears to be happening is that many people have substituted an online version of their newspaper for the print version. Nevertheless, the secular decline is evident, which should scare the business side of the press. The fact that many people are reading even online newspapers through the editorial filter of either an online news page or a blog is what should rattle editors.
The actual Pew study can be found here -- and here's a link to Michael Cornfield's analysis of the Internet's effect on the 2004 election. Key paragraph:
Developing....posted by Dan on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM
"what appears to be happening is that many people have substituted an online version of their newspaper for the print version"...is this really what is happening when it comes to things that actually generate revenue for newspapers? Seems to me that much of the classified ad business is migrating to nationally-branded web sites: job recruiting sites, used car sites, auction sites, etc.posted by: David Foster on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
Given the dramatically lower revenues that newspapers get from print subscribers, due to the much lower rates they are able to charge for internet advertising, print media should indeed be panicking; if the New York Times magically converted all its current subscribers to web subscribers, they'd lose money hand over fist. They aren't panicking yet, because the business side doesn't quite see the writing on the wall. But they will. And us journalists who provide high quality, expensive content should be panicking too.posted by: Jane Galt on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
I'm shying away from the media in general as a source of my news. There have been way too many instances of reporters either flat out lying, being absolutely clueless about their subjects and putting out bad information, or only giving their biased side of a story. I now can't accept any story as true or accurate without some other form of corroboration.
Blogs are excellent at finding, linking to, and critiquing stories in the press and I use them as such. What's more, they're basically categorized in that respect based on the bloggers' interests.posted by: Justin on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
"I'm shying away from the media in general as a source of my news. "
"Blogs are excellent at finding, linking to, and critiquing stories in the press ..."
Sheesh.posted by: praktike on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
"us journalists who provide high quality"
?posted by: Andrew Steele on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
Andrew, maybe she meant US, i.e. American journalists. I'm just saying it's possible.posted by: Zathras on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
Well, US newspapers may have a problem with readership, but print is by no way out for the count. Last week, The Economist announced that circulation is now topping a record one million copies a week. The paper was launched in 1843 and 50 years later it was only selling 6,000 copies. In 1994 circulation was just over 550,000 copies. Now, it's a million! And there's no reason to expect that it won't grow further. Good writing, which is all too rare, is still craved, regardless of the wrapper.posted by: Eamonn Fitzgerald on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
First, Happy International Women's Day!!!
Second, re newspaper and magazine circulation - I believe the daily broadsheet's days are numbered. People don't have time to read all of the junk contained in broadsheets. Tabloids, on the other hand, are easier to read on public transportation and usually offer bite-size news which makes them appealing to a younger audience. So, I think newspapers are going to have to change their stripes to compete in the next twenty-five years. (This topic was covered last night on the PBS show, "Chicago Tonight" - apparently the Chicago Tribune, a broadsheet, is testing the appeal of a tabloid version of the paper. The Sun-Times, by the way, is a tabloid. I think generally, the writing in the Sun-Times is poorer quality than the Trib, but I could understand subscribing to it for Roger Ebert's columns.)
On the other hand, I'm extremely grateful that I got a gift subscription to the Sunday New York Times. I love having a copy of the paper to curl up with while watching the Sunday morning talk shows.
The Economist is in a completely separate category from newspapers. I enjoy weekly and monthly magazines even though I get most of my daily news from the internet because news magazines tend to have more analysis articles. It's shocking to me that The Economist didn't already have a million subscribers worldwide. I work in print advertising, and to me it's a matter of marketing the magazine properly and bringing the subscription rate down enough to make it worthwhile for the occasional reader to subscribe. If The Economist was really interested in a significantly higher circ, they'd offer more subscription discounts. I think they're happy with their demographics and wouldn't want to "dilute" their readership with folks who are interested in the magazine but can't afford the regular subscription price.posted by: Cynthia on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
The data to watch for are circulation figures and advertising rates - the latter is tied to the former. There are many, many indications that big-city newspaper circulation is tubing in most areas, and that those papers have been fudging their circulation figures to the point of fraud.
Another datum to look for are revenue "adjustments" in the annual reports of newspaper corporations and holding companies, as those are often the result of advertiser pressure (including the results of compulsory arbitration) concerning inflated bills that they had paid.
In most instances advertising rates are tied to circulation figures subject to contractual adjustments aka give-backs when circulation falls below targets. Disputes over this are generally resolved by binding arbitration pursuant to contract, with the arbitrations being subject to non-disclosure agreements so the public doesn't hear about them.
Newspapers and their holding companies go to great lengths to keep all such matters secret. This includes hiding pertinent statistics by such means as lumping print advertising revenue together with advertising revenue from TV and radio stations owned by the same companies.
The LA Times seems to be in serious trouble in this regard. Ask Roger Simon.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
Cynthia reminded me of new approach the Washington Post has taken. About one year ago, they began giving away a tabloid version of the Post. Main stories, info-tainment pieces of one minute reading material. Lots of ads spread throughout. Many subway commuters grab the tabloid and read on the train to their destination.
I'm not sure how the Washington Post, tabloid version squares with Tom's point about circulation numbers (how many Washington Post subscribers grab the tabloid version to read on the train?) but it's an interesting twist on the declining readership problem.posted by: EG on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
The daily broadsheet is NOT in decline. And this report is nothing new to clueful newspaper business departments. Most papers have been planning for this changing market for years and have adapted in several ways. One fairly recent innovation involves setting up online self-service advertising systems so that classified and display advertisers can purchase, design and place ads over the paper's Web site. This has generated upsells of over 30 percent in some markets. There's a lot more to it, I suppose. Including the prolifereation of free Express-style tabloids in certain areas. According to Classified Intelligence, a newsletter on newspaper advertising, there are over 1,400 daily newspapers in this country. About 10 are losing money but most are making lots of it. So I think your analysis of the newspaper industry is not accurate.posted by: Andrew Ackerman on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
Check out this Editor & Publisher link which I found on Instapundit today:
Note the specific reference to the LA Times.posted by: Tom Holsinger on 03.07.05 at 06:17 PM [permalink]
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