By paulgillin | March 5, 2009 - 6:37 pm - Posted in BusinessModel, Future of Journalism, NewMedia

Newspaper Fan, who comments frequently on this site, asks the following question. How about giving him/her your views? Comment below.

I work at a newspaper and am trying like crazy to get out. But let me say this for the record. It’s over for newspapers. I mean over, done. Right now, the plan is to hang on for as long as possible before folding up. Obviously some papers will remain, and some well-run ones will turn a profit, but this has reached the endgame for 90 percent. It’s over. There will be no rebound. Who would be these products? Would like to hear others’ opinions.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 5th, 2009 at 6:37 pm and is filed under BusinessModel, Future of Journalism, NewMedia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

20 Comments

  1. March 5, 2009 @ 7:03 pm



    Here in Minneapolis the Star Tribune has an average of 2 or 3 pages of classified ads each day. How long can they survive on that? Four years ago the classified ad section averaged 16 to 20 pages a day.

    Posted by Rick Notch
  2. March 5, 2009 @ 7:37 pm



    I disagree with the 90% number.
    There are a plethora of small (tiny) community [hyper-local] newspapers in the USA. Many of these are thriving as they offer the only source for local info and typically have small debt loads.
    For every LA TImes, there a probably 10+ of these small papers.

    This year’s strategy for large-city papers will be two-fold:
    1. Beat the employees down on wages and benefits.
    2. Screw the creditors through the use of bankruptcy.

    But, in the end (about 2 years from now), I would hazard a guess that 60% of large newspapers are gone.

    Posted by Dave Barnes
  3. March 5, 2009 @ 8:35 pm



    I work at a newspaper, too, and I’m pretty convinced newspapers as we formerly understood them are done. I hope — and pray — that journalism isn’t. I think some newspapers will embrace online, get creative and find ways to make it pay. I think some entrepreneurial journalists will invent ways to reach readers — and eventually make money.

    I think there will still be a place for young journalists, but they’ll need to have many more skills and be more multi-disciplinary than when I started in the business. And they may never have the luxury of the kind of job with benefits that I got to enjoy.

    Posted by Gina Chen
  4. March 5, 2009 @ 9:09 pm



    The newspapers that survive will be niche newspapers, which may include many of the smaller local papers. Those in the most trouble are the large metro dailies. But even the small town dailies need to change, probably to a once or twice per week schedule, with print basically a sideline to comprehensive web presence. There’s no other way to build a business model anymore, and Fan is right that it’s over. The downward spiral of newspaper share of market has gone beyond the point of possible recovery. It will be difficult for the existing papers to make the transition to online plus weekly print, given all their infrastructural baggage. More likely local startups will seize the opportunity and take over the territory. Either way, there’s plenty of opportunity for Fan as a journalist or marketing type. Not so much if he or she works in circulation or runs the press.

    Posted by Martin Langeveld
  5. March 5, 2009 @ 10:43 pm



    I agree that small community weeklies are in fairly good shape and that most long-time metro dailies are done for over the next couple of years. However, I think it’s important to keep in mind two things: not every urban resident has Internet access and lots of advertisers still depend on dailies. Where will Macy’s put their ads when the dailies fall?

    But once they do, I think the Metro chain is going to expand content (though perhaps not coverage, as they have small reporting staffs) and fill the gap for another couple of years. But if the big dailies didn’t have such crippling debt, would they still be profitable?

    Posted by CollegeSteve
  6. March 6, 2009 @ 1:30 am



    The only thing that’s truly over is the monopoly newspapers have enjoyed for the past 50 years.

    Newspaper people always made more money that people in TV or radio because the money was there for higher salaries. That money is going away.

    I’m taking on all the freelance work I can get in anticipation of my newspaper salary going way down.

    Posted by Tom Mangan
  7. March 6, 2009 @ 7:56 am



    Journalism is about to see its influence spread far and wide as it will no longer be perceived as the exclusive domain of the newspapers.

    I predict increases in the number of people taking journalism classes and reporting on what they witness to social media outlets and raising the general quality of the overall reporting. (I am an early adopter of this as I am engaged in media and communication courses by going back to school at 55.)

    Edited outlets are going to see a flourishing as soon as the dust settles around the stock market crash of 2008-2009.

    We will evolve ‘part time’ business models where people are employed at a something and expected to maintain a blog on it as “par for the course.’ The best posts (written in engaging styles with veracity, verifiability, verisimilitude and honesty,) will be selected and paid for by news aggregators (who will in turn be paid by advertisers.

    (Forget about 401Ks and investing in the market for a while. Look to Japan if you want to see what our economy’s going to look like. That said, its not bad. Its just not that vibrant an economy. That belongs to China.)

    Posted by msbpodcast
  8. March 6, 2009 @ 12:14 pm



    Some interesting responses. I will admit my 90 percent number, like the first poster said, was too high. But I think we agree on the basic idea here. Newspapers just don’t have much more they can cut before the product is useless. Also, to Martin, I used to be on your staff at the Berkshire Eagle. Small world.

    Posted by Newspaper Fan
  9. March 6, 2009 @ 3:39 pm



    I would say 90 percent is correct, if you shift your time line to 2013 or 2015.

    Color e-ink is in the commercial market in japan right now. It is slated to hit the western markets in 2011. As things are – passive displays in electronic readers are not ready to replace textbooks or magazines. That is going to change. Already Texas is pushing to abandon paper for textbooks, even though laptops are not the best devices to display electronic versions.

    I expect a very rapid shift to electronic format for textbooks, Technical manuals, and the comics industry in 2004. If you consider how many reading devices the military technical services alone will be buying – it is staggering.

    I believe that this will be analogous to when the Government shifted from analog to digital test equipment in the early 1980s – which in turn brought digital multimeters within budget range of every air conditioner repairman or even hobbyist.

    Expect Electronic readers to drop to a range affordable to even the welfare class. Suddenly. Within a two year time span.

    This will pretty rapidly be the death of paper communications outside legal documents.
    Think of vinyl records, which now survive as a niche market for a few die hard enthusiasts.

    Posted by Solitude
  10. March 6, 2009 @ 3:43 pm



    “Who would be these products?”

    I think you meant who would _buy_ these products?

    I’m a lousy speller myself. Proofreading you own writing isn’t that easy. That’s why there are – I mean were – copyeditors at most newspapers. Every day in the local daily I see all sorts of mistakes, especially in the headlines, stuff that a spellchecker program would easily flag. (I’m using Word right now to catch most of my mistakes.) If the editors are too lazy or rushed to put out a halfway accurate product in the way of proper spelling and grammar, I wonder about the quality of the rest of their rag.

    So I never buy the paper. I just read it at the library or find a copy lying around at a coffeehouse or catch the main news on the paper’s website. I try to extract some facts while the dumb mistakes amuse me at times.

    Not the best way to “appreciate” the local newspaper.

    Posted by Stan Spire
  11. March 6, 2009 @ 3:49 pm



    Stan: I did that on purpose to see who would catch the error!

    Actually, I corrected the error seconds after the original post in the other thread that led to Paul starting this one.

    Posted by Newspaper Fan
  12. March 6, 2009 @ 3:52 pm



    In my previous post, that should have read: “Proofreading _your_ own writing isn’t that easy.” Of course, that proves my point: copyeditors are important. Also, it shows that I’m a lousy speller.

    Posted by Stan Spire
  13. March 6, 2009 @ 10:58 pm



    @CollegeSteve
    “not every urban resident has Internet access”
    You are correct.
    But, every urban resident WITH MONEY has internet access.
    Those who don’t have access don’t have any money to spend with the advertisers so they don’t count.

    Posted by Dave Barnes
  14. March 7, 2009 @ 1:02 am



    They also don’t have money for a newspaper subscription.

    Posted by Newspaper Fan
  15. March 7, 2009 @ 1:18 am



    Newspaper Fan,

    Hate to admit it, but I agree with you on the demise of the paper newspaper, the electronic versions of newspapers will continue to evolve and generate revenue with time.

    Dave Barnes must be a publisher of a newspaper as he has hit the nail on the head. Newspapers are seeking out readers that are Internet savvy, because they are the target group that will buy the merchandise advertised online.

    I’m guilty of not reading newspapers myself, even though I continue to subscribe to the Los Angeles Times, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and LA Weekly, 70 percent of my newspapers are recycled.

    One year ago if you asked me how long a paper newspaper would be around I would have answered fifteen to twenty years. Today my estimate has changed to maybe two years, which I’m hoping is completely incorrect.

    Here at the Los Angeles Times the only expansion is to the online edition, with the hard copy of the newspaper slowing disappearing as we drop section after section. Is it any wonder circulation at the Times will fall below 700,000 within the next few weeks for the daily edition?

    Thank you Paul and Newspaper Fan, very interesting topic for this 36-year pressman.

    Posted by Edward Padgett
  16. March 7, 2009 @ 7:37 am



    Great comments and a general consensus, I’d say. Whether the timeframe is two years or 10, just about everyone agrees that this is an end game for major metro dailies. Some papers may continue to have a print presence, but almost certainly not in a daily form. Community weeklies may be with us for a long time, but that really depends on the community. A few big titles will survive and perhaps prosper if they have national and international reach.

    I’m particularly optimistic about the opinions expressed by Martin and msbpodcast about opportunities for young journalists. I agree there are going to be good career options for energetic, ambitious and opportunistic people who are willing to put in the effort to build their personal brands. In the future, journalists will be known more for their work than for the publications they work for. That’s got to be good, right? Support educators like Hanson Hosein, who are preparing their students for their new reality and keeping them jazzed about the future.

    Once this industry stops trying to save newspapers and focuses on reinventing journalism, this whole discussion will turn more positive. Nice to see thought leaders like Gina, Martin and Edward looking toward the future. Thanks to everyone.

    Posted by paulgillin
  17. March 7, 2009 @ 9:59 am



    Dave Barnes is not in the newspaper business at all.
    I am merely a consumer who subscribes to one metro daily, the Denver Post.

    Posted by Dave Barnes
  18. March 7, 2009 @ 12:55 pm



    One other alarming trend I failed to mention. Most of us live in neighborhoods with lots of houses. Working at night, I’m not often up in the mornings. When I am, walking the dog, it dawned on me how few newspaper bags are in front of homes today. If you’re ever up that early walking around your neighborhood, check that out. We have a mix of older and younger couples on our street, and I’m telling you, nobody gets a newspaper, maybe two or three houses among 100 that I pass. Even the occasional free papers tossed by the metro city daily often sit in the street in front of most houses cluttering up the streets. At our paper, many people call yelling “stop dropping your paper in my yard.” They don’t even want it for free. So where are all the copies going on these bogus circulation numbers? I think we know.

    Posted by Newspaper Fan
  19. March 7, 2009 @ 10:56 pm



    Relax…. newspapers aren’t doomed and journalism isn’t any more dead now than it was 20 years ago. Although I do see reporters, columnists, editors, copywriters and others nail biting and pencil chewing over the demise of worthy opponents as regularly as their once proud and daily papers hit the door steps of Americans from sea to shining, they nail bite and pencil chew only out of fear, ignorance and not thinking outside the box than actual reason.

    Remember at the local grocery store when the bag lady asks “Paper or plastic?” Well, that same question has been asked and answered by the future customers of the newspaper game but the newspaper business was so busy worrying about its demise, it had no time to hear them explain how they would be saved.

    Plastic. wtf? You heard right, plastic will save the newspaper business.

    Sure, everyone knew cutting down millions of tress to make throw away paper was a bad idea but no one thought to mention it since no one knew what could be used as a substitute. Well, now they know plastic can be used.

    Who wants to read a plastic newspaper you ask? Besides nobody, I mean?

    Not plastic newspapers…. new, cheap, plastic readers. Soon we’ll have light weight, portable, energy efficient little notebook computers with enough wireless access, enough battery power and enough low cost to make them indispensable for subscribing to not only the local, daily newspaper but a host of magazines, fan rags, email crap and spam to keep readers busy for hours.

    Throw away? Hardly…. each reader will be about the size of a notebook, not a computer notebook but one of those old timey school notebooks. It’ll hold enough subscriptions to keep you happy and when it’s memory reaches nearly full, delete or transfer old issues into your wrist, cell, lap or desktop computer for later use.

    Newspapers are dying… they’re morphing…. modernizing… coming back from the ashes.

    moss

    Posted by mossgard
  20. March 8, 2009 @ 9:07 pm



    mossgard,
    I wish you were right, but rather than existing newspaper firms morphing into the new formats, I think it’s more likely that new enterprises will emerge to gather and distribute journalistic content as replacements for newspapers. The simple reason is that most of companies publishing newspapers today are down to their bottom dollar in terms of being able to invest in new systems of news content creation and distribution; they have no credit options and no equity options they can tap, they are shrinking their pages, shrinking their staff and even deliberately shrinking their readership in order to be able to keep paying creditors who won’t lend them another nickel. With few exceptions they have no flexibility left to engage in the kind of reinvention it would take to emerge in new forms. Just as buggywhip manufacturers and passenger railroads failed to find new business models, so will printed newspapers go under without being able to find a path to transformation. I and others have been suggesting one possible way that could work if launched now, not later, which is to cut distribution to one day per week and go fully digital the rest of the time. Anyone launching such an enterprise today would have a pretty good chance of success against a “legacy” daily newspaper.

    Posted by Martin Langeveld