With increasingly frequent reports that American newspapers are in severe financial difficulty because of a rapid and accelerating shift of advertising revenue to other media outlets, it is fair to ask how citizens, investors and consumers will get their news in the next decade. Newspaper Ad Revenue Falls Nearly $2 Billion [Advertising Age].
Without a profitable newspaper industry, it is difficult to see that any of the re-purposed Web content offered online by those publishers can remain. After all, the trend is decidedly against online subscription content business models
and, as has become clear, Internet traffic to news sites needs to be an order of magnitude greater in order to support positive advertising net revenues.
Television networks like CNN
offer a little, but the bulk of their content is a superficial summary of the prior day’s news cycle, drawn principally from newspapers. And without all those reporters, how are the blogosphere or GoogleNews
going to function? As the L.A. TImes
asks in commentary
, “How long can newspapers keep delivering the news?”
This problem is one that is indifferent to politics. Whether you like the supposedly liberal New York Times or conservative Wall Street Journal or something else, not even the newspapers with the widest circulation are making any money online. The Detroit Free Press’ recent discontinuation of most home delivery to focus on Internet distribution is a serious cry for help.
So if the “paper-and-postage business” dies on the newspaper industry — which is where it certainly seems to be headed — where does that leave us? Without any serious defenders of the 1st Amendment and certainly lacking news organizations with the scale and resources to report on our increasingly interrelated world. Newspapers indeed have to reinvent themselves or die, but it is not at all clear what they should come back as in their next business model iteration.