It’s no secret that the American newspaper industry is in trouble.
This New Yorker article by James Surowiecki from late December summarizes some of the problems:
- Advertising revenue is down. Way down. Department stores and real estate advertisers have been hit hard by the economic downturn. And online ads aren’t as lucrative as print ads.
- Fewer people subscribe to newspapers now. Surowiecki notes that “as a percentage of the population, newspapers have about half as many subscribers as they did four decades ago — but the Internet helped turn that slow puncture into a blowout.”
- Newspaper companies, critics say, have failed to innovate. Surowiecki says they’ve focused on the product — the newspaper — rather than the consumer.
- Ironically, papers like the New York Times are actually more widely-read now than, say, 10 years ago. But revenues are down since most readers are accessing the site online, for free.
- For solutions to the profit problem, Surowiecki points to a foundation/nonprofit model, bailouts from rich patrons, or increased online revenues.
Where do newspapers go from here?
Here are some resources for further reading:
- New York Magazine: “The New Journalism: Goosing the Gray Lady”
- The Atlantic: End Times: Can America’s paper of record survive the death of newsprint? Can journalism?
- Slate: “How Newspapers Tried to Invent the Web. But failed”
- Columbia Journalism Review: “Overload! Journalism’s battle for relevance in an age of too much information”
- The Atlantic: “Why I Blog,” by Andrew Sullivan.
- If you’re interested in the future of online journalism, I suggested following a few folks on Twitter. Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU, is an endless source of interesting thoughts. And so is Steve Yelvington, a new media strategist.