Newspapers, more dead than read

March 24, 2008

h-bomb.jpgMonday brings a fresh wave of despair to the newspaper world as sagacious authors in various media outlets let us know that the economy and the neglect of good citizens are threatening the survival of print journalism.

First up is media columnist David Carr in the New York Times, who wrote on Monday about Sam Zell, Brian Tierney and OhSang Kwon, all of whom bought into papers and have found out that the old devils aren’t what they used to be:

The industry may not be touching bottom any time soon. Last year, overall newspaper revenues dropped by about 7 percent, pushed along primarily by the secular change of readers and advertisers fleeing to the Web. And publishing, along with many other kinds of businesses, is now staring at a full-bore recession, led by the credit crisis that is fanning out across the economy.

Staple the secular and cyclical changes together and most newspapers will be staring at double-digit drops in revenue: one analyst I talked to put the figure at 15 percent. It’s clear from their rhetoric and recent moves that highly leveraged players like Mr. Tierney, the partners in Avista and Mr. Zell will have a tough time meeting their obligations.

Over at The New Yorker, Eric Alterman notes that Craigslist is creating a “palpable sense of doom” among newspaper publishers, and hauls out the usual hobgoblins (“prized journalistic possessions are suddenly looking like corporate millstones,” “the mood these days is funereal,” “Few believe that newspapers in their current form will survive,” “budget cuts, bureau closings, buyouts, layoffs and reductions in page size and column inches,” etc.) as a lengthy lead-in to a story about the Huffington Post and its revolutionary ways of presenting the news. As one of its co-founders says in the story, it’s a “shared enterprise between its producer and its consumer.”

There you have it, newspaper publishers, you’re just not as much of a “shared enterprise.”┬áSurvival is that simple.

(Photo: Reuters File)

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