This is no time to be a newspaper, even if you have the global reach and influence of The New York Times. With huge losses in readership and revenues, even the national paper of record is having to make changes unimaginable even a few years ago.
Other U.S. papers like The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe are facing an even starker choice: Go online, or go out of business, as the legendary Rocky Mountain News did just last week. For most newspaper operations, there’s no longer any profit in print.
Which probably means that the devastating job losses in the print news business will continue. And I––a former daily Times subscriber who now reads ‘the paper’ free online––am the reason.
It’s pretty clear where the collapse of print journalism leads. I’m just one of the most of us who will get the bulk of our news from digital sources—on some form of TV or online, through news and news aggregating sites and blogs.
Initial reactions to the daily newspaper implosion have been uniformly downbeat and despairing. Real reporting will become too costly for all but the major players, many observers say, and even what’s left will be significantly less than we’re used to.
Others contend many second-tier news markets will be left without a daily paper––without investigative reporters digging up stories citizens need to stay informed and keep government honest.
A HIGHLY SEGMENTED ONLINE NEWS MARKETPLACE
The sorry prognostication in the last paragraph seems to suggest that as physical newspapers bite the dust, news readers will content themselves with the (often) overheated drivel on cable TV news. Or keep up to date by consulting considerably scaled-back online versions of traditional print dailies, supplemented by other sources in other media.
I’m not cheerleading for corporate media. But I don’t think serious popular journalism is doomed because of the increasing marginalization of print. Instead, I think serious journalism’s practitioners will ensure success by replicating, adapted to digital formats, the same highly segmented news marketplace that exists in print.
I say that because of
--the tendency of capitalism to see opportunity in catastrophe and adapt accordingly
--the hunger, particularly in major news markets, for serious analysis, in-depth investigative reporting, and global coverage
--the likely gradual acceptance (per cable and other services) of a subscription or fee-for-content arrangement, particularly if advertisers are able to deliver their messages in ways customers don’t think of as interruptions they must endure
--the paid subscriber base that could make online more attractive to prospective advertisers