Death Knell for Print News

There is a lot of hand wringing about the decline and fall of print newspapers.  I canceled my subscription to the Minneapolis Star Tribune over a year ago because good writers and local content were harder and harder to find (not to mention the dearth of international news).  But instead of giving up on print entirely, I subscribed to the NYTimes whose $660 annual subscription is feeling a bit too luxurious in these times.  

Meanwhile, I spend way too much time reading news online.  I love to get local news from MinnPost (where most of the good writers from the Strib went anyhow), the NYTimes online edition (nicely formatted on my iPhone for reading on the train), Slate, the Economist, Time, and myriad other blogs whose RSS feeds crowd my Google home page (not to mention podcasts).  Is $660 really worth the tactile joy of opening the paper over a cup of coffee, when I’m overwhelmed with up to the minute news at my desk?

It’s no wonder people are writing the obituary of print news (to read it you’ll have to go to www.legacy.com).  Craigslist and Monster took away the want ads, advertisers are less and less interested in the demographic that still subscribes to papers, and worst of all good writing is hard to find.

As Jack Shafer points out in Slate, they did see it coming but tried to create walled gardens of content which required subscriptions.  Alas, this too has failed.  The last bastion of hope is the sports section. Mark Cuban writes in his blog that pro sports teams should come to the rescue of local papers.  Even though the Internet has infinite shelf space, the quality of local sports coverage is poor.  Maybe the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press should ask the Vikings, Twins, Wild, Timberwolves, and Gophers for a little help. 

Potential Fight Club selection: Pablo J. Boczkowski’s 2004 book, Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers.  Also, check out this interview with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google “Eric Schmidt wishes Google could save newspapers“.

Jan 13 update: Interesting chart from eMarketer on where people get their news:

news-sources1

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3 Responses to “Death Knell for Print News”


  1. 1 Steve M. January 9, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    What if The New York Times goes out of business—-like, this May?

    According to an article in the Atlantic, it’s not unbelievable.

    He tosses out a few dire possibilities for the embattled Times (another trophy for Rupert Murdoch or a sneaky acquisition by Google) and notes a few incredible facts:

    – 20 million unique Web users for NYT.com
    – 1 million print readers, 1.4 million for the Sunday edition
    – Common estimates suggest that a Web-driven NYT product could support only 20 percent of the current staff

    But interestingly, the author blames the Times itself for bringing about its current situation by moving towards “temporarily profitable lifestyle fluff” and undermining the perceived value of high-quality journalists. If they die, it’s their own damn fault.

    Stupid newspapers.

  2. 2 bobbyjones January 12, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Hearst Corp. announced Friday that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer was up for sale and will stop publishing unless someone buys it in 60 days. If no buyer emerges, the paper would either become a web-only publication or cease all operations. It also owns the money losing San Francisco Chronicle. According to Keith Kelly, Hearst “derived about 6.5 percent of its estimated $2 billion in total revenue from the Web. That’s better than the 3 percent that Condé Nast counts on from the Web, but still lags the 10 percent that Time Inc. is notching.”

  3. 3 bobbyjones January 29, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    “Imagine, if you will, sitting down to your morning coffee, turning on your home computer to see the day’s newspaper. Well, it’s not as far-fetched as it may seem.”

    Check out this news story from 1981 (not so long ago):


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