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Are Newspapers Doomed? 338

Posted by kdawson
from the don't-even-say-it dept.
Ponca City, We love you writes "James Surowiecki has an interesting article in the New Yorker that crystalizes the problems facing print newspapers today and explains why we may soon be seeing more major newspapers filing for bankruptcy, as the Tribune Company did last week. 'There's no mystery as to the source of all the trouble: advertising revenue has dried up,' writes Surowiecki, but the 'peculiar fact about the current crisis is that even as big papers have become less profitable they've arguably become more popular,' with the blogosphere piggybacking on traditional journalism's content. Surowiecki imagines many possible futures for newspapers, from becoming foundation-run nonprofits to relying on reader donations to deep-pocketed patrons. 'For a while now, readers have had the best of both worlds: all the benefits of the old, high-profit regime — intensive reporting, experienced editors, and so on — and the low costs of the new one. But that situation can't last. Soon enough, we're going to start getting what we pay for, and we may find out just how little that is.'"
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Are Newspapers Doomed?

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  • Oh No! (Score:5, Funny)

    by mac1235 (962716) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:18AM (#26190733)
    This is terrible. You can't put websites at the bottom of the parrot cage!
    • or wipe your arse when times get tough

    • Re:Oh No! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:31AM (#26190803)

      This is terrible. You can't put websites at the bottom of the parrot cage!

      Newspapers were considered so important to the country that the first amendment to the Constitution preserved the freedom of the press. It's sad that I'll likely live to see the end of newspapers in this country. Most have already lost relevance. It may seem cool to get your news from bloggers but they aren't news sources they just voice opinions they aren't held to any standards. Even broadcast news is all opinion pieces these days. Objective news is a dying thing. Free speech and freedom of the press were separate things in the Constitution for a reason. One is opinion and one is supposed to preserve the right to objective news that isn't controlled by the government. This country would not exist as we know it without newspapers so they deserve more respect than to be viewed as bird cage filler. It'll be a sad day when the last newspaper closes. The founding fathers would be horrified and we should be as well.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Planesdragon (210349)

        Newspapers were considered so important to the country that the first amendment to the Constitution preserved the freedom of the press.

        Nope. Newspapers aren't all that important, even in those early days.

        What was really important was pamhlets. And those live on, in the form of not only that laser printer on your desk, but also the flash-ban books in the nonfiction section. And blogs.

        Free speech and freedom of the press were separate things in the Constitution for a reason.

        Yes, but not for the reason you think. Speech and press are mentioned separately -- in the REDUNDANT first ten amendments -- because we inherited British jurisprudence, which has them be separate things.

        Remember that the Bill of Rights was written as a "sur

        • by Dun Malg (230075)

          the Bill of Rights was written as a "sure, we'll put it in just to be safe" thing. It wasn't part of the original negotiated plan, and was likely written by a legislator who was trying to compe up with a good inclusive list one afternoon.

          Worse, it was essentially written by a committee of representatives from the individual states. One faction would want X Y and Z to be emphasized, another wanted A B and C, another A X and F, so we ended up with Amendments saying "A B C F X Y Z, and also the kitchen sink". For example, the @nd is a compromise between the faction that wanted to emphasize the states' right to call up the militia, and another the individual right to keep and bear arms. Subsequently we have an amendment that says both in a some

        • Unlikely, actually (Score:3, Informative)

          by SteveFoerster (136027)

          Remember that the Bill of Rights was written as a "sure, we'll put it in just to be safe" thing. It wasn't part of the original negotiated plan, and was likely written by a legislator who was trying to compe up with a good inclusive list one afternoon.

          The way you say "likely" shows that even you can tell that you don't know what you're talking about. The U.S. Bill of Rights was introduced by James Madison the year after the Constitution was ratified. It was a compromise with anti-federalists who had been

      • Re:Oh No! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by theaveng (1243528) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:21AM (#26191011)

        >>>Free speech and freedom of the press were separate things in the Constitution for a reason. One is opinion and one is supposed to preserve the right to objective news
        >>>

        This is revisionist history. If you actually traveled back to the 1780s, 1790s, and 1810s, you would find all kinds of "unverified opinions" coming out of the presses. Newspapers and pamphlets (like "Common Sense" by Paine) were typically run by a single man, and that man used his press to push his own personal views. There was no objectivity back then.

        And why should there be? If I want to publish a newspaper called "Liberty Today" why should I have to present both sides? It's MY paper and MY press. I should be able to decide what will and will not be published with MY dollars.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Hognoxious (631665)

          No individual view is objectve, but if different views are aired - without any official hindrance (congess shall make no law...), people can make up their own minds among them. In practice the real extreme loonies usually cancel each other out.

          That of course works as long as the people are well informed & educated enough to choose wisely...

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by theaveng (1243528)

            Precisely. +1 Insightful. We don't need objective papers; we need biased papers with citizens reading both, and reaching their own conclusions. (In most cases the truth is probably in the middle.)

      • Re:Oh No! (Score:4, Informative)

        by yoshi_mon (172895) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:49AM (#26191137)

        Newspapers were considered so important to the country that the first amendment to the Constitution preserved the freedom of the press.

        If we follow that what you say is true, which I don't but lets for the sake of argument, then horse carts were also considered important to the country at that time. However you don't see the US still keeping that industry afloat. Rather it's the free press part that matters.

        Newspapers are dying out due to technological advances. By virtue of what they represent it's more sad than with other things that have done so. And of course they will go down kicking and screaming. I'll personally miss a cheap way to line a kitten or puppies floor area. Or an alternative to a drop cloth when I'm painting something.

      • Re:Oh No! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by lysergic.acid (845423) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @10:11AM (#26191249) Homepage

        correction: free press is so important to democracy that the first amendment to the Constitution specifically includes a clause for its explicit preservation. there's a reason it's called 'freedom of press,' not 'freedom of newspaper.'

        i think it would be sad for professional journalism to go the way of the dodo, however i don't see this as likely to happen. we're simply seeing a shift from traditional media--like newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, etc.--to the new media of the web. and frankly, this is a very good thing. over the past few decades the mainstream media has become increasingly consolidated, with most media outlets being controlled by a handful of media conglomerates. this has not only homogenized the media, but it has also put the power of controlling how the public perceives the world into the hands of a select few.

        however, with the advent of the web, we're starting to see a resurgence in independent news sources. this along with web search technology has made it easier than ever for individuals to access a wide/diverse range of media sources large and small, allowing people to account for inherent biases in the media and easily perform their own research and fact-checking. whereas newspapers and TV networks rarely publish/broadcast corrections (where people can see them) and admit to their journalistic blunders (such as the whole Saddam Hussein/al-Qaida connection, the non-existent WMDs, the incorrect reporting of election results, etc.), the online media establishment is very keen to challenge the facts reported by other news sources and identify misinformation.

        frankly, this notion that print journalism is dead or dying is nothing new. TV/radio was supposed to have killed print journalism a long time ago. when JFK was shot, the newspapers found themselves unable to keep up with the live coverage and constant updates by TV networks. by the time they got a story out, it was already outdated or incorrect because the story had changed. they had to release several editions on the same day, and ended up printing different versions of the same edition with conflicting headlines [historybuff.com]. but somehow they managed to survive to this day one way or another.

        personally, i'd prefer if newspapers became non-profits. by selling ads (usually about 50% of each edition) newspaper publishers become beholden to advertisers. additionally, most traditional media outlets are commercially tied to other corporate industries which have a vested interest in pushing public opinion in a certain direction, creating a very dangerous conflict of interest. for instance, General Electric, a major arms manufacturer, owns NBC, CNBC, MSNBC. this has serious implications on how these media outlets cover (or don't cover) the news.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I care about my newspapers a lot and would really hate it if they went away. I think they definitely bring something else to the table in terms of news and certain papers are consistently of higher standard than ALL web news outlets because of their indepth reporting, (relatively) unbiased opinion and greater, more sensible appreciation of the bigger picture.

          However I don't care about winning over any of you /.ers with this argument- life's too short for that. There is one angle that I can take on this whi

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bodrius (191265)

          personally, i'd prefer if newspapers became non-profits. by selling ads (usually about 50% of each edition) newspaper publishers become beholden to advertisers.

          It sends chills down my spine whenever people talk about non-profits as if they're the magical solution to impartiality and objectivity. It works for a certain type of work, but it would be a dangerous model for newspapers to adopt.

          With very few exceptions, non-profits are just not economically independent enough, as they are by far much more at the mercy of their supporters. Since most exceptions are NPOs under the benevolent umbrella of a government or very large organization's budget (e.g.: U.N.), I'd be

      • by jbolden (176878)

        30 years ago most newspapers had strong ideological biases. In the 70s the minor papers folded and the more "mainstream" hardnews papers picked up their readership which bought those papers years. Then the competition started to fold and most cities ended up with one major daily paper.

        Newspapers during the 70s were much more like the cable news shows are today. The situation you see is recent. And I should mention just as we see today excellent detailed research from blogs in the 1950s you used to see r

      • Re:Oh No! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by M1rth (790840) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @10:45AM (#26191445)

        It may seem cool to get your news from bloggers but they aren't news sources they just voice opinions they aren't held to any standards.

        Newspapers haven't had standards at least since the 1970s.

        Even broadcast news is all opinion pieces these days.

        "Duh." Anyone who watched the insane rush to anoint Barack Obama and the nastiness with which every member of the press treated the other side (not to mention the witch-hunt mentality towards the few actually neutral reporters who dared to ask Obama/Biden the TOUGH questions) will realize this.

        Of course, there's plenty of other evidence why this was the case [howobamagotelected.com].

        Objective news is a dying thing.

        Again, "Duh." The populace hasn't demanded balanced news, so it's dying. The recent push for the reinstitution of the "Fairness Doctrine" [wikipedia.org] by the Dems is not really about "fairness", it's about their trying to take a stab at media outlets that don't carry their party line; you can be damn sure they would claim the "big" news networks are already "fair" and so "don't need changing" while they try to censor out anyone that doesn't agree with them.

        Free speech and freedom of the press were separate things in the Constitution for a reason. One is opinion and one is supposed to preserve the right to objective news that isn't controlled by the government.

        "The right to objective news that isn't controlled by the government" - sadly, the idea of "objective news" is nigh impossible to find. There are so many ways to tilt a story:

        - Weasel words
        - Incendiary words
        - Selective sourcing
        - Abuse of statistics ("counting the hits, forgetting the misses", etc)

        And that's just a few.

        It'll be a sad day when the last newspaper closes.

        Funny, I think the opposite. Newspapers will either adapt, or they won't. I'd rather have a lot more, smaller newspapers (and local papers seem to do just fine, because they can get locally-targeted advertising) competing and catching each other's mistakes than one big conglomerate that simply wants to indoctrinate, lie to, deceive, manipulate, and tilt the story over and over and over again.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          The creator of howobamagotelected.com is an idiot. Specifically, John Zeigler is a standard, right-wing blowhard (former) talkshow host. Check out Nate Silver's interview with Zeigler [fivethirtyeight.com], where they discuss the poll that is the flimsy centerpiece of howobamagotelected.com.

          He calls Silver a "pinhead", "a hack", "the enemy", and ended the interview by twice telling Silver to "go fuck [himself]. He refuses to say who financed the poll, and constantly mocks his interviewer for not having the guts to post a tran

      • by Dun Malg (230075)

        Newspapers were considered so important to the country that the first amendment to the Constitution preserved the freedom of the press.

        No, free (as in liberty) dissemination of information in was considered important, so the dominant technology for that purpose was protected.

      • Certainly news/political bloggers are news sources. They tell us new things about their subjects. Hell, powerful and influential people sometimes give them scoops, exclusives, and leaks.

        The idea that old media journalists have standards while bloggers do not is simply ludicrous. It's surprising that anyone makes that claim while simultaneously sharing a planet with Fox News.

        In looking for information on "blogging standards", I came across this post on journalistic ethics [donaldsensing.com]. Author points out that, unlike

  • by Mal-2 (675116) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:19AM (#26190739) Homepage Journal

    Once most of the people who grew up reading newspapers die or just stop reading them, it's inevitable that the print form will cease to exist -- as we know it. I see a lot more prints of news websites than I see newspaper clippings, so the need for SOME of it to hit paper is still there. It's just that most people don't want the whole thing delivered physically any more. They still want the content, but most of it never leaves the digital form, so while NEWSPAPERS may die, journalism does not necessarily follow suit.

    Mal-2

    • by digitig (1056110) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:10AM (#26190949)

      Once most of the people who grew up reading newspapers die or just stop reading them, it's inevitable that the print form will cease to exist -- as we know it.

      That would be me, then. I grew a broadsheet reader, but I don't bother nowadays. The press try to claim a "gatekeeper" role, filtering the real news from the dross (I see they're still claiming "intensive reporting, experienced editors, and so on"), but they've long since abandoned that. Apart from opinion, all you find in newspapers now is PR releases reprinted almost verbatim and Associated Press reports reprinted almost verbatim (it's fascinating to compare reports of the same incident in different newspapers: big news each paper will put it's own spin on, but mid-range and low level news is often word-for-word the same between newspapers). The only question the editors ask is "will this sell" (more precisely, "will this supply readers who we can sell to advertisers"), which is no more effective as a gatekeeper than the blogger who says "will this entertain my readers". I don't see how the news press can survive; it's only added value for the readers would be investigation, fact checking and real, on-the-ground reporting, and that's expensive (too expensive for the extra readership it attracts). All that's left is pure entertainment -- celeb gossip, pictures of scantily clad young people and amusing factoids pretending to be news. The internet is a threat there, too, but at least it's cheaper. I'm guessing that it's cheaper to send a reporter to a celebrity party than to a war zone?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NonSequor (230139)

      I think the newspapers with wider circulation may survive with local papers dying out completely. It should be possible for the nationally distributed newspapers to cannibalize the local and regional newspapers by offering versions with local news.

      On top of that, they could probably also offer additional customization of content such as allowing you to choose which columnists appear in your copy. A service like that, combined with the fact that at least some sentimentality over print is likely to be passed

      • by SkyDude (919251) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @10:22AM (#26191319)
        I see just the opposite happening. In my area the Boston Glob is hemorrhaging a reported $1,000,000 per week. Almost all of the extra entertainment stuff - science and tech columnists, society, etc - is gone now. The Sunday paper used to be hundreds of page, but now is barely 60 - 70 pages long.

        On the other hand, my local paper, run by a chain that publishes a similar paper in about two dozen nearby areas, is thriving, albeit not setting any profitability records.

        Local papers have local news and that's what's important to people. It's still a thrill for a parent to see their kid's picture in the local paper. Local merchants need a way to reach local customers.

        When the web becomes a truly localized place for most people, then the small papers may disappear. Right now they fill a niche and throughout all of publishing, those are the businesses that are surviving the "onslaught" of the web.

  • "Soon?" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by plasmacutter (901737) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:21AM (#26190747)

    'For a while now, readers have had the best of both worlds: all the benefits of the old, high-profit regime â" intensive reporting, experienced editors, and so on â" and the low costs of the new one. But that situation can't last. Soon enough, we're going to start getting what we pay for, and we may find out just how little that is.'

    really? I thought that vanished in 1999

    There has been very little fact checking or true investigation in reporting in quite some time, and I'm afraid you can't blame the internet for that.

    Newspapers will not die though. Most of their stories are sourced from the same organizations which source on-line content (reuters, associated press, et al), and they will continue on in their ineptitude and failure to fact check or investigate, as usual.

    • Re:"Soon?" (Score:4, Insightful)

      by OpenSourced (323149) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:06AM (#26190931) Journal

      Newspapers will not die though. Most of their stories are sourced from the same organizations which source on-line content (reuters, associated press, et al), and they will continue on in their ineptitude and failure to fact check or investigate, as usual.

      Aye. And also newspapers are (have always been IMHO) "influencers". They are bought and maintained with the idea of having a way of influencing public opinion. In a democracy, public opinion is a source of money, so the owners of newspapers are richly paid beyond the advertising revenues, in ways not reflected in the accounting books. In short, we are always reading about newspapers dying, but I seem to detect no lack of them in the newsstands.

    • Re:"Soon?" (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:25AM (#26191025) Homepage Journal

      I would argue it was even before that when the 'news' papers ( and TV news ) lost all morality and no longer reported news, but instead lies and agendas.

      My realization came in the late 80s after witnessing an 'event' in person and noticing that NOONE had the truth afterwards. Each news outlet twisted the facts to suit their own agenda. But if you were not there you would never know.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by couchslug (175151)

        "Each news outlet twisted the facts to suit their own agenda. But if you were not there you would never know."

        That's why I get my news from unbiased sources like Fox, Kos, and 4chan.

    • Re:"Soon?" (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SydShamino (547793) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @11:16AM (#26191663)

      You are incorrect. There is still solid investigative news journalism going on. You just don't notice it because of the flood of other news from the limited number of places you look (many of which are likely tailored to your interests), and that is the fault of the internet.

      Look at the list of "ongoing special projects" on this page describing the investigative journalism [mcclatchy.com] at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Each of those stories was an extensive investigation followed by a series of articles. Every one of them went through several reviews to ensure objectivity and defense-ability, because true, print journals publishing libel is easy fodder for lawsuits. In several cases, the subjects of the stories were arrested and charged after the stories were published, based in part on the research.

      • by coryking (104614) *

        You just don't notice it because of the flood of other news from the limited number of places you look (many of which are likely tailored to your interests), and that is the fault of the internet.

        Or you turned it off or wrote a nasty email because whoever they were investigating was "your guy" and "the mainstream media is just trying to smear him".

        The people who whine the most about the quality and standards of our media are probably the least of us all to handle what they are asking for. Lord forbid the "

  • i hope so (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ionix5891 (1228718) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:23AM (#26190753)

    last I checked my local newspaper was easily 50% to 70% just ads

    and the content trashy with alot of spelling mistakes

    at least on the web we can adblock the noise

    • Re:i hope so (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hierofalcon (1233282) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:55AM (#26191163)

      This is the primary reason that the newspaper industry must survive. Ad revenue is what supports the media industry (whatever media you choose to pick). Everyone ignores ads to a greater or lesser extent. But it is easier for the publishers to sell companies on the idea that their ads might be seen in a physical media than an on-line media. This is the primary reason that the TV industry is so against the time shifters - be it VCRs or more modern variants. If my commercial is zapped, why should I pay to put it on your show? It's a point that is even harder to sell on-line.

      When there is no revenue from ads, the subscribers won't pay a high enough price to cover your operating costs. How many on-line news sources do you actually subscribe to? How many do you subscribe to if the "cost" is nothing more than an on-line registration? I'd guess pretty few. So you are a content leach. That works fine for you, since there are still enough people paying money in print (or cable TV subscriptions, or on-line equivalents) to pay people enough to produce content that they can distribute in its entirety or in reduced form to the on-line world.

      If the revenue flow ceases to exist, there isn't going to be much content worth reading. As things become tighter, you can be assured that those providing content will seek to protect it further. The cost of litigation is something that the on-line bloggers haven't had to deal with much yet. You can rest assured it will happen.

      Those editors have lots of job functions. I'll be the first to agree that the quality of the newspapers has declined somewhat. The editors might be just as good, but the reporters ability to write correct English has declined. More mistakes are getting through edit. Another important job function is to keep the content fresh. A particular blogger may have an agenda, but if he or she never extends beyond that agenda - do you keep coming back? A third job function is to keep the paper from being sued for libel. That is another litigation expense that the on-line only crowd hasn't had to deal with much yet.

      On-line will always have a place. It is convenient to find news about a particular subject during the day when the newspaper is not at hand. But at the end of the day of looking at a computer screen for 8 hours, I'd much rather sit down to a nice local newspaper and a nice global newspaper to read the pieces of news I'm interested in. I personally can't stand the talking heads on TV blathering the same 1 minute sound bite every 15 minutes. I'd much rather skip around and read what I want from print.

      • by winwar (114053)

        "If the revenue flow ceases to exist, there isn't going to be much content worth reading."

        For me, the ads aren't an issue. The real problem is lack of good content. Most content is just AP "filler", the same as I can get online.

        The only really value added parts of the paper are the local news and investigative reports. I imagine this is also the expensive part-something online sources just won't do. That is why the loss of good papers are bad.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21, 2008 @10:09AM (#26191231)

      'last I checked my local newspaper was easily 50% to 70% just ads

      and the content trashy with alot of spelling mistakes...'

      How did you notice?

    • by HungSoLow (809760)
      "and the content trashy with alot of spelling mistakes"

      I think you mean "a lot". Sorry, couldn't help myself.
  • by Darundal (891860) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:24AM (#26190759) Journal
    ...I honestly would expect a death to printed pornography before the death of the printed newspaper.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tony Hoyle (11698) *

      http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/2003/11/61165 [wired.com]

      And that's 2003... it's got worse since.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by theaveng (1243528)

        >>>Goldstein stopped publishing Screw magazine and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy,

        Well that's a loss of a fine publication. Boy. Our civilization will never be the same without "Screw" magazine. ;-) But seriously there's still a market for porn, but you can't just publish any old trash. You have to select the most artistic photos - something worthy of hanging in a museum, not some junk you tossed together in 5 minutes. If you make the photos artistic, you'll can still sell them in book form.

        I

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:26AM (#26190773)

    OK, newspapers have their problems, but the biggest problem with the Tribune is that Sam Zell loaded it up with an unmanageable level of debt when he bought it.

    The Tribune is more an example of how raiders like Zell enrich themselves during a leveraged buyout than an example of a failing newspaper.

    • by tverbeek (457094) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @10:23AM (#26191325) Homepage
      OK, but there are plenty of other examples. The Detroit Free Press and News just announced that they're canceling home delivery of the paper, except for Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. If you live in Detroit, the time-honored tradition of sitting down to breakfast every morning with the local paper is over. They're still going to update the web sites, so technically Detroit is not without a "daily", but this is an ominous sign.

      Everyone's talking about how the advertising model isn't working, well what this says is that the subscriber model isn't working either. That doesn't leave many funding models to try... let's see... government subsidy, pledge drives and tip jars, billionaire sponsorship, bake sales, criminal enterprise, and "... ???? ... Profit!"
  • by DinZy (513280) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:27AM (#26190781)

    Ad revenue cannot and should not sustain newspapers or television. We really need to figure out what is important to have in our society and start ponying up money to support it. I would like to see more money going to services like PBS and NPR to expand that quality of programming into a local printed publication. I have to admit that I very rarely read a paper, but I do listen to NPR pretty much every time I am in the car and I recognize that the bulk of their programming comes from news discovered by print journalists.

    Go ahead and tax people for it and give the papers away. If there are no reporters out there to dig up the interesting stories that don't qualify for the sensationalist 10PM news shows then we are in danger of losing that part of our history. It's time people stop thinking about themselves, and making a quick buck on ads by catering to the lowest common denominator and start thinking about what they can do to add value to the quality of life for the entire human race.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248)

      I do not want to support what you support. I'm perfectly happy without TV and getting my news on the internet without any level of burden to tax payers save the .gov sites.

      Go ahead and tax people for it and give the papers away.

      Why? Everytime I go see a free paper on one of typical newspaper vending machines, most of them are still there. People don't value them because they see it's free and figure it translates to cheap or not worthwhile. Also, many people take those free papers and not read one word,

      • by Dogtanian (588974)

        Everytime I go see a free paper on one of typical newspaper vending machines, most of them are still there. People don't value them because they see it's free and figure it translates to cheap or not worthwhile.

        I'm not too bothered about free newspapers because they're normally designed for most of the content to be read within 5-10 minutes. If I'm on the bus I'll pick one up, read everything of interest and leave it for someone else, but I wouldn't take it home because I'd just end up throwing it out. I'd rather just buy something like The Independent, which has gone from 60-70p to £1 within a relatively short space of time, but is still worth it because it contains a lot to read and in-depth stuff which is

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by owlnation (858981)

      Ad revenue cannot and should not sustain newspapers or television.

      Utter and complete nonsense. Almost every TV company in the free world is ad supported. Most usually successfully, until recently anyway. You are aware that many TV executives get paid in the millions?

      The only reason Newspapers and TV companies are struggling is because they are failing to take advantage of new technology. They cling to 1950's business models -- Neilsen ratings, distribution and syndication methods that have remained unc

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by YrWrstNtmr (564987)
        The internet allows then to target market, and understand audiences much better than the print, and cathode ray based media.

        Not necessarily. Targeting is not just by want, but also by time and location. Print and TV are location based, due to physics.
        For example, if we take a fast food restaurant: By necessity, location based. Corporate wants to run a trial sandwich, only in a certain area, for a certain period of time. It will advertise that new McStinky only on the local channels, for a specific price
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by theaveng (1243528)

      >>>. I would like to see more money going to services like PBS and NPR

      Then give them more of YOUR money; not mine. I don't want my dollars going to support those pro-government, anti-individual (i.e. socialist) organizations. If you like PBS/NPR, I'm happy for you and fully support your decision to give money to them. But Not my money. My money stays in my wallet.

      • by cellocgw (617879)

        >>>. I would like to see more money going to services like PBS and NPR

        Then give them more of YOUR money; not mine. I don't want my dollars going to support those pro-government, anti-individual (i.e. socialist) organizations. If you like PBS/NPR, I'm happy for you and fully support your decision to give money to them. But Not my money. My money stays in my wallet.

        And thus dies the /. moderation system. The only people who could possibly have labelled that "insightful" are neo-libertarians. Look:

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by theaveng (1243528)

          >>>"insightful," which means actual info was provided,

          Bzzz. That's not what insightful means. "Informative" is the label for actual info provided, and my post was not labeled as such so no harm; no foul.

  • The newspapers could adapt to changing technology. Although, it looks like they are already. I see more and more newspapers becoming online-only, for better or worse. The "major" ones will probably continue print editions, but they'll be only on Sundays or something. How this will effect people who can't get the Internet, I don't know, but it's one of the few ways they can stay profitable.

  • news from the 1990s (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tom (822) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:31AM (#26190807) Homepage Journal

    Newspapers have been declared dead every few years for the past 15 or so. When I went to university, one of our projects was to come up with suggestions on how newspapers could leverage all the new tech (Internet was new at that time) so they could "survive".

    Look, they're still around. I guess they'll still be here in another 15 years.

    • Newspapers have been declared dead every few years for the past 15 or so.

      I see your 15, and raise you 10. When I started to work in 1985, the "paperless office" was "just a few days away." Hewlett-Packard begs to differ. Every time that I enter our printer room, I am amazed that a rubber boat full of Greenpeace protesters is not there; we seem to go through paper like nobody's business.

      Look, they're still around. I guess they'll still be here in another 15 years.

      Yepp, seems like FORTRAN and COBOL, rumors of their death have been grossly exaggerated.

    • Nobody's saying they'll just go "poof" and just cease to exist, one day. There most certainly will be newspapers around in 15 years time. But how many?
      I used to read a newspaper in the metro, and even got the paper delivered to my mailbox; but it's even easier to just read it on one of my 24" screens instead of having to go down the stairs to pick it up. And in the metro I just read the news on my $smartphone.

  • What we are really seeing is the death of the single media outlet.

    In this age you can't just work one media. Newspapers as they were are gone. TV news as it was is gone. Web news even will cease to exist.

    What we will see is more of the type of CNN MSNBC were you have journalists that do blog articles, video news reports and print articles all at the same time.

    In the new age you're a content creator whatever media the content is transmitted by

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:35AM (#26190827)

    internet. Once micropayments came along (which back then was always real soon), everything on the internet was supposed to become pay-for. Every website you visit would deduct a fraction of a penny from your browser or something. This would be "necessary" to pay for inherent costs. What they didn't count on was that on the internet, oftentimes, if someone doesn't provide it free, someone else is willing to step in and grab that audience.

    Also, since many newspapers are little more than repackaged AP and Reuters news, looking at the NY Times for guidance - I don't know what their value proposition is supposed to be. This past election cycle, because I paid attention to politics - I have seen how the old media doesn't even pretend to present the world as it is but just their packaged version of it - they do a bad job of reporting things of niche interest - 3rd parties, other people running other than the "top 2" candidates that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, etc.

    Considering this, what value do they bring to the table? If they don't carry the most general of news, someone else will. And since they don't cover anything in depth (not every interest in audience, by nature), most easy to find forums, blogs, etc will cover a subject deeper and be more informative.

    All I see is someone bickering that their pre-packaged, repackaged jack-of-all-subjects, master-of-none is becoming obsolete by the fact that it's not the pre-1980s anymore when people relied on print to stay informed.

    • by timeOday (582209) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @10:33AM (#26191369)

      Also, since many newspapers are little more than repackaged AP and Reuters news, looking at the NY Times for guidance - I don't know what their value proposition is supposed to be.

      This ignores the point of the article - that the bedrock, actual "sources" of news such as the NYT are also in dire financial straits [gawker.com]. Once they are gone (and by that I don't mean "cease to exist," merely that the quality nosedives because there are fewer investigative journalist slots) then all the secondary news sources you decry - and their readers - will be high and dry. The blogs and forums are just cud-chewers. Somebody still has to do the interviews and take the photos for them to ruminate over.

    • I don't know if you noticed, but the internet is much less free. Much more of the screen realestate is used for ads. Much more selling of our personal information is done. Many websites, like /., have a payment based model.

      In these cases, I don't see that it has anything to do with perceived value to the consumer. It has mostly to do with the profits perceived by the operators, owners, and employees. For instance the internet companies of 90's were infected with people who just wanted to get rich qui

    • The AP Model? (Score:3, Interesting)

      Also, since many newspapers are little more than repackaged AP and Reuters news, looking at the NY Times for guidance - I don't know what their value proposition is supposed to be.

      I've heard at least one pundit suggest that maybe some newspapers should become like the AP - disassociate themselves from the publishing side of things. Stop publishing their newspapers themselves and instead become a subscription service that sells local coverage of their news to other newspapers. Whether it would actually

  • by Ken D (100098) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:37AM (#26190833)

    I get two newspapers each week.
    One is going broke, one is doing fine.
    One is skimmed, one is read front to back.
    One is full of AP content, one has no AP content.
    One is full of news I have already seen online, one is full of fresh stories.

    Most newspapers are trying to churn out stories for the AP, hoping that their (version of the) story gets picked up and brings in some money. Meanwhile they have to pay for the expensive incoming AP stories, which they use liberally in their papers to justify the cost, filling their paper with barely readable, highly edited and condensed, dreck that has been widely available elsewhere.

    Newspapers that will survive are covering the stories that no one else is covering.

    • by superid (46543) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:56AM (#26191167) Homepage

      I get two as well. One is a big regional paper and one is a tiny paper covering just two local towns. I read the comics and op/ed page in the big paper. I get nothing more out of it. All the "big" stories are old news because I've read them all online.

      I do read the little local paper cover to cover and I always learn something new. I get full police reports ("mary and jimmys son was arrested again"), planning and zoning ("the wilburs got denied a permit to turn their garage into a rental apt...hah!"), legal ads, editorials about local politics, etc. I get way more out of the little one and I couldn't care less if projo.com dies.

      • by Wordsmith (183749)

        Are you reading the Kent County Daily Times? I used to be the editor (mid-2006 to mid-2007). I know the paper is continuing to struggle and has cut back some under its new ownership. It needs more people like you.

        To the GP - Yes, papers that deliver real news no one else is providing are more -valuable- to the reader, but they're also more expensive to produce. Staff costs money. That's why the people in the expensive suits are making what appear from the outside to be boneheaded decisions about what to cut

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:54AM (#26190897)

    Newspapers used to be the main source of aggregated of information about current events; they were few alternatives. Now we have a wide variety of sources for the same information; and don't need a daily paper to satisfy our information needs. As a result, the business model will change

    You'll still need services such as the AP; but how the information is used will change. I would expect to see the multi-channel news organizations who can combine television, radio, and internet (blogs, websites, streaming data) to be replace newspapers as the primary daily news source.

    As a side note, I expect more DCMA take down notices as organizations seek to protect their IP from being redistributed by outlets that don't pay for it.

    I'd also expect to see local papers thrive - they can cover stories of limited interest beyond their communities, and deliver targeted ads for businesses. In addition, I'd expect specialty papers that target specific audiences (such as sports fans) to thrive because they can do more in depth and broader coverage of a narrow topic than say the AP. And of course, USA Today because every major hotel in the US buys a ton of them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alcoholist (160427)

      In my town of roughly 30,000 people there are two newspapers. One of which is the traditional type, owned by some big conglomerate, that carries mostly wire stories and syndicated columns. In addition to being chock full of ads, you have to pay to get the thing.

      The other one is published locally, by local folks, and mostly runs stories about local topics and columns from local writers. It too has lots of ads, but is doled out for free every week.

      Guess which one of these is in financial trouble?

      The proble

  • by starfire-1 (159960) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @08:56AM (#26190901)

    The comment above points to ad revenue drying up as one cause for the demise of print news. While reduced ad revenue may cause newspapers to fold (pun intended), it is not the cause of the reduced circulation and therefore lower ad revenue.

    Content is everything and as our society has become more politically polarized, the bias in American news media has become more and more obvious. This leads potential readers (like me) to simply not subscribe. Just as when I see movies with certain politically vocal stars, I simply avoid the box office. This is America and actors can be advocates and newspapers can be political advertisements, but choices have consequences and I sometimes wonder if these groups understand that you can't diss half of your audience without consequences.

    I am a computer guy, but I hate to read long pieces on line. I would actually like to subscribe to a regional paper if I really did think that I was being offered unbiased news. So although I think that online media contributes to the demise, once again I do not think it is the cause.

    The simplest cause for the demise of newspapers: content (or lack thereof).

  • by zerofoo (262795) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:06AM (#26190929)

    Investigative newspaper reporting died over a decade ago. Newspapers today are nothing more than a collection of press releases.

    The investigative reporters are now almost exclusively online. You no longer need a distribution network, and printing facilities. A good investigative reporter can setup a web site fairly easily, and if he/she is any good, the ad dollars will follow.

    Take thetruthaboutcars.com - those guys called the demise of the American autos years ago - way before mainstream media. They were able to perform the in-depth financial analysis that the journalists at major newspapers simply ignored until recently.

    Investors know this as well. Not many investors I know read newspapers any more for news. By the time the newspapers report it; the information is almost useless.

    Goodbye newspapers. A generation of kids is growing up seeing the newspaper as obsolete as the typewriter.

    -ted

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by winwar (114053)

      "The investigative reporters are now almost exclusively online. You no longer need a distribution network, and printing facilities. A good investigative reporter can setup a web site fairly easily, and if he/she is any good, the ad dollars will follow."

      You are kidding, right? Online investigative reporting doesn't hold a candle to some of my local/regional papers. And I live in the northwest. If the local paper disappears then so does the very good reporting on state and local government.

      Now the papers fu

  • Same story (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:20AM (#26191007) Homepage Journal

    I also work for a newspaper, and I was shown stories from the advent of radio how radio was going to kill newspapers. Then TV was going to kill newspapers. Then the internet was going to kill newspapers. IBM also said computers would give us a paperless office.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:24AM (#26191019)

    I don't think we need to look much further than the most recent Iraq war to see how dangerous the current system is. All of our major media outlets are owned by very large corporations, many with defense interests. The press has always curried the favor of the deep pocket interests of the day. It's very instructive to look back at old press clippings on topics where we today know what the facts were ("Was the war a bad idea?" "Was this person corrupt?" "Will this harmless additive kill us?") and see how calm, certain, and forthright the pressmen were in their defense of the special interest. They have the air of the level-headed man of reason, putting our concerns to rest. Of course, they were dead fucking wrong but hey, we're all human, right?

    It's true that the current blog model uses press articles and news reports as talking points to begin their own articles, those articles foster discussion threads, etc. If those dry up, more original reporting will need to be done.

    But you know what? We've already reached that point with the mainstream media. Investigative journalism is expensive, nobody wants to pay for it. Most news articles these days are just repackaged press releases. Nobody wants to rock the boat and lose their jobs. If Bush says that Iraq has WMD's, if your editor tells you the organization is backing the administration's line because it's good for business, then you're writing about the WMD's. If you won't, there's a thousand other cub reporters just dying to get their shot at the big leagues.

    I predict what we'll eventually see is all news sourcing going directly online. There's a lot of capital tied up in a traditional media operation be it the printing presses, distribution chain, and the useless overhead of the parent corporation that demands the news outlet be a profit center. Crossing my fingers, I hope we see a shakeout where traditional media outlets cannot compete with the price model of the net, they fall apart, and what replaces the AP feed is a loose federation of small-time private journalists who have small enough operations they can make their money off of the banner ads. They would peer with other sources to create their own wire feed and we see a more economic business model.

  • Since the advent of the internet, we are no longer subjected to have biased news of television, radio, or newspapers. If we want to have an argument with anyone, there are plenty of on-line forums to do it on, without getting censored by a party line of a particular newspapers editor. The age of buying influence by what is printed in the press is doomed.

    Add to that, the internet also allows people to follow news from around the world, and are no longer restricted to the news the local/national newspapers (o

    • Indeed (Score:3, Insightful)

      by coryking (104614) *

      Since the advent of the internet, we are no longer subjected to have biased news of television, radio, or newspapers.

      Because thanks to the internet, we can now get our news from places that are *even more biased* then we could in print or tv. With the click of the back button, you can leave any page or content you disagree with, all the while justifying it by saying "oh they are just biased" then go back to your DailyKos, Digg, or wherever. After all, Digg isn't biased--the people decide what is importan

  • That, as the summary seems to indicate, may actually be more of a problem. Newspapers took on more and more advertisements in order to keep reader costs down (and/or line their own pockets), which was likely to their detriment, in my opinion.

    Just yesterday, I fired off an e-mail to Wired, explaining that I would no longer be subscribing to their magazine. I had recently finished the Oct 2008 issue (I'm a bit behind), and I was quite annoyed at the amount of advertising in it. After I finished reading, I

  • I did something probably few Slashdotters have done this week, subscribed to a newspaper. The local rag in my area runs $60/yr and had fairly decent content so figured it was worth it.

    The way I see it, any content, online or offline that's worth paying for will still get my money.

  • The Tribune group collapsed because of a load of toxic debt they could not refinance [timesonline.co.uk].

    It is quite fashionable for failing businesses to ignore their own poor performance. Instead they blame it on unforseen circumstances and present themselves as innocent victims of a global cataclysm.

    A side effect of this fashion is that some commenators, like this article, are writing off whole industries and business models. They augur from the business collapses. Unfortunately these auguries ignore the more mundane
  • Analogous to music (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rick Zeman (15628) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @09:59AM (#26191175)

    ....SOMEONE has to create the content. The blogosphere (and hell, even slashdot) mostly points to someone else's content. Joe Blogger isn't going to be doing any in-depth investigations and that is the foundation of journalism. One can look at how superficial how TV journalism is to print journalism...and then realize that the blogosphere offers insight and nothing else.
    Content isn't going to come with compensation.

    • by Detritus (11846)
      In-depth investigations? Even in the heyday of the daily newspaper, there wasn't much investigative journalism. Most publishers do not like to rock the boat and investigative journalism is expensive.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ColdWetDog (752185)
        Oh stop it and go look at the New York Times (evile registration required). They've done quite a bit of detailed, expensive investigative reporting on a variety of subjects.

        Do they have a 'bias'? Sure, everybody does. So you don't get all your news from them. Look around.

        Now, the NYT just might be able to get by because it sits in one of the largest local markets in the world. This may not bode well for other, smaller news organizations.

        Investigative reporting is out there. You just have to loo
  • by miller60 (554835) * on Sunday December 21, 2008 @10:18AM (#26191287) Homepage
    We'veindeed reached the moment at which Internet news is putting print news out of business. The problem is that much of the genuine value found in print publications hasn't been ported to the new medium. Most web-only publications are making money, but still can't afford to hire trained journalists or underwrite investigative journalism. The reason you see less worthwhile investigative work in print is that these units were easy targets when newspapers cut staff.

    We're near the tipping point at which online news sites need to hire or acquire the talent that supported print publications. The recession will speed the demise of newspapers, making lots of talent available. Can web companies afford to seize this opportunity and invest in staff? It can happen. The Politico [politico.com] is one example of this opportunity.

    But the bottom line is that there are a number of lean years ahead for journalists, who will likely face pay cuts as they shift from print to online.
  • News, at least in the U.S. died a long time ago.

    Now news is more about finding an outlet that validates one's political viewpoints. Thank heavens I can watch BBC news for my world news and more relevant to this thread, read the Economist for my news needs. The Economist is print and I gladly plunk down the 120.00 to have it delivered.

    The death of newspapers and print is due partly to the digital revolution but also due to the fact that the product just sucks ass. Compare Time magazine of today to Time
    • Now news is more about finding an outlet that validates one's political viewpoints

      Regarding validating political viewpoints, this is more in regards to Fox than any "liberal media" conspiracy.

      • And I say this as somebody who has been known to watch MSNBC... they are pretty much on course to be the "opposite FOX". And besides, liberals are just as guilty of "boycotting" "MSM" because some journalist dared to "smear" their political candidate.

        All's fair in love and war, and if you want real journalism, you better be prepared when "they" "attack" your guy.

        The truth is, we as a society can't handle real journalism. It isn't that there is a vast conspiracy holding it back. The simple truth is there

  • by J05H (5625) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @10:45AM (#26191439) Homepage

    Ad revenue is only one of 3 issues causing the collapse of the newspaper industry. While classified ads and print ads provided the bulk of newspaper's income, there are two other factors involved in recent problems. Think of advertising revenue as the "incoming problem" - here are the "outgoing problems"

    Home delivery is the weak link in distribution. The Boston Globe, for instance, maintains a huge fleet of delivery trucks that bring papers not just around the city but throughout coastal New England. I'm not sure of the exact costs, but it has to be millions per year, to deliver dead trees to people's doors and stores. This is a hold-over from a time when media was a one-to-many form of distribution, it has almost no relevance to today's media markets or readers. Netbooks or e-readers shipped with custom software (NYTimes "Reader) or just the local paper's website as a landing page would make more sense.

    The third problem is the readers and our changing habits. Most people don't have the time to read a newspaper or won't make the time - for younger people it interferes with Facebook & gaming, for middle-aged people it interferes with being overworked on that adjustable-rate mortgage train. The only reliable newspaper readers in demographic terms are retirees.

    All of this boils down to one thing, one thing most papers have missed completely: relevance.

    How to take massive institutions, industrial-era institutions if you've seen the presses running, and make them into nimble, 21stCentury, Internet-centric businesses? It's a tough nut to crack and so far I'm not seeing any of them actually make it work. It's weird because I personally love reading the news from a broadsheet but it's an anachronism when the entire world's news is available at my fingertips, 24/7. The world simply does not wait for the morning print run. When news impacts "after deadline" the morning newspaper is already out of date when it lands in the driveway.

    -Josh

  • Less advertising revenue just means they'll have to charge more to subscribers. The higher price will reduce demand, further shrinking subscription revenue and reducing the amount their remaining advertisers are willing to pay. However, at some point an equilibrium will be reached, assuming the demand doesn't shrink to the point where it's impossible to turn a profit.
  • by Dun Malg (230075) on Sunday December 21, 2008 @10:50AM (#26191477) Homepage
    To quote Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters, "Print is dead."
    25 years too early, but it was a very insightful prediction nonetheless. The problem newspapers are facing is that they have historically filled a very specific niche: rapid distribution of largely perishable information, i.e. "news". In the beginning, advances in communication technology only helped newspapers, as they were expensive and only a well funded entity could afford to transmit and receive information over long distances. TV and radio were the first to threaten newspapers, but they actually ended up just exploiting a new market for the most part--- "live" news--- as they're limited to the relatively low-speed communication inherent to the spoken word. Newspapers held an advantage purely in bandwidth. Large quantities of printed information on cheap pulp delivered to your door beat anything TV or radio could offer in sheer volume of information.

    Then came the publicly available Internet. Essentially at one stroke, newspapers were pushed to second place in bandwidth. Even a 56Kbps dialup connection could feed the printed word faster and in greater volume than a printing press. Newspapers were doomed, but they didn't know it yet. It took some time for people to catch on. I personally put the tipping point about four years ago. For decades the local newspaper where I live has run an annoying telemarketing division to badger people into getting the local paper. About four years ago, I started answering their entreaties with "no thanks, I already read that paper online for free". These telemarketers, who historically had a scripted response to any excuse, could only respond "oh, OK, thanks for your time"! When a Los Angeles Times telemarketer can't come up with a reason for you to subscribe, the jig is up.
  • Another industry gonna show up in the bailout line for some soup? Think of the jobs!

  • This is a little morbid, but if you want to see a bunch of journalists wringing their hands about this, recriminating each other and their "stupid, greedy" employers for the downfall of newspapers, etc., look here:

    Angry Journalist [angryjournalist.com].

  • I know why I stopped subscribing to the Miami Herald. They were schizophrenic in their standards and stories. For one, they started catering to all these niche interests that they lost site of the average person. And I'm decidedly pedestrian in most of my activities. For example, though I'm as tolerant as the next guy, I really don't care much about the socialite nigthclub scene or what Madonna ate on South Beach last night. I'm not being intolerant, just that I have as much interest in these topics as Kevi

  • It's going to be a race to the bottom in terms of quality. There are good reporters. And few, if any of them, will be able to make a dime. You can't sell subscriptions on the web, since we're all a bunch of cheap freeloaders, so that leaves ads. The ad revenue situation on the web is just pathetic. There's essentially no competition since Google was allowed to be doubleclick, and it's hard to bring in enough to run a decent web site at a profit. We're likely to (for now) see TV news organizations step into

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