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The Media News

Decline In US Newspaper Readership Accelerates 420

Posted by timothy
from the stop-the-presses dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that US newspaper circulation has hit its lowest level in seven decades, as papers across the country lost 10.6 percent of their paying readers from April through September, compared with a year earlier. Online, newspapers are still a success — but only in readership, not in profit. Ads on newspaper Internet sites sell for pennies on the dollar compared with ads in their ink-on-paper cousins. 'Newspapers have ceased to be a mass medium by any stretch of the imagination,' says Alan D. Mutter, a former journalist and cable television executive who now consults and writes a blog called Reflections of a Newsosaur. According to Mutter only 13 percent of Americans, or about 39 million, now buy a daily newspaper, down from 31 percent in 1940. 'Publishers who think their businesses are going to live or die according to the number of bellybuttons they can deliver probably will see their businesses die,' writes Mutter. 'The smart ones will get busy on Plan B, assuming there is a Plan B and it's not already too late.' Almost without exception, the papers that lost the least readers or even gained readership are the nation's smallest daily newspapers which tend to focus almost all of their limited resources on highly local news that is not covered by larger outside organizations and have a lock on local ad markets."
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Decline In US Newspaper Readership Accelerates

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  • Evolve or die..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bagboy (630125) <neo&arctic,net> on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:49PM (#29903103)
    It's the way the world works. When the telephone came around did telegraph operators keep their business methods - or did they evolve to use the new technology?
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:58PM (#29903215)

      They went into the sending money business. (And yet, they never saw Paypal coming).

    • by omeomi (675045) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:59PM (#29903247) Homepage
      I still enjoy reading the paper. I've been a daily subscriber to the Chicago Tribune for the past 8 years. However, in the past few months, their delivery service has taken a major turn for the worse. The paper is supposed to be on my driveway by 6:30AM, and it absolutely never is. I leave for the train at 7:00AM, and it took weeks of calling and threatening to cancel my subscription just to get them to start getting me the paper before 7:00. I still call most days to complain that it's not there by 6:30. I get a credit for the days that I call, so they're not making much money off of my subscription at this point. Overall, if anything is going to cause me to cancel my subscription, it's that the delivery service that used to be fantastic has become abysmal. Mostly I'm probably waiting for the larger, magazine-sized Kindle (or some competitor) to come out.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        I've never read a newspaper a day in my life, other than some stupid school assignments to cut-out articles and write reports about them. I simply didn't see the need when local news provided all the information that mattered, and with the purchase of my first 1 kbit/s modem in 1988 it became even less important. I could read the news online.

        That was the 80s/90s.

        Now today local news has expanded from 1 hour a day to 5 hours a day, plus cable news, plus web. I didn't need the paper then and I certainly do

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by daem0n1x (748565)

        Don't blame it on the newspapers.

        In the old days the newspapers would be delivered on time. Now the EU has ordered the liberalisation of mail service and our national mail service is on the fast track to be privatised. That means they fired thousands of people and are subcontracting thousands of borderline illiterate kids for the minimum wage, the prices went up and the service went down really fast. Now I can't get my newspapers on time and I can't even trust that my correspondence won't get lost or del

    • by TorKlingberg (599697) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:07PM (#29903337)

      The problem is, newspapers isn't being replaced by anything superior. I really don't see blogs and sites like digg and slashdot taking over journalism. They are great for commentary but don't produce original news, unless if there is an agenda.

      • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:44PM (#29903713)

        The problem is, newspapers isn't being replaced by anything superior.

        In six months you will.

        Apple is set to release their new iTablet (or Slate, depending on what leaked name you want to believe).

        They have been in negotiations with newspapers all over, and will be doing for the news print business what iTunes did for the music distribution business.

        Your newspaper will await you when you pick up the device, silently downloaded and updated in the background over 3G/wifi without the need for a carrier contract.

        Apple is building a huge data center on the east coast to handle the load, the subscription services, and the actual distribution.

        Expect others to jump into this market, maybe even Google, but Apple will be the firstest withe the mostest.

        If successful, this model will be the first remake of print news media since it first appeared and may arrive just in time.

      • by PaganRitual (551879) <splaga&internode,on,net> on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:48PM (#29903757)

        They are great for commentary but don't produce original news, unless if there is an agenda.

        Yes, yes, but what about the newspaper alternatives?

      • by jdoyle1x1 (1666577) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:22PM (#29904089)

        The problem is, newspapers isn't being replaced by anything superior. I really don't see blogs and sites like digg and slashdot taking over journalism. They are great for commentary but don't produce original news, unless if there is an agenda.

        That is the problem with newspapers, they 'produce' news. Because they have an 'agenda'. If they were only reporting the news, instead of 'producing' it, their readership numbers maight not be tanking as badly...

      • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@beauTOKYO.org minus city> on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:58PM (#29905043)

        > The problem is, newspapers isn't being replaced by anything superior.

        No you, like almost everyone in the legacy media, miss the root of the problem. The overhead of dead tree distribution is a problem for newspapers. But it isn't THE problem. Otherwise the other parts of the legacy media such as the big three network newscasts wouldn't be suffering the same decline. Hollywood is having trouble selling both movie tickets and DVDs, the music industry is declining. Network television has been in decline for decades. The Internet isn't the problem. It's the content, stupid!

        People are dropping newspaper subscriptions because there is nothing in them anymore that can't be read online. If you think there is journalism in a newspaper these days it is because you haven't picked one up lately and actually read it. It's all opinion posing as news, press releases reprinted as gospel, rumors and gossip and what doesn't fit into one of above categories it is probably inaccurate anyway. And that damnation is even before bringing up the political bias that has become so blatant the blind can now see it. But even worse than the lies, distortions and faked news is what they leave out of the news because it doesn't fit their prefab storylines

        Thought experiment. Most reading here are tech types. Read a legacy media story about a tech issue and note how many inacuracies you can spot. It isn't just tech, it is your ability to spot errors in that field that is greater. The error rate in every other section is as great or greater. If you asked a doctor about medical coverage he would give you just as many horror stories. Mass media always had the problem of trying to dumb down stories for a mass audience, but years of budget slashing and general decline in overall education means it is now semi-literate reporters reporting for morons.

        Now go read a couple stories from a major source, say the NYT or CNN. Note how many basic grammar errors you find, assuming you yourself are clueful enough to do this. They SAY the reason to trust the MSM over bloggers in their underwear is they have vetting, fact checking and editors. Jason Blair puts paid to vetting, the test above should remove all doubt as to fact checking and if there are still real editors in the newsroom how do so many basic spelling and grammar errors make it into print? If they aren't even bothering to proofread the damned copy are we to believe they are calling back all the sources and checking the quotes and going to authoritative sources to confirm every fact and figure in a story? And unlike most bloggers, they don't even bother running a correction unless someone important makes a fuss or threatens legal action.

        And it isn't the Internet or piracy that is killing Hollywood, it is the fact that have been pumping out crap for years.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by syousef (465911)

          It's the content, stupid!

          I prefer: It's the stupid content

        • by internic (453511) on Thursday October 29, 2009 @12:21AM (#29906559)

          If you think there is journalism in a newspaper these days it is because you haven't picked one up lately and actually read it. It's all opinion posing as news, press releases reprinted as gospel, rumors and gossip

          What about the investigative journalism that revealed the existence of the so-called "torture memos", or the secret CIA prisons, or the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, or the neglect of injured veterans at the VA? That was reporting all done by print newspapers during recent years that is not just press release or opinion piece or gossip. I often hear a refrain like the one I've quoted above from would-be critics of the "mainstream media", but it simply isn't true. And, as far as I can see, there are few people (if any) in the "new media" doing that sort of very crucial work. I will certainly grant, though, that newspapers have featured more and more opinion, rumors, etc. over time, presumably because it's cheap and people seem to like it.

          Thought experiment. Most reading here are tech types. Read a legacy media story about a tech issue and note how many inacuracies you can spot. It isn't just tech, it is your ability to spot errors in that field that is greater. The error rate in every other section is as great or greater.

          [citation needed]?
          People in the general population have differing levels of familiarity with different subjects. For example, your average American is much more likely to know a significant amount about history than mathematics or, say, astronomy. This non-uniformity will be even more pronounced in specialized group, like people in a particular profession. The bottom line is that there will be certain sorts of topics that journalists are likely to be more familiar with and others they're unlikely to know much about. Absent some compelling evidence, it doesn't make much sense to assume that the rate of errors in one particular topic transfer over to all topics. Given that journalism is usually lumped with the "liberal arts" and journalism degree programs send to stress those sorts of topics, it's probably reasonable to assume that a journalist is less likely to have a good basis for understanding tech than, say, politics and law.

          Now go read a couple stories from a major source, say the NYT or CNN. Note how many basic grammar errors you find, assuming you yourself are clueful enough to do this. They SAY the reason to trust the MSM over bloggers in their underwear is they have vetting, fact checking and editors. Jason Blair puts paid to vetting, the test above should remove all doubt as to fact checking and if there are still real editors in the newsroom how do so many basic spelling and grammar errors make it into print?

          But this reasoning essentially boils down to the statement that newspapers don't have a perfect record of accuracy and, therefore, they must be totally inaccurate. Clearly that's fallacious reasoning. The question you'd have to answer is how their accuracy and journalistic standards compare to blogs (or whatever alternative you're talking about). Clearly, this would take some work to examine.

          If they aren't even bothering to proofread the damned copy are we to believe they are calling back all the sources and checking the quotes and going to authoritative sources to confirm every fact and figure in a story?

          Isn't fact checker a distinct function from copy editor at a newspaper? If so, then it's entirely possible that one can be under-resourced and not the other. Besides which, I'd imagine that most spell-checking is relegated to a computer program.

          And unlike most bloggers, they don't even bother running a correction unless someone important makes a fuss or threatens legal action.

          Again, [citation needed]. I've seen all sorts of radically mistaken stuff online. Sometimes corrections are posted, and sometime not. TV seems to be totally abysmal on this front.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by jmorris42 (1458) *

            > What about the investigative journalism that revealed the existence of the so-called
            > "torture memos", or the secret CIA prisons, or the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program,

            What about them? You are laboring under the mistaken notion any of those required a lot of work. All of those were the result of one whistleblower/traitor (depending on your viewpoint, but that question is offtopic for this discussion) doing a document dump on a friendly reporter. In a world without a legacy media they would

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by SnarfQuest (469614)

            What about the investigative journalism that revealed the existence of the so-called "torture memos", or the secret CIA prisons, or the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, or the neglect of injured veterans at the VA?

            What about the "investigative" journalism that suddenly brings up quotes from Rush Limbaugh from many years ago that everyone has missed all these years (because he never said them)?

            What about the "investigative" journalism that found military papers from the 1970's about George Bush, that were typed up using Word 2003?

            How about the way all of these journalists will all suddenly come up with an unusual word to describe someone, like gravatas? It's almost like they all receive their stories from one source.

            W

  • Are you surprised? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by B5_geek (638928) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:51PM (#29903123)

    In other news, water is wet.

    The last Buggy-Whip manufacturer was heard gloating with his buddy the Spittoon manufacturer about how they had 100% market share in their respected fields.

     

    • by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:00PM (#29903251)

      Actually the buggy whip companies aren't all gone:

      http://yp.bellsouth.com.wvproxy.com/sites/buggywhips/page3.html?wvsessionid=ebd943fc8586457288938663beb3c962 [wvproxy.com]

      I'm sure it's a pretty niche market these days though :D.

      • I'm sure it's a pretty niche market these days though :D.

        A lot of people still ride horses (for fun) and buggy/carriages (especially with ponies) are still pretty popular. Not for most city-folk, of course, but once you get into rural areas where people still like "land" and not just "Starbucks" ... :)

        • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

          My Amish-american neighbors use a lot of horsewhips, although they probably just make them from last years' dead cow skin, rather than buy them.

          The Amish are smart. We don't hear them whining about economic collapse, do we? In fact this past year was one of their best years with a huge bumper crop and plenty of excess food to feed their families. They are also exempt from income, SS, and medicare taxes. I wish I was exempt.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by westlake (615356)

            We don't hear them whining about economic collapse, do we? In fact this past year was one of their best years with a huge bumper crop and plenty of excess food to feed their families.

            The Amish are commercial farmers.

            They are as focused on markets and costs as any other - and have been for generations.

            The Amish are not excmpt from property taxes, suburban development and rising land prices.

            Family members often do have to take on jobs in town to make ends meet.

  • I am trying to figure out what the heck that means. In this context, does it match any of these [wikipedia.org] definitions?
  • Bay area (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WarJolt (990309) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:55PM (#29903173)

    I live in the bay area and the only big newspaper around here is the Mercury News.
    Without trying to start a flame war, it's much easier finding an unbaised article online.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)

      Without trying to start a flame war, it's much easier finding an unbaised article online.

      I think what you really mean is that it's much easier to find an article on-line that agrees with *your* particular bias, rather than the local newspaper's editor.

    • Re:Bay area (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:45PM (#29903727) Homepage

      I live in the bay area and the only big newspaper around here is the Mercury News.

      Which is funny, because growing up in the Bay Area I never even considered San Jose to be part of it! (It's the South Bay, which we always saw as synonymous with Silicon Valley, while the Bay proper stopped at around Palo Alto.)

      No joke about the Mercury News, though. Believe it or not, I once interviewed for a gig writing about technology for the business desk of the San Francisco Chronicle. I was expecting somebody to ask me something along the lines of, "What do you consider to be the most important local companies if you're covering technology?" Nobody did. So I brought it up myself: "How do you guys focus on companies like Oracle, Google, and Sun? I assume you talk about new developments mostly in terms of market opportunities, rather than technology?" I was told that they don't bother, because the Mercury mostly handles that stuff. "Business technology news" at the Chronicle was going to be stuff like reviews of the latest iPod accessories, phone tips, and gaming consoles.

      These days, the Chronicle's business coverage can be found on the back pages of the sports section.

  • Possible causes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TonTonKill (907928) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:56PM (#29903185)

    I wonder how this trend compares with non-internet related events, such as:

    • Increase in popularity of highly opinionated "news" talk shows and cable TV shows (and similar decline in the popularity of objective reporting)
    • Consolidation of news businesses (particularly acquisitions by News Corp.)
    • Reduction in staff and budgets of the journalism and reporting departments within newspaper organizations
    • Re:Possible causes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:26PM (#29903567) Journal

      Ya know "objective reporting" is a myth. Prior to 1950 the Philadelphia Inquirer proudly trumpeted that it was pro-Republican. Many papers had the words directly in their names - "The Peoria Democrat".

      And I see nothing wrong with that. Newspapers were invented as a way for the owner to express his views. If you didn't like those views, create a competing newspaper. That's what liberty and "free press" means... to say whatever you want to say, even if it's biased towards your own view.

      • Re:Possible causes (Score:5, Informative)

        by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:43PM (#29903709) Journal

        Ya know "objective reporting" is a myth. Prior to 1950 the Philadelphia Inquirer proudly trumpeted that it was pro-Republican. Many papers had the words directly in their names - "The Peoria Democrat".

        And I see nothing wrong with that. Newspapers were invented as a way for the owner to express his views. If you didn't like those views, create a competing newspaper. That's what liberty and "free press" means... to say whatever you want to say, even if it's biased towards your own view.

        Spot on. Newspapers in the UK and Ireland are still pretty open about what parties they support, they really nail their colours to the mast. If you want to win a British general election, you're on an uphill task if you don't have the tabloid press on your side.

        Broadcast media is a bit different though. In the UK and Ireland people expect a certain amount of objectivity in the broadcast media. In the UK political parties cannot buy advertising time on TV, instead they each get the same amount of time allocated for "party political broadcasts" that are usually about ten minutes long before the main nightly news, and that's about it. The power of television is such that in the UK they prefer to make sure it's not open to political influence, which is why British people are a bit shocked when they turn on Fox News or MSNBC and see the blatant editorialising on the air.

        • Re:Possible causes (Score:4, Informative)

          by Monsuco (998964) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @09:20PM (#29905191) Homepage

          Broadcast media is a bit different though. In the UK and Ireland people expect a certain amount of objectivity in the broadcast media. In the UK political parties cannot buy advertising time on TV, instead they each get the same amount of time allocated for "party political broadcasts" that are usually about ten minutes long before the main nightly news, and that's about it. The power of television is such that in the UK they prefer to make sure it's not open to political influence, which is why British people are a bit shocked when they turn on Fox News or MSNBC and see the blatant editorialising on the air.

          In Britain you have the BBC. There are other news networks, but the BBC is government funded through licensing (yes, apparently you need a license to have a TV in Britain) and is generally the most popular. As best I can tell the BBC is so politically correct they don't dare run anything that could offend anyone.

          Rather than just not being controversial, I would rather just have choices. In America, if I don't like a reporter I change the channel. If I like Fox, I watch Fox, if I like CNN I watch CNN. Bias is only a problem if opposing views are not available. In America we have Fox (right wing), CNN (left wing), and NBC (very left wing). We have national news broadcast , local news subsidiaries, papers, talk radio, and now blogs. If I don't like what someone says on a station, I don't watch them. If I want a different point of view, I watch something biased from the other side. The issue of bias is something that goes way back. America's founders even worried about biased information in papers. They decided it impossible to eliminate all bias when discussing something controversial, so they decided it was best to do the opposite and allow for newspapers to say whatever they want creating so many viewpoints. This was the idea behind the first amendment, allow for a wide variety of opinions.

          If you don't like something or don't agree with something, don't watch. I think most people understand that the media is biased.

      • Re:Possible causes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Seraphim_72 (622457) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @09:35PM (#29905301)
        And yet here [slashdot.org] you say you have nevre read a newspaper in your life. How the FUCK would you know if they have biased reporting? By your own words you have never even SEEN it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)
      This is a good point: Many (most?) local papers are now nothing more than regurgitation of wire-feeds from the AP or whoever. Who needs to subscribe to the paper for that? And the sale coupons come in the mail now...
  • by neonprimetime (528653) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:57PM (#29903203) Homepage
    ... it's nearly 1 day old
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:58PM (#29903213)

    I'm skeptical that there's an actual decline happening. There was nothing about this on Drudge.

  • Any alternatives? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by symes (835608) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @05:59PM (#29903235) Journal
    I'm not sure I see this as a good thing. There's no obvious alternatives to salaried journalists in national papers who are willing to dig in and develop a good story. I just can't see the internet producing people like Bernstein and Woodward, Nancy Maynard, Anna Quindlen and others like them.
    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:03PM (#29903293) Journal

      Why can't the internet have Salaried journalists?

      • by lee1026 (876806)

        There is just less money in new online compared to print media. Advertisers are just not as willing to pay as much.

      • by symes (835608) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:14PM (#29903419) Journal
        It used to be the case that a lot of people would pay for their daily newspaper. How much are you paying for your online news these days? I really worry that the internet is turning us all into quick fix news junkies unable to spend more than a few seconds grazing headlines and that considered prose is slowly passing.
        • But someone must be getting paid to write articles - otherwise no one would write them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Ragzouken (943900)

          At least we'll still have BBC news.

    • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:14PM (#29903421)

      >salaried journalists in national papers who are willing to dig in and develop a good story.

      This is dying and has been for years. Editors, and more importantly their owners (http://www.thenation.com/special/bigten.html) prefer light, cheap puff pieces that don't disturb the citizenry or alert them to little things like the fact that the treasuries of the world are being looted by the worlds wealthy and that oil depletion issues are going to start rocking our world in an unpleasant way in the next decade or two.
      .
      So we get Yahoo and MSM, where the top stories are "10 ways to know if he/she's cheating on you!" and "How to tell if you're a f***king idiot." (Hint, you're reading Yahoo's front page.)
      .
      The internet, however, is still relatively free although who knows for how long. If net neutrality is withdrawn, you can forget that too.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:15PM (#29903437)

      I'm not sure I see this as a good thing. There's no obvious alternatives to salaried journalists in national papers who are willing to dig in and develop a good story.

      There also are essentially none of those left in the national papers, so the lack of an "alternative" is less relevant. Actually, with many papers retooling to shift toward less focus on advertisers for revenue and more focus on readers, there is a good chance that the decline in per-paper circulation will revive journalism, as the business of the papers becomes, once again, delivering news to readers, rather than delivering an audience to advertisers while avoiding offending those same advertisers.

      I just can't see the internet producing people like Bernstein and Woodward, Nancy Maynard, Anna Quindlen and others like them.

      While you don't see a lot of people like that in any media, at any time, the internet sure isn't doing any worse of a job of producing investigative reporters than the modern print dailies. Which isn't meant, particularly, as praise of the internet news outlets.

    • Re:Any alternatives? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by swanzilla (1458281) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:19PM (#29903481) Homepage
      The ability of the internet user to make his/her own inferences by cross referencing multiple sources basically makes the iconic journalist largely moot.

      Moreover, the internet has the Tron Guy [tronguy.net]...the newspapers/journalists don't stand much of a chance.
    • by whoop (194) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:21PM (#29904077) Homepage

      How about James O'Keefe and Hanna Giles (the ACORN undercover videos)? Granted, they weren't salaried, but the Internet can produce a good story. Without Youtube, blogs, etc their story would have not gotten the press it did. It will probably be a few years yet before these sort of Internet journalists get more practice and find the right niche, but it's a start.

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @08:37PM (#29904831)

      I'm not sure I see this as a good thing. There's no obvious alternatives to salaried journalists in national papers who are willing to dig in and develop a good story. I just can't see the internet producing people like Bernstein and Woodward, Nancy Maynard, Anna Quindlen and others like them.

      I guess you haven't heard of Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe? And their expose of President Obama's former employer ACORN?

  • by oldspewey (1303305) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:01PM (#29903257)
    At least there are some robust areas [theonion.com] in the declining newspaper market.
  • Weakest Link (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mindbrane (1548037) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:02PM (#29903273) Journal
    My best guess is news outlets that have deep links and high tech will win out. My best back of the envelope strategy would be to embed news stories in elective layers of deepening context. Readers would be able to elect to go ever deeper into a news story and link to information nodes that would shed light on how news events impact their neighbourhood, income level, etc. You should be able to enter a news story at a world wide level and exit at the neighbourhood mall. The problem would be how to allow for in depth news reporting without the content being lost in a jungle of links. National news outlets have the ability to provide just such coverage. The News_paper_ is dead, news reporting has morphed and the readership has morphed to meet the new coverage. The message is still strong, it's the medium that needs to change.
  • It would be odd to see the newspaper disappear altogether. What will we roll up and shake at our dogs? What will spies hide behind? What will we line cages with?
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:04PM (#29903301)

    Why do I care, that some anonymous person five states over was murdered?
    If it's of national import, it's going to be all over the web and television anyway.

    Newspapers should give very deep news on local issues, sports, local editorials, etc.

  • It's all been downhill since we gave up the clay tablet for paper...
  • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot AT keirstead DOT org> on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:05PM (#29903313) Homepage

    Every time I see a story like this I ask the same question to myself, and have yet to hear an appropriate answer.

    Why can a newspapers and magazines charge 100 times more for an ad on ink, that reaches a tiny fraction of the people that an online ad reaches? The economics of it make no sense to me. Is there some research that shows people are more likely yo pay attention to print ads than online ads? Because I have never paid attention to a print ad in my life.

    Why don't newspaper websites (which are very popular) just charge more for online ads, comperable rates to what they charge for print ads?

    What happens when the newspapers and magazines have such low subscribership that they can't justify their high ad prices anymore - will then THEN feel justified to charge more for their online ads?

    • by zonky (1153039)
      As John Wanamaker said: "I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted ... I just don't know which half."

      You do know which half on the interspaz.

    • by nate nice (672391)

      I often wonder the same thing. I don't even understand the advertising model for the Internet. everything is still a link to this day. Why? Why aren't there just plain Coke and Pepsi ads. Why haven't tobacco companies advertised more on the Internet. Is it illegal for them?

      But mainly why is everything a link to another Website? Why aren't there more ads that are just ads for every day consumer things we see in magazines and papers? Why not small, unobstructive ads all over the place? Just little co

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by QuincyDurant (943157)
      Retail advertisers (like me) need saturation coverage of small geographical areas and the (highly annoying) big splash ads over two or three days that drive customers to sales days. Of course, we could all start selling online all over the world, but then every storefront mom and pop would have to adopt radical (and expensive to implement) new business methods. I'll try to quit whining. It's doggy dog out there.
    • advertising doesn't work as well as everyone thought.hat means that they ahve been over charging for it..or over selling it's value.

      The internet brought that into sharp focus when you couldf get a real time response for an ad and pay for ads you know people have looked at.

      Plus this is a transition period from a time you are probably too young to know. As such it all appears 'obviouse' to you.

      • by nate nice (672391)

        That's not entirely true. Advertising works extremely well but there are diminishing returns on it. When newspapers were the only game in town you knew you had to advertise (you do) and you didn't have many outlets to get them out in. And since the newspapers had very real limited space, they could and had to charge more for the space.

        A newspaper ad is like an apartment in Manhattan. There is only so much space and more demand than supply so the prices go up. You have to live so you pay the price.

        With

  • It's their own fault (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mschuyler (197441) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:06PM (#29903325) Homepage Journal

    I don't really intend this to be politically controversial, though that is probably inevitable. Of course newspapers have been challenged by the Internet, but this is not the first competition they've had. TV has been competing with newspapers for decades and they survived just fine. It isn't that newspapers have lost a competitive edge; they've lost a monopoloistic edge. It used to be they were the only game in town. A rare city had two newspapers. If you wanted to sell your car or post a job, the Classifieds was your only choice. Ever tried to sell a car through the Classifieds lately? Yowzaa! $100 easy just for an ad too tiny to read! But put it on cars.com for $24.95 with a bunch of pictures, and whaddya know, it sells. Happened to me anyway two years ago.

    The second issue is that newspapers once stood for something. They were either avowedly and unabashedly partisan in their outlook, or they proclaimed journalistic objectivity. I think that no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, the Internet has allowed you to broaden your horizons, and THAT has lead to a realization that 'journalistic objectivity' is an oxymoron. It's not so much that newspapers lean one direction or another--though my local one never seems to like a Republican candidate, even for innocuous posts, but that you can see "sins of ommission." The real power of a newspaper is in what they choose to publish. They get a tremendous amount of information 'over the wire' and then they choose which stories to print, ignoring the stories they don't wish to print.

    When you suddenly have the Net and a tremendous number of news sources to choose from, you can see this. You can see what the newspapers have been leaving out, so the newspaper becomes less relevant to your 'news needs' and you drop it. I dropped my paper because they couldn't seem to get it in the box. After continual complaints of poor service I finally decided I really didn't need it. I don't miss it.

    • by aafiske (243836) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:17PM (#29903459)

      "I think that no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, the Internet has allowed you to broaden your horizons"

      Or more likely the internet provides a convenient place to get opinions that agree perfectly with mine, so why should I read a newspaper that I sometimes disagree with and that is therefore stupid and wrong and biased?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mandolin (7248)

        Well, maybe both.

        Yes I probably wouldn't enjoy being on a site that went on and on about "Windows Rocks/Linux Sucks" (as much as this site does the reverse, anyway).

        But that kind of rhetoric is not really why I read this site. As an example, I found the (apparently) 1st-person accounts about air traffic and ATC procedures yesterday to be one of the most informative and entertaining bits I've read in awhile.

        Slashdot has (more than?) its fair share of trolls, and troll articles, but there is (sometimes) a de

    • by JohnFen (1641097) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:27PM (#29903579)

      The second issue is that newspapers once stood for something. They were either avowedly and unabashedly partisan in their outlook, or they proclaimed journalistic objectivity.

      And whichever kind they were, they strove to be at least somewhat accurate rather than just a PR outlet.

      This is the newsbiz's real failing: they have become entirely unreliable. You can no longer read a newspaper and have any confidence that you're getting even an approximation of the facts. Newspapers used to do journalism, or at the least give it the old college try.

      This means that newspapers (and TV & radio news) have no real innate value. It's hard to retain readers when you aren't offering them anything worthwhile.

  • First problem is that most newspapers are useless except for very local news. It used to be that you actually needed to subscribe to the local newspaper to know what was going on. With the web (blogs and the like)...that's simply not the case anymore. Which means that (at least for me) there are very few newspapers that actually provide anything of value...and that's primarily the investigative reporting. Sadly, this also seems to be one of the things that is being eliminated first.

    The newspapers' only chan

  • In fact.. yay, a graph:
    http://www.theawl.com/2009/10/a-graphic-history-of-newspaper-circulation-over-the-last-two-decades [theawl.com]
    ( via Cool Infographics blog )

    The LA Times has just been sucking overall, explaining their sharp drop.

    Most of the others had been stable until relatively recently, as more and more people realize that they all just regurgitate the same news they can get online for free.

    The exception noted in the article summary - the local publishers - and the major publisher lonely at the top and holding

  • Quite trying to recapture the good ole days and look forward. You can make money, you can exist you just need to realize you are 1 part of a larger media expectation.

    I would be happy to talk to you about it, my consultation fee is 250 per hour.

  • by caitsith01 (606117) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:14PM (#29903425) Journal

    ...of hordes of ./ readers taking time out from flaming one another and bitching about the poor quality of editor control on the site and the dubious submissions which make it through to the front page to sanctimoniously celebrate the death of "old" media.

    Question: would Wired and the Huffington Post have broken the Watergate scandal? Do they even have the resources? Would they have survived the commercial and political pressure resulting from pursuing the story (the Post nearly didn't)?

    Newspapers have failed to adapt, but they do have a number of useful features which IMHO the web has so far failed to replicate, such as strong editorial structures, proper investigative journalism (not just "in today's blog blog, we blog about a blog about something which someone wrong somewhere else"), accountability (once it's printed, it's printed), a selection of content which does not automatically conform to every pre-defined interest and prejudice of the reader, and a delivery method which involves passivity from the recipient rather than requiring the recipient to go out and proactively seek the information they want.

    Does all of this mean they deserve to prosper in their current form? No. But I am scared if the Drudge Report is what is going to replace the Washington Post. On one level the issues facing newspapers seem to me to be facing society more generally: how do we manage our apparent addiction to short, semi-meaningless factoids now that we have a series of electronic systems for delivering them faster and more meaninglessly than ever before?

    • by demachina (71715) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:08PM (#29903943)

      The Washington Post is a pale shadow of the paper that broke Watergate. Personally I stopped reading it about the time they fired Dan Froomkin and their execs thought it was cool to sponsor pay-for-access cocktail parties with politicians. Their online site was showing promise until Katharine Weymouth canned the people making it happen and forced consolidation with their print division which was like mixing oil and water. Last month they issued guidelines forbidding their reporters from using Twitter and other social media which shows their dinosaurish nature. Dan Froomkin is now in charge of the Political section of... the Huffington Post. Jim Brady another Washington Post luminary is starting a new online Washington news site for Politico.

      If you want to hop in the way back machine to just before the Iraq invasion, Judith Miller, used the New York Time to shill for her books on WMD's and for the Bush administration to whip up the frenzy about non existent WMD's in Iraq. This has since cost the U.S. about a trillion dollars and thousands of dead and tens of thousands wounded for a lie, which a dead tree journalist helped propagate. Of course the Hearst empire pioneered yellow journalism and shilling to start wars for no reason in 1898, "Remember the Maine", so its not a new phenomena. And of course in 2003 the NY Times also had Jayson Blair who made a career on plagiarized and fabricated stories and it took forever for the Times editors to notice.

      So to balance that one Watergate success story everyone cites in these debates there have been multiple recent failures. The U.S. press was pretty much asleep at the wheel during Iraq, Patriot Act abuses, torture, warrantless spying on Americans on a massive scale, etc. The NY Times did break the warrantless wiretap story but only after it had been running for years.

      You seem to be waxing nostalgic for old school journalism that doesn't really exist anymore if it ever did. I'd being willing to bet if Woodward and Bernstein were to try to break Watergate today, Nixon would call up the Washington Posts management/editors and it would be killed before it saw the light of day because the management of most papers today are pro establishment and pro corporate interests instead of a beacon of truth and freedom. All the Presiden't men was a product of a handful of unique people who did something amazing and right, it had nothing to do with the actual merits of dead tree journalism.

      I too would wax poetic for old school journalism but to think its still even alive or it will flourish in the brain dead environment that is most dead tree newspapers today is optimistic at best. I have to hope the web actually does succeed in producing a beacon for truth and freedom and that it rises above the sea of noise that is the web. Its a long shot but its a lot more likely than hoping for dead tree newspapers or TV networks to be honest stewards of the truth.

      I gather AOL is hiring reporters at a furious rate and the plan of the new CEO who came from Google is to make it in to the leader in online Journalism. I wish him well, though my brain has seizures whenever I see the brand he is working under.

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:15PM (#29904021)

      Question: would Wired and the Huffington Post have broken the Watergate scandal?

      Big Government [biggovernment.com] broke the ACORN scandal, and the stuff around the NEA pushing a government message through art funding. That's at roughly the same level in that it's national news that had an impact on congress (they voted to shut of funding for ACORN).

      Newspapers have failed to adapt, but they do have a number of useful features which IMHO the web has so far failed to replicate, such as strong editorial structures, proper investigative journalism (not just "in today's blog blog, we blog about a blog about something which someone wrong somewhere else"), accountability

      Newspapers are an absolute joke for accountability. At best you may get a retraction so small and buried no-one will ever see it. At worst they simply ignore the fact they incorrectly reported on something and carry on as if what they said was the truth.

      The blog standard is far superior, where usually the incorrect section is stricken through (but left readable) with a statement right below saying what they got wrong. The key is that the correction is attached to the original media, far stronger a correction.

      And there are real investigative journalists today. Look at people like Micheal Totten and Micheal Yon [michaelyon-online.com] for excellent independent and pragmatic war coverage of all the major theaters. We'll see more of that as newspapers continue to falter, and more people look for oversight of the government.

  • by Tsar (536185) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:15PM (#29903433) Homepage Journal
    Obviously, the Internet is to the American newspaper publisher and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone.
    Information wants to be free, you say? Well, so does Charles Manson!
  • It seems strange to me that the advertising price is so different, can anyone give me a good explanation why an advertiser's paper advertisement would be more successful than the same advertisement on the web? The only good argument I can come up with is AdBlock, but given AdBlock's install base, I don't see this as being enough of a factor to account for the difference. Why would a printed ad be more successful than an online ad?
  • Of course this is because of PIRACY. People are turning to the internet to access FREE NEWS, and therefore are STEALING NEWS. Hundreds of thousands of reporters are out of work because of these criminals that are costing the industry trillions per yer.

    At least, that's what Rupert Murdoch would like to bribe governments into thinking. Of course Mr. Murdoch, you don't actually "own" news either. It's stuff that happens, you know...

  • So the biggest recession for decades has nothing at all to do with it ? Considering that the locals have been gaining readers, I suspect that more people are looking for jobs close to home, and thinking FTW.
  • by deblau (68023) <slashdot.25.flickboy@spamgourmet.com> on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @06:47PM (#29903749) Journal
    I have ever seen a headline that used a third derivative.
  • No integrity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plopez (54068) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:14PM (#29904005) Journal

    I've given up on the mainstream media (MSM). They have no integrity or validity as far as I am concerned. They are in my opinion nothing more than gov't or corporate shills.

    Case in point is the WMDs and the war in Iraq. For months the New York Times (as well as other "legitimate" news outlets (I'm not counting the Fox network)) beat the drums of war. They helped stampede the US into the Iraqi invasion and discounted dissenting opinion and facts.

    Then when no WMDs were found they buried it on page 7. One article for one day. Many Americans still believe there were WMDs and connections between Sadam and Al Q. If the NYT, and the MSM had beat the drums of "no WMDs" and "no ties with Al Qaeda" for months, what would American opinion be instead?

    AFAIAC, they have no integrity and I do not trust the MSM.

    The sooner they die the better.

    (Yes, as a matter of fact I am ranting)

  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @07:42PM (#29904267)

    It's quite simple. In their efforts to "compete" with cable news to be first to the story, they slashed real investigative reporting, fact checking, and depth in their coverage.

    They are guilty of dereliction of their duty to inform our democracy. They did not leverage their major advantage over cable news: freedom from constraints to 15 minute time slots.

    They began publishing corporate and government press releases unquestioned.

    They stopped digging deep into issues which really matter to the nation, uncovering actual political corruption or travesties of the political process (the daily show [thedailyshow.com] is the only one which seems to do this now).

    Gone are the days where they stood up to governments and corporations for the right of the people to be informed. When was the last time you heard of a case like time magazine's pentagon papers?

    "You write what you're told! Thanks Corporate News!" [cafepress.com]

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