Friday, December 19, 2008

Bad News for [Print] Newspapers

The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News announced Tuesday that they plan to reduce home delivery to just Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Arizona’s East Valley Tribune (out of Mesa) will switch from a daily to a four-day-a-week paper next month. All per CNN and many other sources.

And we all know the Christian Science Monitor will halt its daily print edition in spring, right? The alternative these papers faced was to cut more staff, which means less news.

The writing’s on the wall…rather, on the screen. Without ad revenue, and with drops in circulations, increasing printing and transport costs, with the old business model isn’t practical.

James Rainey wrote a column on this in the Los Angeles Times. He speaks of how many readers cannot start the day without their morning paper—a feeling I share. But I remember a time when working stiffs felt they couldn’t survive without their afternoon paper—that was when they had the time to read it, and the news was fresher. But does any daily come out in the afternoon anymore? We all adjusted.

Rainy quotes reporters in Detroit, who talk about their investigative journalism and how vital it is. If newspapers can’t make money, how can they practice their craft? He also gives the opinion of Alan Mutter, former reporter and UC Berkeley prof who teaches graduate journalism students “how news continues in an age of ‘disruptive technology’.”

That phrase is wonderful. Disruptive technology—not on a personal level (like a cell phone ringing during a conversation) but culturally. Our technology is not just evolving and improving, it’s disrupting patterns and traditions that have shaped our lives for generations.

Mutter says “The Internet will NEVER replace the newspaper.” Sic. Why? “I can easily take my newspaper with me and read it anyplace. Reading a printed newspaper will be around forever.”

He’s the expert, but IMHO that’s wishful thinking. I can envision an expanded Kindle that can be taken anywhere and a subscription that automatically downloads and updates a daily, printed newspaper—but printed onscreen. And I would enjoy that; I won’t miss the smudge marks on my fingertips. Really. I just hope they come up with an affordable version of that before my Los Angeles Times stops delivery.

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