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RIP, the Daily Paper: As Headlines Document the Death of Print Media, How Will Quad Cities Newspapers Survive? - Page 5 PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Media
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 18 March 2009 06:00
Sidebar: A Stroke, Followed by a Debilitating Illness -- Newspapers in 2009

The Project for Excellence in Journalism's 2009 State of the News Media Report begins: "Newspaper ad revenues have fallen 23 percent in the last two years. Some papers are in bankruptcy, and others have lost three-quarters of their value. By our calculations, nearly one out of every five journalists working for newspapers in 2001 is now gone, and 2009 may be the worst year yet."

And the report is similarly succinct in defining the problems and challenges in the news media:

"Even before the recession, the fundamental question facing journalism was whether the news industry could win a race against the clock for survival: could it find new ways to underwrite the gathering of news online, while using the declining revenue of the old platforms to finance the transition?

"In the last year, two important things happened that have effectively shortened the time left on that clock.

"First, the hastening audience migration to the Web means the news industry has to reinvent itself sooner than it thought -- even if most of those people are going to traditional news destinations. At least in the short run, a bigger online audience has worsened things for legacy news sites, not helped them.

"Then came the collapsing economy. The numbers are only guesses, but executives estimate that the recession at least doubled the revenue losses in the news industry in 2008, perhaps more in network television. Even more important, it swamped most of the efforts at finding new sources of revenue. In trying to reinvent the business, 2008 may have been a lost year, and 2009 threatens to be the same."

"Imagine someone about to begin physical therapy following a stroke, suddenly contracting a debilitating secondary illness.

"Journalism, deluded by its profitability and fearful of technology, let others outside the industry steal chance after chance online. By 2008, the industry had finally begun to get serious. Now the global recession has made that harder."

What the report makes clear is that even though newspapers are not losing many readers, they are shifting from the print product to the online version -- a transition that doesn't translate into revenue:

"Circulation fell 4.6 percent daily and 4.8 percent Sunday to roughly 48 million for the latest period compared with a year earlier. That brings them down 13.5 percent daily and 17.3 percent Sunday since 2001.

"Traffic to newspaper websites is growing. Unduplicated Web audiences are now estimated to add 8.4 percent to the average newspaper's readership. That makes up most, but not all, of the print audience decline."

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