Monday, August 4, 2008

What's Really Killing Newspapers

Like David Carr of the New York Times, I too enjoy reading the Star Ledger to feel more connected to the area, to county and to state issues. But less people seem to need the paper anymore and the cost of lower readership and declining ad revenue means cost cuts and content reduction by laying off writers. The Sunday paper may seem full, but it is all inserts and fluff. He cites the perfect analogy: " 'It’s like a ham sandwich, it’s so thick, with lettuce, pickles and onions.'It may still look like a sandwich, but some of the meat is about to go missing." With less writers talking to its specific constituents, it becomes filler of generic syndicated content. A destructive cycle that only leads to the end of the Star Ledger.

In another article in the New York Times, the survival of the whole industry is questioned. Who would buy a newspaper today? Oddly, Cablevision just bought Newsday. Last year, News Corporation bought The Wall Street Journal. Do they know something, the rest of the world doesn't? "Despite the long-term challenges, analysts and bankers think that buyers will return to the newspaper market, though they may be outnumbered by people who decide to invest in online news start-ups instead."

The folks at Slate seem to recognize the shift away from newspapers as due to technological change. Previously, the newspaper led social change and you would seek out the stories to remain in the loop to key issues. Friends would remark, did you read the story on... Today, social networking is achieved through technological means; digital articles, emailed to friends and associates, social networks and blogs to share opinions and voice concerns, websites to promote ideas and find information. "The social networking that takes place via instant messaging, microblogging, or e-mail further steals from newspapers the mindshare they once owned. You no longer need to rely on a paper for the social currency that a weather report, movie listings, classified ads, shopping bargains, sports info, stock listings, television listings, gossip, or entertainment news provide. As falling circulation indicates, fewer do."