Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Newspapers are going extinct!
March 2, 2009
My Sunday paper is as thin as Tuesday’s. One cup of coffee and I’m done. I remember when it was so heavy I needed two hands to carry it.
Newspapers are dying. Few would argue the point. The death of Denver’s 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News is only the latest to fall. What’s alarming is how fast. Ten years ago we debated whether newspapers were in jeopardy, pointing at the explosion of alternate media.
Now it is not if newspapers will die merely when. In cities where there are two or more daily papers, the weaker of the two go first. Yet, more and more it appears the survivor is merely postponing the inevitable. In Chicago, the “Trib” and “Sun” are shrinking before my eyes, losing pages of advertising followed by editorial. Sections fall off. It is as if they are wasting away, starving to death, which, of course, they sort of are. (Sniff. I delivered both papers as a kid, in the high rises along Lake Shore Drive.)
As indicated, most attribute this fatal decline to evaporating advertising revenue, which is accurate. Who uses classifieds when there’s craigslist or ebay? The Internet is a superior model in every way, for buyer and seller.
But there is another reason, albeit related. Newspapers have lost much of their relevancy. With instant info delivery systems so prevalent now, why wait for the morning or evening edition? And it’s not just the news that got old on paper; everything did: entertainment, sports and, yes, advertising.
Fresh information is no longer the providence of newspapers. Perhaps analysis and other forms can prosper there but not updates and scoops. For this reason, in a recent column, the Chicago Tribune’s media expert, Phil Rosenthal reported that as early as 1979, certain sages were predicting the necessary evolution of news media to digital formats. Failure to do so would result in the death of the newspaper business. In other words, we saw it coming.
I used to think newspapers would be around as long as men needed something to read in the bathroom. It’s not like we can bring our laptop in there, right? Wrong. New technologies like Kindle and the Iphone make information gathering and receiving possible almost anywhere, even in the throne room.
Advertising was always part of the journalism department in college. How ironic, then that our former “host” is wasting away like this. The good news is that the news isn’t necessarily disappearing; it’s just moving into a more fashionable neighborhood.
A final cryptic note: It’s not newspapers that are dying but newspaper readers. Maybe you’re dad still reads the box scores but look at you. You’re reading a blog.