Many newspapers are in serious economic trouble. Do you think this is due to market forces or to public rejection of their content, or to both? Please explain your conclusion.
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If by "market forces" you mean the failure by management of the print media to recognize that the world is changing and they are not, then absolutely. As a life-long newspaper junkie, I will hang in there as long as there are newspapers available. I believe that I am fast becoming a dinosaur in that regard. I can see it every morning when I watch my newspaper deliveryman drive by at least 50 houses in each direction to drop the 2 morning papers at my house. Economically, how long can he continue to do that? How do those 100 families get the news? Or, scary thought, do they even bother?
So many questions, so little time. The explosion of the internet in the last 15 years or so and its impact on the way we obtain information is one of those historic events akin to Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. Unfortunately, it was an insidious arrival more easily seen with hindsight by those not into computers and technology. Inherently, decision makers in the news biz are probably a little Luddite in their view of that change. Even as the way that they delivered content to the printing presses changed from hand delivered copy to a typesetter to the present method of total automation, editors and newspaper executives failed to notice that the same content could be delivered directly to the audience without all of the intervening steps. They were also trapped by some of the same union pressures confronting the Auto industry. Advertising revenue masked losses due to declining circulation for a long time, but the advent of Ebay, Google and Craigslist to name a few started taking huge "bytes" out of that source of income. Now, it's time to pay the piper.
Unfortunately, at the same time that the market ran off and hid from them, the wave of liberally educated, liberal thinking reporters were maturing into decision making roles as editors and publishers of newspapers. These like minded content providers, probably didn't even notice that they were gradually shifting the center of the news spectrum to the left until it was too late. There was no one left in the news room who could offer a "conservative" opinion on where they were/are headed with the news. Since even in the Obama "landslide" roughly half of the population is way more conservative than the media, they are simply writing off half the potential customer base. Even people like me, who buy newspapers just so that I can disagree with them are being driven away by the ready availability of more conservative threads of information from sites like this one.
So, I guess that my vote is for both; and, it is a self inflicted disaster. If the media had adhered to the concept of keeping opinion on the editorial and op-ed pages, while simultaneously charging into the internet area rather than being dragged in by their audience, they might have averted/prevented the inevitable consequences of their behavior in the last 15 years. All I can say to them is, "RIP!"
It’s a combination of economic shifts and content degradation. The revenue paradigm for newspapers has evaporated. The bulk of revenue for newspapers is generated through classified advertising. Twenty years ago if you wanted a job, needed an apartment, wanted to buy a house, or hook up through the personals, you bought the Sunday paper and flipped through the classifieds, each one of which paid the newspaper for its π inch of space. Who scours the classifieds today? Multiple internet sites cater to job searches and real estate, the lovelorn, and just about anything else for sale. The dollar you pay for the local paper is nothing compared to the revenue generated by advertising. That’s how newspapers got started. The journalistic part was secondary to the advertising. The shift to on-line media for shopping has eliminated the need for businesses to advertise through the newspapers. Sites like Google News and Yahoo! have replaced the newspapers. And, how do they make their money - through advertising.
But, the real nail in the coffin of the newspaper business is the degradation of the content. Most news outlets, including most papers and TV take their cue from the front pages of the NY Times, even today. The Times used to be the “paper of record." Its editorials were always liberal, at least as far back as I can remember (I believe the last Republican endorsed by the Times for president was Ike), but the news sections were well written and informative and bereft of blatant political slant. Today, who can reasonably argue that the Times is anything but a propaganda arm of the Democratic party? The Times has been losing readership steadily. The leftist bias of most journalists has been well documented for the last 20 years and the public has noticed. Polls in the election cycle showed that a vast majority of Americans perceived the MSM as pulling for Obama. And what is sauce for the NYTimes is sauce for the news weeklies. Newsweek and Time are a joke.
The market really does work. If you put out a superior product you stand a good chance of beating your competition. The New York Post makes money. The NYTimes does not. Smarmy elites look down their noses at the Post, but it does report the news without pretention and with reasonable accurateness.
I suppose it’s different for everyone. I’m over 60 and quite computer
literate, so the internet is a piece of cake. That said, I used to get, in
Washington, DC, the NYT, WaPo, Wall Street Journal and then later the
The first to go was the Journal. The Times covered most of what I needed,
in those pre-internet days. The NYT was a joy in the 80's: Well written,
interesting reviews of books, plays, movies, and more. Then the writing
became more mundane. The reviews weren’t as interesting. (Looking back,
there was much less of interest to review.) I then did the Sunday only for
a while, but after a few years it got tiresome.
Now it’s just the WaPo and the Washington Times. If my wife didn’t like
its Metro, food ads, and coupons, I’d skip it most days. Often I’ll look
at the headline above the fold and say “Is that true?”. Frequently it may
be “true”, but only when carefully worded.(I’ve seen too many
non-political stories where I knew the details and the Post just got it
half right, but presented it as the final word on the situation..) The
editorial page is just boring. Gray. The editorial cartoons are
unbelievably childish and bad.
The Washington Times has a more interesting Op-Ed section. The sports is
preferable: It’s geared to the betting sports, not the politically
correct. And it’s written straightforwardly. The Post’s sports section has
too many agendas.
I hacked a quick funnies grabber, which I run first thing in the morning.
There are a few funnies worth reading, even these days.
It’s not one thing. I drifted away, not ran away. Good writing and even
handedness could get me back. Maybe also a sense of proportion: Not all
hurricanes are going to be Category 5. Not all campaign gaffes (“macaca”)
are two-week stories. Nor is Abu Ghraib the end of the world.
I think the demise of the newspapers is due to both factors. They are essentially one of the buggywhips of today, nearing the end of their product life-cycle. A signature of their cultural importance was the experience of many a boy (and perhpas even a few girls) of delivering papers door-to-door. Which kids today want to struggle with a heavy bag of newspapers on the Schwinn, when there are soccer, lacrosse, football, expensive musical insturments, etc. to play and Harvard mightily to strive for (though I can't understand why)? More importantly, nearly 50% of the populace now gets their news on the internet, which will more-and-more reap the advertising dollars. The report of Google and Proctor and Gamble trying to learn each others' corporate cultures is the exclamation point at the end of the newspapers' "mene, mene, tekel, upharsin".
And why do people now look to the internet to inform themselves? Because of the true diversity of opinion there and, of course, because of the grotesque bias shown by many newspapers and other remnants of the main stream media. When a veritable army of lawyers and diggers is sent to Alaska to uncover and report on the front page every incident of Sarah Palin farting in church, while completely glossing over and covering up Obama's sordid past and assorted blunders, something is very, very wrong, and people sense it. Most of the major newspapers have become little more than organs (in every sense of the word) of the DNC, and their only other function is to report to the upper-middle-class what is hip and politically correct. Indeed, the co-opting of the media by one political party is perhaps the single most troublesome aspect of the past campaign. Perhaps they thought The One would bail them out in exchange for their blind support. Now they can join the ever-lengthening queue.
Tribune Company is in bankruptcy and the NY Times, with its' idiot editor, is selling for $7 a share, down from $50, their bonds having been reduced to junk status. Good riddance, the quicker the better Even if they were able to regain what is left of their integrity and their souls, it is most likely too late.
I think both forces are in play and, in some ways, related to each other.
Re market forces, the financial crisis now upon us is obvious. Its consequences are both felt, and reported to the point of obsession by the media. The response of many folks, directly affected or not, appears to be belt-tightening, accompanied by fear, anger, and lack of confidence in our elected representatives to improve things. Market forces also in play are the more convenient and free news sources. Talk radio, the Internet, including newspapers-on-line, blogs, etc. have been making the "morning paper" increasingly irrelevant.
These market forces are in play while press bias, as shown in the recent election, has become obvious and disgraceful. Newspapers, in their enthusiasim to elect Mr. Obama, have allowed both blatant and subtle editorializing in news stories. Two recent examples that come quickly to mind are the New York Times embarrassing scandal-mongering about Senator McCain's "affair" with a lobbyist (which was never more than undocumented gossip), and the AP's announced decision to allow use of value-laden words in new stories -- reflecting reporter/editor bias above and beyond any factual content.
The combination and overlap of market and content can perhaps be illustrated by a highly anecdotal and opinion-laden front-section story in our morning paper today. The story, complete with man-child-dog picture, reports that people are being forced by the sinking economy to give up their dogs and cats, and are not supporting local animal shelters. Read the entire (long) story, however, and you will find actual evidence to the contrary far down on the jump page.
I would cancel this paper, but my husband deems its local sports coverage a necessity. I console myself by limiting my reading to the comics.