It’s too bad that we can’t say of daily newspapers, as Mark Twain once quipped, that the reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.
In the last couple of weeks, the industry has continued to shrink both workforce and product. The New York Times radically reduced the size of its iconic Sunday Times magazine, which now resembles a department store insert – only with fewer ads.
This morning, Freedom Communications, which owns scores of media properties, including The Gazette, announced across-the-board salary reductions of 5 percent.
Will the industry recover? Can print media, so beloved by the 50-plus demographic, endure, recover, and thrive? Or will the entire news and information business move to the Web?
The answer’s pretty obvious. Print is only hanging on because baby boomers-and their parents – are living longer. Every year, the grim reaper puts the kibosh on hundreds of thousands of folks who otherwise would have renewed their subscriptions to their friendly metro daily, hastening the day of print’s demise.
When that day comes – whether in two, five, or ten years, the business will change dramatically.
Metro dailies were, for decades, great businesses. That’s because they had effective advertising platforms, and usually enjoyed local monopolies. The cost of creating and operating a daily was so prohibitive that potential rivals either merged or went out of business. The chains that owned monopoly dailies never poached on the territory of other chains – why bother to risk losses?
For the moment, daily newspaper Web sites dominate their markets – but that may not last.
Their web dominance is a result of information subsidy, from the built-in advantage of the powerful editorial and sales staffs that man the print editions. Absent print, online revenue won’t be enough to maintain the workforce, and the cost of entry will drop precipitously.
Some metros will make the transition – and some, buried under top-heavy corporate structures and legacy debt, will founder. New market entrants will strive for local dominance, and some will realize their goals.
Other markets may fragment, with no dominant news and information provider. And others, particularly in the sunny climes favored by retirees, may still cling to print.
Listen, sonny boy, if it was good enough for Grandpa, it’s good enough for me! And where else am I going to get the obits…?