It hasn’t been a good decade for newspapers, but the last month has been especially bad.
- See Howard Kurtz’s late-May column about the more than 100 Washington Post journalists taking buyouts.
- Sam Zell is cutting 500 pages of news per week from his 12 Tribune Company papers, moving to a 50/50 split of advertising and editorial.
- McClatchy, which bought the Minneapolis Star Tribune for $1.2 billion in 1998 and sold it for $530 million in 2006, announced last week that it is cutting its workforce by 10 percent, or 1,400 jobs.
- And today’s New York Times carries the grim headline: Papers Facing Worst Year for Ad Revenue
It’s not like last year was good. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s ad revenue was down 8 percent last year, and is now about 12 percent below that pace. The Times says the Chronicle is losing about $1 million a week.
Compounding losses have a way of spiraling. Ad revenue falls, so papers cut back on staff and on the number of pages. The paper is less compelling, so circulation falls. Advertisers won’t pay the high prices for reduced reach, so revenue falls still further.
Add to this the general trend among younger people to not read the newspaper, and on-line alternatives such as eBay, Craigslist and Monster.com that are claiming an ever-larger share of what was formerly a classified advertising monopoly for newspapers, and the situation looks quite bleak.
It’s hard to know which of these trends started first, but Clay Shirky has a good analysis of the monster forces conspiring against the newspaper business in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. I hope to write a review in the coming days; it’s quite insightful.
It will be difficult for my review to do it justice, though, and besides, I might not get to it for a while. So you should just go ahead and order it today.
I’ve got a Podcasting curriculum to finish.