As the Tribune Company announces bankruptcy with thirteen billion dollars in debt, the New York Times borrows against its real estate assets to stay afloat and the Miami Herald is put up for sale by financially strapped McClatchy, one begins to wonder what the future of the printed news page may bring.

It is not for the lack of readers. It is, more obviously, for the lack of advertising revenue that began with the loss of classified ads to the likes of Craigslist and other online resources, followed by a downturn in our economy and the pullback in display ads by retailers … a perfect storm.

The newspaper business model, one that relies on ad revenue to keep the presses rolling, has been showing stress cracks and is now breaking apart.

On one hand, we have journalistic integrity and depth taking it squarely on the chin as layoffs in the industry take their toll.

Who cares? Advertisers certainly do not. They will find other channels to take the place of newspapers that have long been gone. Readers? For the most part, readers who are loyal to their morning and Sunday editions will feel the pain created by the void.

Newspapers have been through downturns in the past and reinvented themselves with special editions and sections. The rebound this time around will not be easy as the downturn is wider and deeper than before.

How can newspapers survive? Downsize the paper, creating niche markets. Increase the cost of the paper, moving from an ad-supported model to a subscription supported model. Continue to embrace the internet as an adjunct to the printed page.

Finally, boldly move to recapture classified ads. Carry them at NO CHARGE. And watch as circulation jumps and display ad revenue trickles back.

The newspaper industry has been slow to react and slower to fight back, lacking an understanding of the real psychological drivers of their business.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I agree with all but one point: "It is not for the lack of readers." When I grew up, everyone in my neighborhood got the paper. Now, when I look down the hall of my apartment building in the morning. I see only one other apartment out of 14 with a newspaper by the door.

This past weekend, I reduced my NY Times subscription from 7 days a week to 3.

I like your idea about papers providing free classifieds, but I can't help but wonder if people really buy the paper to read them.