Daily Newspapers Face Challenges from the Internet

Article excerpt

Ever since the Internet's popularity exploded in the mid-1990s, pundits have predicted it would present a serious challenge to daily newspapers. We're beginning to see those challenges increase and threaten to reach a crisis point.

Along with the sinking economy, the Internet is reducing daily newspaper profits, causing layoffs, and in some cases, leading to the demise of all print publications. Newspapers are facing the double whammy of shrinking ad revenue and shrinking readership.

The news is grim:

* The New York times' earnings for the third quarter of 2008 were less than hall of what they were for the same period in 2007, and the paper is burdened with huge debt, according to the company's latest 10-Q report. Silieon Alley Insider says the Times is "running on fumes," www.alleyinsider.com/2008/10/new-york-times-nyt-running-on-fumes.

* The Los Angeles Times, in its latest round of newsroom cuts, laid off another 75 staffers in October after laying off 150 newsroom workers over the summer.

* The Christian Science Monitor in October announced the newspaper will transform itself from a daily to a weekly publication by April 2009, while focusing more efforts on its web site. According to a story in Business Week, www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/oct2008/db20081028_224442.htm, the paper is losing nearly $18.9 million a year and has seen its circulation shrink to 56,000 from a high of 223,000 in 1970.

* Every major newspaper in the country is losing circulation, according to the latest figures of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (www.accessabc.com), except USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, whose circulations are both flat. For the 507 newspapers as a whole that reported, daily circulation is down 4.6 percent from the same period a year ago. Of the 20 biggest papers, the biggest losers of subscribers were the Houston Chronicle, down 11.7%, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, down 11.1%.

* Newspaper circulation in the country as a whole is down more than 14% since 1970, despite the population increasing by 50% during this period, according to BuzzMachine (www.buzzmachine.com). Newspaper penetration is about half what it was then: 17% instead of 30 percent.

Things could get much worse, opines Tim Oren on his Due Diligence blog (www.due-diligence.typepad.com). He's calling what may happen the "Newspaper Crash of 2009."

For readers, the most pronounced consequences of the newspaper malaise are fewer articles available to read with their morning coffee, more news and feature stories by writers from the national news services instead of local reporters, and the loss of favorite columnists. …