Magazine article Information Today

Thoughts on the Future of Publishing

Magazine article Information Today

Thoughts on the Future of Publishing

Article excerpt

The news was disheartening by the first half of 2009: The Rocky Mountain New s and the Ann Arbor (Michigan) News closed their doors; the Seattle Post Intelligencer ceased printing on paper and turned to web -only; and the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News cut back to publishing 3 days a week.

Some media analysts viewed these events as the start of a domino effect, signaling the demise of newspapers and, perhaps, of print altogether. But such troubles in the newsroom and for print are anything but new.

Figures from the Newspaper Association of America show that the number of people employed by the newspaper industry dropped by 18% between 1990 and 2004, the latter of which is also the magical year that served as a tipping point for digital. "Essentially, we're seeing an escalation from print to digital," says Ken Doctor, affiliate analyst for Outsell, Inc. "That escalation is a trend that started happening almost a decade ago, but there's a much greater push now with the economic downturn."

Doctor views newspapers as essentially a Baby Boomer product. "Up until the economic downturn, the well-heeled Baby Boomers were willing to pay $1 for a newspaper that used to cost 25 cents," he says, but not so much anymore. Recent troubles in the economy simply accelerated the situation.

"We're clearly seeing a move from print to more digital," says Eduardo Hauser, CEO of DailyMe.com, board member of NPR, journalism advisor to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and former AOL executive. "We're seeing this happen in 2009 faster than we thought because of the recent economic situation."

Making the Transition

Hauser considers himself an optimist. "These are tumultuous times," he says. "Many people are still scratching their heads about how they can adapt to the changing landscape. Eventually the economy will stabilize, and there will definitely be casualties ... but with the casualties come opportunities."

Cost-cutting measures are happening in and out of the newsroom. In late March, for instance, NPR caused some waves in the blogosphere after an internal email from a top manager went public about NPR's decision to cancel newspaper subscriptions. Controversy ensued with public outcries about NPR eliminating "all" newspaper subscriptions. But NPR set the record straight, noting that it spends about $100,000 on newspaper subscriptions, many of which stack up unread in NPR offices. With the network facing a budget shortfall and needing a way to trim $8 million, paring down the number of subscriptions seemed to be one option that would make a difference in the bottom line. In a statement from NPR, David Sweeney, deputy managing editor, reported that NPR will still spend about $7,000 on newspaper subscriptions, but NPR is "being prudent about how many we are bringing in."

'Snacking' on the News

While cost is still a big factor whether to renew a print subscription, technology has become another consideration. The large newspaper format may be a welcome addition to morning coffee for some readers, but others want connectivity to news in real time for the iPlione, BlackBerry, and Kindle. Aggregated content from Google News, Yahoo! News, and other news portals provides options, and more often than not, such sources can be easily pushed 24/7 to appeal to readers in just about any location and who have a growing number of mobile devices.

Online Advertising

Another factor chiseling away at the print newspaper's bottom line is the drop in advertising revenue, a decline of 20% year over year, and down 15% so far in 2009, according to Doctor. …

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