Hardly a month will go by without some sort of lament from journalists about how their customers are fading away. People are finding other sources for their news, and the ranks of the faithful have been disappearing at an ever increasing rate.
This news article reports that circulation fell about 2.5% in the past 6 months, which is one of the worst periods for the industry in the past 20 years.
Most of the stories Iíve read about this trend blame wanton bias on the part of the readers. The common wisdom seems to be that people will turn away from news sources that actually tells it like it is, and instead theyíll seek out comforting news venues which will reinforce their own slanted vision of the world. Itís remarkable that the Reuters article to which I linked avoids doing this.
The reason why people started to turn away from the dailies seems simple enough to me. Cable news channels sped up the information cycle, allowing people to get their info hours before the newspapers were printed. Itís accelerated in recent years because the Internet does the same thing, but faster still.
(This isnít to say that bias doesnít play a part in it, but I think the Liberal bias that permeates most news organizations is doing more to destroy the industry than anything their readers are doing.)
Whatís rather interesting is how the major newspapers are handling the loss of prestige and influence. The local channels here in Columbus, Ohio have been inundated with ads for The New York Times in recent months. This is amusing in a variety of ways. The first is how the people in the commercials keep repeating how influential and prestigious the NYT is, something that the article I linked to above goes a long way towards discrediting. Itís also amusing to speculate how many of the editors, columnists and journalists who work for the Times could find the state of Ohio on the map. If these guys are paying to advertise in flyover country then theyíre really desperate.
A second method to inflate their importance is how papers game the numbers when it comes to readership. Although they only 2.08 million copies every day, the editors at the NYT insist that they have a readership of over 5 million. The secret is in passed copies, or papers that are tossed aside after being read only to have someone else pick it up.
It might appear that print newspapers are an example of buggy whip technology, but I doubt that they will disappear tomorrow. After all, how is everyone out here in flyover country going to contain the mess when we clean the fish caught over the weekend?
I just came across another news story about dailies and how they’re trying to increase their customer base. In an effort to appeal to younger veiwers, they’re adding Japanese manga to the comic pages.
I don’t think this is going to work. You can get a lot more manga for free off of the Internet. Like Robin Goodfellow points out below, why pay for something that you can get faster and for no cost online?