Gloomy News for the Newspaper Industry

From the New York Times, things are going from bad to worse for the purveyors of ink-stained tree bark:

For newspapers, the news has swiftly gone from bad to worse. This year is taking shape as their worst on record, with a double-digit drop in advertising revenue, raising serious questions about the survival of some papers and the solvency of their parent companies.

Ad revenue, the primary source of newspaper income, began sliding two years ago, and as hiring freezes turned to buyouts and then to layoffs, the decline has only accelerated.

The article goes on to explain that the San Francisco Chronicle is losing US $1 million every week. Every week. The primary cause of this downturn is “the Internet’s siphoning away of ad revenue”.

Would I care if the physical version of every newspaper in the world went away? Nope. The real question is whether newspapers can work out a way to survive as Internet-only entities. I’d really like to see a balance sheet for, say, the Vancouver Sun, to understand how much they’d save (and how much ad revenue they’d lose) if they moved to an exclusively online format. That’s certainly not viable today, but it looks like the writing is on the wall.


  1. As a little kid in the 80s I remember thinking how it would be better for the environment if instead of paper newspapers we got floppy disks delivered to us. Then we could read them on our computers and “recycle” them without killing trees. I still think it’s a good idea today, except for the bit where nobody has a 5-1/4″ floppy drive anymore.

    I really hope reading devices like the Amazon Kindle become the norm; then we could get our morning newspapers over the internet and read them at our leisure. I’d pay for that setup, assuming I liked the writing enough.

  2. I wonder what percentage of newspapers’ costs comes from printing and distribution. If they’re like most other businesses, most expenses come in salaries, so switching to online-only won’t reduce them enough on its own.

  3. About a year and a half ago I had an editorial canned by The Kelowna Daily Courier when I argued that having a crappy website was going to be a much bigger issue than just losing a few readers of the print edition of the paper.

    Some papers, like the Guardian, are well positioned to move into a completely online world. Most however are still protecting the print edition, and are sacraficing their web sites to do so.

  4. I think Kindle will have an enormous impact on the way we read books, too. This handy little reader isn’t the same as holding a book in your hands but there are other advantages. It’s becoming the norm to publish your book both on Amazon and Kindle for authors.


    The problem is that technology has surpassed theactual physical newspaper.
    We are moving towards a paperless society. I just booked and e-ticket, gotta a e-traffic ticket and payed all my bills from my cellphone. Why would I read a piece of processed treebark when I get the latest happening from yahoo news?
    Keep up or move over.

  6. The framing of the cause is interesting, as it plays the newspaper industry as the victim of the mean ol’ internet. To me, the cause of the loss is the ongoing denial and halting embracement of an emerging medium. Newspapers have done little to innovate with what they do best, which is content. They say content is king on the web, and news organizations were poised to take it by storm. Instead they sat on their hands, kicking and screaming and doing everything but what people were asking for. Boo hoo.

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