Doooooooooom

Newspapers are DOOMED!

• The latest statistics out of the Audit Bureau of Circulations find that newspaper circulation dropped 2.6 percent in the six months that ended in September. That’s more of a drop than in any comparable six-month period since 1991.

• A new Pew survey reports that 48 percent of blog creators are under 30 and 39 percent of them have college or graduate degrees.

All this speaks volumes about the state of the print news business, and its increasingly perilous future. As someone who earns his daily bread working for an online media publication, I’m opening myself to obvious criticism. But truth be told, I want to be proved flat wrong. I grew up with newspapers–starting as a 13-year-old delivery boy for the Long Island Press in Queens, New York, and then in my first professional gigs. What’s more, I’ve been reading the print edition of The New York Times all my adult life and can’t imagine ever straying from that daily routine.

But I’m a dinosaur, part of a shrinking generation of daily print newspaper readers who likely will disappear in a few decades. And we’re being replaced by folks who “consume media” through the use of RSS feeders, Web portals and blogs.

Did you see that? Did you see that progression?

Newspapers are sucking the bag.

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People like blogs! They’re the hip new craze that’s sweeping the nation!

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People are leaving newspapers for blogs.

You know what would have been nice? A survey of some sort. Data, really, of any kind, that would have supported that post hoc, ergo propter clusterfuck of a conclusion. A poll: Have you cancelled your subscription to the Times in favor of DailyKos and RedState.org?

Or is it simply that you’re tired of your paper, your broadcast, covering less and less and less of the news you need in favor of celebrity gossip, “lifestyle” and “trend” pieces about flip-flop shoes in the White House, stories about how it really snows a lot in January in Chicago, and a five-parter on nannies, and THAT’S why you cancelled your subscription?

You want to read some really well-researched commentary about why newspapers are DOOMED?

Greed is good, Michael Douglas (as Gordon Gekko) said famously in the movie “Wall Street.”

But it’s not so good for the newspaper business.

The beleaguered industry took another shot across the bow last week when something called Private Capital Management, which owns 19 percent of Knight Ridder’s stock, called upon the nation’s second-largest newspaper company to put itself up for sale. And if that didn’t happen, the big shareholder said it would support a hostile takeover.

This was a seriously menacing development. As Doug Clifton, editor of Cleveland’s Plain Dealer and before that a longtime Knight Ridder editor, told the Los Angeles Times, the ploy “has the feeling of a momentous event.”

Seems the 19.4 percent profit the company made last year just didn’t satisfy the high-flyers at the money management firm.

Private Capital Management had given Knight Ridder a stern talking to in July. The company soon shed the Detroit Free Press (a Knight Ridder mainstay) and ordered up yet another round of layoffs in Philadelphia and San Jose. But that wasn’t enough.

It’s never enough for Wall Street.

[snip]

Actually, readership of the stories that newspapers produce is soaring, thanks to the Internet. Newspaper sites are quite popular because newspapers have the staffs to report in-depth information that no one else can.

But while online advertising is increasing, it will take quite awhile to reach levels that can support newsgathering operations of the scope of newspapers.

Meanwhile, all of the profit pressures push newspapers in the wrong direction. No matter how the reality is camouflaged in feel-good mumbo jumbo, the relentless string of cutbacks leads to weaker dailies.

And I’m not sure trying to woo new customers with an inferior product is a brilliant business strategy.

It’s clear that all the journalism purists’ angst over Wall Street isn’t going to stop the bleeding. But that doesn’t mean that we have to pretend that the profit mania is just fine.

Emphasis mine. About damn time somebody in this house started talking some sense.

A.