Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The New Newspaper

The recession is hitting U.S. newspapers harder than the Great Depression did. Newspapers are not going away, but will have trouble surviving in their current form. Here are some of the qualities of the new newspaper that we can be sure of at this point:

  • Smaller. The size of today’s newspapers strains resources on all sides. A smaller paper will make things easier for the newsroom and the printing plant. At the same time, it will help out the busy reader, who rarely has time to read more than a few pages anyway, and it will fit more easily on the morning commuter train.
  • Less advertising. Newspaper advertising revenue has already fallen by more than a third from the peak in 2006. It seems likely to drop to less than half of the peak levels by the end of 2010, where it might stabilize. Previously reliable advertising categories, such as real estate, automobiles, employment, movies, and television, may have only a token presence in newspapers in the future.
  • Older. Starvation wages combined with pay freezes make it hard for newspapers to keep younger workers anyway, and the few remaining workers under 35 are at greatest risk of losing their jobs as staffing is cut. Readers too are getting older as the average U.S. newspaper reader is now over 55 years old.
  • Less news. Newspapers have been slashing newsroom staffing for more than a decade, and that is a trend that can only continue as newspaper budgets are cut across the board. Newspapers will still get the big story, but with less staff and less space, will have to pass over most of the smaller stories.