Monday, October 26, 2009

Latest Data – Newspapers Still Dying; But the Chicago Sun-Times Has New Owners Who Bet They Have a Miracle Cure

Editor & Publisher reports (link) that over the past six months, of the 22 largest circulation newspapers for which there is data, all but one lost circulation; only the Wall Street Journal increased sales. In fact, percent declines for 15 of the 21 were in double digits. The Associated Press reports (link) that “average daily circulation at 379 U.S. newspapers plunged 10.6 percent in the recent April-September period from the same six-month stretch last year.

The internet has dealt the newspaper business a serious blow, but not just because the news and information is free and always available. It’s also because the internet houses all sorts of information from all sorts of political views, allowing readers to bypass the heavy, typically liberal biases of publishers. Moreover, faced with shrinking sales, many papers seem to have dumbed down the content, apparently trying to make inroads with what I have previously described as the demographic that doesn’t read much. That can’t be a smart strategy.

If “newspapers” are to survive, they need to see themselves as being in the news and information business, need to be able to charge customers for their content whether on paper or on the internet, and need to maximize the potential customer base by delivering news and information that’s balanced and fair -- a tall order for what seems like most newspaper publishers who apparently would rather die with a biased product than succeed without one.

Megan McArdle writes (link) at the Atlantic:
I think we're witnessing the end of the newspaper business, full stop, not the end of the newspaper business as we know it. The economics just aren't there. At some point, industries enter a death spiral: too few consumers raises their average costs, meaning they eventually have to pass price increases onto their customers. That drives more customers away. Rinse and repeat . . .
Meanwhile, a Chicago investor group has put up about $26 million to now own (link) what’s left of the Chicago Sun-Times, which in recent years has not only been dumbed down like so many other papers but has been driven hard to the left, leaving even middle of the road liberalism in the rear view mirror. The last bunch had a business plan whose key point was to alienate 50% of its potential readership base -- the only thing at which it succeeded. Do the new owners have some secret sauce or just hubris? We’ll find out soon.

Some Previous Related Posts:

Sinking Liberal Newspapers Throw Readers Overboard, & the Chicago Sun-Times as a Case in Point

Chicago Newspapers Fight for Air – Struggle for Control at the Sun-Times, and the Tribune Dumbs Down

Ray of Hope at the Chicago Sun-Times Newspaper

John M Greco