The Future of Newspapers

21 Feb ’05

Via Paul Kedrosky, a WaPo piece on the future of newspapers in a world that is nothing but ‘net.

The venerable newspaper is in trouble. Under sustained assault from cable television, the Internet, all-news radio and lifestyles so cram-packed they leave little time for the daily paper, the industry is struggling to remake itself.

Papers are conducting exhaustive surveys to find out what readers want. They are launching new sections, beefing up Web sites and spinning off free community papers and commuter giveaways in hopes of widening their audience. They even are trying to change the very language of the industry, asking advertisers and investors to dwell less on "circulation" — how many papers are sold — and more on "readership," or the number of people exposed to a paper’s journalism wherever it appears, in print, on the Web or over the air.

The changes come as circulation totals have eroded steadily for nearly two decades and as newspapers no longer play the central role in daily life they once did. Newspaper executives argue that an emphasis on readership better reflects what newspaper companies are becoming — multidimensional media conglomerates with growing Internet sites and stakes in television, radio, magazines and other businesses.

And there seems to be nothing on the horizon that can reverse the trend ….

Perhaps the best example going, certainly in the age of the blog, that the ‘net is the best tool we have designed for squeezing margins ‘til they shriek in pain – increasingly, whatever your company does, someone out there is willing to give it away for free ….

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