More on the ‘Newspaper Death Watch’

Blake Rutherford rounds up the latest press on falling daily newspaper circulation and notes Advertising Age’s “Newspaper Death Watch” piece we noted in passing the other day. He also finds an interesting guestimate from Henry Blodget on where all that print newspaper advertising money’s going to go, and guess what? Most of it ain’t coming back to “newspapers,” whatever form they take.

Newspaper web sites are only capturing a fraction of the print revenue the papers are losing, and the growth of newspaper sites has already started to slow. As the chart below shows, in 2007, the industry lost 8%, or $4 billion of advertising including newspaper web sites. Newspaper sites will capture a small portion of that new $30 billion Digital pie, but probably not much more than $5 billion. Some newspaper companies will survive, but only after major restructuring.

That’s because newspapers didn’t act quickly enough in the early days of the Web, and they let innovative little Web sites (that enjoyed all the great economies of scale the Internet offers) basically take all the little services newspapers provide — including classifieds and jobs listings — and make them better, easier to use and more relevant to people. Just check out who’s included among the companies Blodget says will get most of that old print newspaper ad money: “Google, Yahoo, Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, job sites …”

So what can newspapers do? Here’s how newspapers must start thinking (from my comment on Rutherford’s blog):

The first step to that new model is seeing themselves not as newspapers, but news content providers working across all media. The content and data they create must live a dozens of separate lives across multiple media channels. Despite the horror unfolding throughout the industry, this really should be an exciting time for its practitioners, who are getting the chance to remake their job descriptions and find new ways to tell stories and share information.

Of course that says nothing about how this new breed of news providers will monetize their operation — and that’s the real head-scratcher, isn’t it? But the prospect of more money coming to the Web is encouraging, and the industry must be there, in some form, when more of it arrives.


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