A Positive Spin on the Demise of Newspapers

by Peter Boritz

It is vital to acknowledge the need to restructure in order to cope with a changing environment. The newspaper industry won’t survive on the old business model of relying on advertising and readership to cover print costs. The digital world is a promising reality and you just can’t fight it. It's not all bad - Mother Nature is probably bumping chests with Woodsy Owl right now at the thought of all those natural resources being left alone.

Last year was the worst ever for the US newspaper industry, with both print and online advertising revenue posting declines, as indicated by Newspaper Association of America (NAA) figures. Total newspaper advertising revenue fell 16.6% in 2008 to $37.8 billion, according to NAA. This comprised of a 17.7% decrease in print advertising revenue and 1.8% decrease in online advertising revenue, the latter being on a double-digit growth over the previous four years. When it comes to classified advertising revenue, it plummeted to $9.97 billion, falling 29.7% from previous year.

The US newspaper industry experienced many bankruptcies, job cuts, and closures. A 146 year old Seattle Post-Intelligencer in downtown Seattle has folded. The New York Times was forced to sell its Manhattan headquarters for $225 million to pay off debt as print advertising revenue declined. The newspaper publisher will lease the building for 15 years from the new owner. The Tribune Company, which owns many of the nation's leading papers, including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, filed for bankruptcy protection in December of 2008. Many more newspapers have closed their doors or ended print editions, including the Rocky Mountain News.

But who relies on hard copies nowadays? The future is invested in digital infrastructure allowing for everyone to easily access various news portals. Physical editions are no longer the primary way of communication. But is this something we should worry about? Should we feel bad for the newspaper industry that chose to remain inflexible? Are propositions, such as that of Maryland’s Ben Cardin’s to enforce a bill allowing newspapers to operate as tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, economically viable?

Rarely do people search for apartments via newspaper listings, but rather rely on internet searches. People shop online, buy their food online, read news online. With the spread of mobile internet access people more often than not prefer to rely on a single information portal: the internet. But such efficiency should not go unnoticed. Not only is this adaptation a tool for time management, but an eco-friendly solution.

Digital advertising will take over hard-copy advertising, if it hasn’t done so already. But one industry’s demise is a gateway to new opportunities, and a redefinition of advantages and disadvantage of the given situation. In the case of the hard-copy newspaper industry’s downfall, it is a victory in disguise.