Saturday, February 28, 2009

How Long Will Newspapers Last?

How long will Newspapers last? I hope as long as people have puppies. It's been tough times for the industry, trying to adjust to the impact of the Internet. Yesterday, The Rocky Mountain News from Denver, Colorado published its last edition after 150 years. In Rhode Island yesterday, it was reported that the Providence Journal (Pro Jo) was going to lay off over 70 employees. This follows previous downsizing episodes at the paper.

Are these papers failing because of the Internet, or because of cutbacks to their news pages? I can only talk directly about the Providence Journal at this point because this is the only paper that I have read consistently over 35 years. The paper has grown so small that it is now being referred to as the Providence Pamphlet. The nickname demonstrates their problem.

A few years ago, the Pro Jo stopped printing the Wall Street numbers. While providing a broad overview, people could no longer follow their investments. Consequently, they turned to the Internet. Not too long ago, the Pro Jo stopped printing a TV section in their Sunday paper. Do you know how many people really depended on that? I know my wife did; now she gets TV Guide. I used to look forward to the Sports page. Now they cover only the Rhode Island teams with very little mention of other teams around the region (I'm a UMass fan; can't find any news here). Consequently, I'm driven to the Internet again. It seems like every downsizing move they made has driven us to the Internet. Once you're on the Internet for your news, you learn that you get news faster. By the time the paper arrives, it's old news, or no news.

Is the paper making some fundamental mistakes? I think so. The Pro Jo has been against state employees since forever; this doesn't endear them to a lot of readers. They seem to have plenty of print space in some sections; heck, the news seems to only cover 30% of the paper. How long do we have to endure the continuous feature, "Love Stories"? I haven't read one. If I want to read a book, I'll get a good book. This series has taken up miles of newsprint.

People need information that they can directly connect to. The Providence Journal has lost its way and gotten far from things that people want to see in the morning. If it's not in the morning paper, then you know what? We all turn to the Internet. Once there, we have found a way to get our information when we want it and it's free.

At least the Pro Jo finally got one Presidential election right by endorsing Barack Obama. Their support of George Bush through two election cycles had to hurt them. I think they can survive, they just need better leadership. Many subscribers will probably keep buying the paper as long as they have a puppy in their life.

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  1. I don't understand why newspapers endorse candidates at all.

  2. I am sad about the demise of newspapers. I too have grown up reading them, but feel every move they have made in the past five years have been anti-reader. You didn't mention the price of the daily newspaper. It went from .50 cents per day (which I felt was overpriced) to .75 cents per day (what were they thinking?). I read the New Bedford Standard Times. They are getting rid of the weekly TV section also. It probably costs them cents to buy (or print) and they will probably lose hundreds of subscriptions over it.