News You Can Lose

News You Can Lose

Happy New Year everyone. Here’s to a successful 2009.

I realize that I have turned my blog into a bit of a media watch lately, but I can’t help but follow the economic condition of mass media. James Surowiecki has this wonderful look at newspapers in his recent column in the New Yorker:

“There’s no mystery as to the source of all the trouble: advertising revenue has dried up. In the third quarter alone, it dropped eighteen per cent, or almost two billion dollars, from last year. For most of the past decade, newspaper companies had profit margins that were the envy of other industries. This year, they have been happy just to stay in the black. Many traditional advertisers, like big department stores, are struggling, and the bursting of the housing bubble has devastated real-estate advertising.”

Surowiecki compares newspapers to railraods at the turn of the century: “Newspaper readership has been slowly dropping for decades—as a percentage of the population, newspapers have about half as many subscribers as they did four decades ago—but the Internet helped turn that slow puncture into a blowout. Papers now seem to be the equivalent of the railroads at the start of the twentieth century—a once-great business eclipsed by a new technology.”

I agree with his conclusion in that we won’t realize what we have in the reporting that newspaper reporters provide until it is gone.