Why Newspapers Are Doomed

Newspapers aren’t dead yet. Despite the steady declines in circulation and ad sales, many newspapers continue to hang on.  And yet, they are inevitably doomed.

Here’s a few reasons why:

1. Local reporting. Many news websites focus on national stories. Big stuff. But the local newspaper give us useful reporting on local issue. Small stuff, like flooding, taxes, and school events.

CNN doesn’t cover your neighborhood unless it’s a major news event, like a catastrophe or a tragedy. Either way, you don’t want to be in the news at that time.

2. Pictures. If you compared today’s paper with one from 10 years ago, you’d notice something important. That is, there are a lot of news wire photos. Lots of celebrities. Lots of people you dont actually know.

Wanna know why? Photographers cost money.

As newspapers rely more on news wire photos — stuff you can see anywhere — they lose a connection with the local community.

3. In Depth Reporting. Like Local Reporting, in depth reporting was the cornerstone of newspaper journalism. TV gave you the headlines, but newspapers gave you the full story. A good newspaper might offer sidebars, editorials, and illustrations.

My local newspaper has won many prestigious awards for investigative journalism. Big exposes about local corruption and news events. Information on a local level. You cant get that from a journalist-blogger conducting an interviews over email.

And yet, local newspapers cede control to online journalists and bloggers every time they run a canned story from the news wire.

About the News Wire. Take a look at your local newspaper again. Check to see who wrote that story. If it says Associated Press or another service, it means your newspaper bought that story (probably through a subscription).

Newswire stories are a cheap way to fill space. But they also cheapen the true value of the newspaper.

A canned story satisfies a short-term goal of making a profit, since it’s cheaper to buy a story than to create one in house. But these are temporary solutions further weaken newspapers.

If newspapers continue along this path, they are surely doomed.

Here’s a Related Story: Why Comic Book Publishing is Doomed

10 thoughts on “Why Newspapers Are Doomed

  1. I know my parents are thinking about switching from our local newspaper to their website, which publishes all the same stories. The biggest problem we’ve found with the actual paper is how there are so many ads in it. A macy’s ad took up almost 2 entire pages with 2 columns along the sides with actual news. Its just really annoying how the paper has turned into a big ad and the news is just a side piece. But i agree, the paper is slowing dying and the only thing keeping them afloat are all the ADS!

  2. Hurley,

    I’m not sure if the business model of newspapers has changed all that radically. A newspaper is typically kept afloat by ads.

    I think the ratio is about 70% ads to 30% content. I may have the exact number wrong, but it’s something in that neighborhood.

    Ads are a necessary part of any free media. Check out my post Isnt Really Free
    for more on this topic. There’s even a response in there from the guy who founded Zoho.com.

    But free or ad supported doesnt matter, unless you are serving the needs and desires of your readers.

  3. One more HUGE strike against the newspapers: There is no social aspect to them. If I found a strong newspaper article, or one that I thought was worth discussing with friends or co-workers, there is no method to distribute that article or share it with someone I didn’t have physical access to.

    New media affords us the luxury to distribute, immediately and easily anything on the web. This same media, in many cases, also allows us to leave comments for other readers and the audience (this blog being a perfect example).

  4. CHRIS: Great point. Newspapers are standing still as society changes around it. People are social creatures and newspapers are standing flatfoot as new and interesting social networking and sharing features are literally springing up overnight.

    It’s even more dramatic when you consider that newspapers practically had a monopoly on one specific form of person-to-person mass media. They literally had a local lock on personals and want ads. That was stolen from underneath them by companies like Match.com and Craigslist.org.

  5. Remember the old days when relatives clipped articles they thought we’d like and mailed them to us?

    My local paper has an online area specifically for mothers. They also started encouraging readers to send in their news and photos. I think some papers are making an attempt to get current, but maybe it’s just too little, too late… or, in the case of my local paper, the features and the writing are mediocre, and they just come off as hopelessly dorky.

    Yes, papers shoot themselves in the foot by including too many wire stories. I think they’re cutting costs to survive, but in so doing, they are cutting quality and value, and thus merely hastening their own demise.

    The physical burden of taking all that newspaper to the curb is something else I no longer want. My recycling bins are too small as it is.

  6. AMY: Yeah, I remember those days. I still have some newspaper clips in my file cabinet of stuff I would like to keep. From the newspaper.

    You’re right though, the lame halfhearted attempts by many newspapers to “keep up” have been rather lame. (I cant say “ALL” newspapers because I am rather familiar with my local newspaper.) This keeping up mentality is sort of like how a successful genre movie will suddenly a half dozen imitators the following year.

    Newspapers should explore the right ways to leverage technology, as it is appropriate to daily news reporting.

    But they should LEAD where it matters, that is, in local coverage. That’s where newspapers still own the medium.

  7. hello Buddy. *waves*

    Newspapers are doomed. I’m surprised they’ve actually lasted this long. I get ALL my news from the web. all of it. 100%. I predict in 5 years newspapers will be virtually non-existent.

    so what about magazines?

  8. Hmm. Good point about magazines.

    Hard to say. I still love magazines, specifically because they are highly focused on one topic.

    But (sadly) even magazines are suffering these days. Not from me, of course, I have about 12 magazine subscriptions.

  9. I’m not sure that this has been said..but! people actually like hands on..( another reason why Comics will Never Die.)there is something about have that paper in your hand whether JFK Assasinated or Man Walks on Moon…just having the physical makes it all the more personal…Now Combine that with our local Blab..and your informed and entertained..though the web is full of great stuff..I can’t hold it in comfort while I’m reading myself to sleep ( Dang screens too bright )..I may be off subject but I don’t think print on paper is going anywhere.

  10. Pingback: Newspapers: Throw a Lifeline to Your Newsroom : Words + Pictures = Web

Leave a Reply