by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
journalism, newspapers

20 Year Old Complaints About Dying Newspapers Sound Familiar

from the the-more-things-stay-the-same dept

We certainly take our fair shot at pointing out when newspapers make bad business decisions in trying to figure out how to adapt to the internet age -- but (unlike some) we don't believe that "journalism" is dying or even that newspapers are dying. They'll learn to adapt and change with the time. Sure, a few poorly managed and slow to change newspapers may end up having plenty of trouble, but that hardly speaks to the value and demand for professionally produced news. However, for an interesting historical perspective on the imminent death of newspapers it's worth reading MarketWatch editor-in-chief David Callaway's column discussing his 20 years in the news business, where the basic fears sound remarkably similar to what you hear today:
"Back in 1987, it was widely assumed that newspapers were dying. The post-Watergate rush to journalism was over. Circulations were down. And new technologies were threatening. At one point, the hot new thing was to deliver news by fax machine, and papers were going to die because readers would be able to get news quicker by fax. They would even be able to tailor the type of news they wanted to receive. Imagine that."
Journalism isn't going anywhere. It just needs to change and adapt to the times. It's already happening in some places, and the others will figure it out eventually.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    TasMot, Sep 14th, 2007 @ 11:26am

    What is journalism

    If all of the paper in the world went away does that mean that journalism would die? No, it just means that it would need to be written on dirt (with a stick), a piece of metal (a stick on aluminum foil maybe), or with electrons (with a keyboard of course). The point is that it is the message, not the medium. The newspaper business is all about selling more paper (with the news on it) rather than delivering the news to the consumers by whatever method. Remember when the papers were going to go out of business because of TV?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    GoblinJuice, Sep 14th, 2007 @ 12:04pm

    Adapt or die - but quit bitchin'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Sean, Sep 14th, 2007 @ 12:14pm

    The problem is that people become too dependent or used to an information transfer medium and begin to think that it is the only way to do things. The recording industry is seeing this as well - as the way information is transfered changes - from CD's to the internet, old business models fall short and must change.

    Think about how long newspapers have been around, hundreds of years of one medium - it seems like it is time for a change. Just because it is the oldest and most common doesn't make it the gold standard or best.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Joe, Sep 14th, 2007 @ 12:36pm

    Newspapers won't die they will adapt...sort of

    Newspapers and TV will most likely consolidate over the next 4-12 years. I think we will see multiple papers being purchased if only for the name and content adapted for wifi. A semi online on the go type of deal where news articles will automatically update if the digital paper is close enough to a wifi access point.

    Granted eventually this will include streaming video etc but it will be interesting for people to pick up a local paper with contstand updates. This probably had very little to do with the post. Sorry for the tangent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    William Randolph Hearst, Sep 14th, 2007 @ 1:10pm

    Newspapers Won't Die ...

    Newspapers won't die, just as paper flyers didn't die. Paper flyer inserts are the best bang for the buck for advertisers, that's why there are many of them delivered to your door.

    There is a proliferation of local and suburban journals/newspapers, far more than ever before ... free local papers with a lot of advertising.

    Newspapers won't die, maybe the price will go down and the formats change but they will be here forever.

    People will

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2007 @ 1:12pm

    What is a newspaper?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2007 @ 2:13pm

    define die

    Good topic. Looking at circulation numbers compared to population numbers newspapers are declining. They just arent dying a sudden death. Most places I live have either a Wednesday or Thursday coupon day and the papers sell that day and the Sunday edition for people who don't want the paper every day. Sooner or later it isn't going to make sense to sell papers for a few reasons. The medium- paper is more expensive to deliver and print. The news is one-sided politically in most cases and could not possibly be tailored for all the customers who want it. in the 80's there were a ton of consolidations and rival papers went under but after consolidation they did not have double the circulation numbers, in many cases they had less then they started with. Papers are going to be around for awhile, but sooner or later a portable device or even a program that downloads the content is going to kill it for good in my opinion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2007 @ 2:28pm

    I think the problem with newspapers right now is not the threat of new technology, but rather the quality of news. If papers actually had decent news in them instead of mostly bland filler (as many do), people might be more inclined to keep their subscriptions. My company provides the local newspaper in all the break rooms, so I read it there. If not for that, I wouldn't read it, because I don't think there's anything in their worth the subscription price.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Matthew Novak, Sep 14th, 2007 @ 10:01pm

    The Sky is Falling

    The April, 1978 issue of The Futurist magazine had an interesting piece about the "electronic newspaper of tomorrow."


    Like I mention in the blog post, the newspaper industry seems to have had fair warning that new technologies will eventually change the business model.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    steelbeach, Sep 15th, 2007 @ 2:29am


    if those whiney maggots even knew what they were talking about, i would worry that my dog will not have a place to shit any more

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Ryan (ex-techdirter), Sep 15th, 2007 @ 10:34am

    I find this whole, newspapers will die concept quite funny. It's likely that these people are either not aware of their surroundings or don't live in one of the worlds major cities.

    Typical example, here in London we have lots and lots of free daily newspapers. They include papers such as the Metro, London Paper, London Lite, a title called Sport, my personal favourite City AM (business news) and of course many more titles. So whilst those that refuse to adapt mis-understand a change in business model rather than the death of newspapers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    This is my posting ID, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 6:50am

    What about the ads?

    I read someone else's words in an article regarding newspapers and advertising and the idea stuck with me, if not the exact phrasing. The author said, "People spend extra money to get radio without advertising (XM and Sirius), television programming without advertising (HBO, Cinemax, etc.), and they try to eliminate ads from their internet experience as much as possible(popup blockers). But no one would ever think of buying a newspaper without ads in it."

    In fact, I work at a newspaper, and the #1 complaint that comes in from subscribers is always "I didn't get (fill in favorite retailer) ad in my paper." Some people are willing to wait for massive .pdf documents to load to look at their favorite retailer's ads to load online, but even on high-speed internet I have at home, it's too long to wait for a 12-page .pdf.

    I'd rather have a piece of paper that I can hold in my hand, look at it in the comfort of my living room, and cut out if I want to keep it for reference.

    I think that newspapers dying, if it happens, will end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people would shut up about it, it wouldn't happen! People keep hearing that papers are dying and so they change their buying habits (both as advertisers and subscribers) thinking they're ahead of the curve. The prophecies of doom ARE the problem!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2007 @ 6:58am

    It will be proven that people consume MORE news because of the Internet. We just get to have it OUR way. The sad state of affairs at our newspapers is a result of their own doing.

    There is no diversity of thought at the major news outlets, local papers are filled with 70% AP articles, and the talking heads on my TV have no connection to middle America.

    People will ALWAYS want local news. There will ALWAYS be journalism. This is the golden age of journalism!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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