Where are all the newspapers going? To graveyards every one …

As I wrote back in 2012, newspapers’ raison d’etre, the news, is being spidered and copied, repurposed and regurgitated by thousands of aggregators and bloggers, Tweeters, Googlers and Yahooers and the like, until the original source is irrelevant — as a brand and as a financially going concern.

I quoted Alan Mutter’s Newsosaur blog that warned that newspapers are being outsmarted in the bid for mobile advertising. He noted Apple and Google have increased their efforts to grab a bigger share of the local advertising market via smart phones.

This week Congress apparently is taking notice.

The Associated Press is reporting that the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel heard from news media associations that accused big tech companies of jeopardizing the industry’s economic survival by putting news content on their platforms without fairly compensating those who created the news. (Sort of like this blog is doing right now.)

Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat and the subcommittee chairman, was quoted as saying Congress must determine whether the antitrust laws “are equipped for the competition problems of our modern economy.”

David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance which represents about 2,000 news organizations, was quoted as saying, “There’s a real urgency in the industry. We’re at crisis point now.”

But Google’s vice president of news Richard Gringas said in a statement Google drives billions of clicks to publishers’ websites, which creates revenue.

But too often online sites just plagiarize the costly and exclusive news content, denying newspapers customers. Of course, newspapers are also guilty of giving away their own content, often posting news stories online days before they are published in print for paying customers and paying advertisers.

Back in 2012 a Moody’s analysis warned, “At this point, there is no evidence digital strategies are returning most daily newspapers to positive growth. It is merely a way to moderate revenue declines.”

Newspapers keep cutting jobs — jobs that produce the content their customers are seeking. It is death spiral.

Matt Schruers, vice president of law and policy with the Computer and Communications Industry Association, left, David Pitofsky, general counsel of News Corp, center, and Kevin Riley, editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, right, are sworn-in before testifying before the House Judiciary Antitrust subcommittee hearing. (AP pix)

Newspaper daily circulations appear to be in a death spiral, while weeklies are thriving

In 2007 newspaper still enjoyed a fairly healthy paid print circulation, though they have been in decline for years.

Compare those numbers to ones put together by a writer at Medium.com this past January:

As your can see the Las Vegas newspaper paid circulation has been cut nearly in half since 2007, which is fairly typical across the industry.

The writer, Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica and a former newspaper executive, reports:

Nearly everyone in publishing with whom I shared the 2015 paid figures found them surprisingly low. There is no question that they are dramatically lower than the widely available 2013 numbers.

— If the 2013 numbers represent the “reality” that even industry professionals have in their heads, but the 2015 numbers represent the facts on the ground, how long can it be before print advertising prices (and thus newspaper revenues) come under further severe pressure?

— Finally, and to return to the McKinsey report (which speculated that circulation declines had bottomed out) with which we began, if print circulation is much lower than generally believed, what basis is there for confidence the declines are ending and a plateau lies ahead?

But it is not just the paid print circulation that is in decline it is also the revenue, which is not being saved by the digital side of the business:

Revenue growth in digital is not stanching the print hemorrhage.

 

Household penetration is in steady decline.

This statistic may be the most telling one of all:

People used to ask me what the newspaper’s biggest competitor was. They generally expected me to reply the Internet, I suspect, but I told them the biggest competitor was anything that took time away from the reading the paper, whether that is jogging, brushing their teeth longer, reading a book, etc. If the paper is not holding peoples’ attention, it is in trouble.

Meanwhile, there are a number of accounts reporting that weekly community newspaper are not just surviving, but many are thriving.

Judy Muller, a journalism professor at USC, reports:

In 2010, the National Newspaper Assn. provided some heartening survey statistics: More than three-quarters of respondents said they read most or all of a local newspaper every week. And a full 94% said they paid for their papers.

And what of the Internet threat? Many of these small-town editors have learned a lesson from watching their big-city counterparts: Don’t give it away. Many weeklies, from the Canadian Record in the Texas Panhandle to the Concrete Herald in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, are charging for their Web content, and, because readers can’t get that news anywhere else, they’re willing to pay.

About 67 percent of people who live in rural America prefer a printed newspaper over a digital format.