Posted August 5, 2008 9:02 am by with 18 comments

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As internet marketers we have a great opportunity to gloat over the new depths that the newspaper industry has fallen to. Advertising revenue is continuing a steady decline, there are massive layoffs at many of the major newspapers and now many are on the selling block. Only thing is there is a bit of a problem….no one is buying.

According to an article in the New York Times it appears that newspapers are about as desirable a buy as Expeditions and Tahoes. While people aren’t buying huge vehicles anymore because of their fossil fuel consumption there also appears to be no one shelling out for the marketing’s equivalent to fossils: newspapers.

For me this really stinks. Since I skew a little older (I am north of 40 but that’s all I am saying) I have a soft spot for newspapers. I love them still. I love the experience of a newspaper. The crisp folded neatness of the daily paper is kind of like a fresh blanket of snow that has no footprints yet. It’s so nice that you don’t want to ruin but you can’t wait to just dive in and make a mess of it. I remember the introduction of USA Today in 1982. Now I realize that it’s written at a seventh or eighth level but I still love it (great sports section by the way). Funny thing is that for all of newspaper reading I have done over the years I have paid little or no attention to the ads. I read a newspaper for information not to be sold something. I have purchased something only once from a newspaper ad.  I know there is branding at play here with print advertising but I think that the place where I experience ad blindness the most is the newspaper.

Well, as the internet becomes more and more dominant and as the traditional newspaper readers start to age out there is some real desperation on the part of owners of newspapers. The tide has shifted so much that it appears that many newspapers are trying to throw in the towel but no one is there to call off the fight. The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger which is owned by Advance Publications (the Newhouse family of newspaper magnates) is asking for about one third of its work force to leave. You see, they can’t fire them because of a pledge of life time employment to its staffers for not unionizing.

Imagine this. The Chicago Sun-Times is for sale and all they hear are crickets. Share prices are plummeting and the last ditch attempts to make a save through online “reinventions” are losing traction outside of the monsters like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and a select few.

Here’s a few numbers that will chill even the most hardened marketer. In the Times article it states:

“The market capitalization of the Journal Register Company, publisher of the New Haven Register and hundreds of smaller papers, fell below $1 million last week, down more than 99 percent since the start of 2007. In the same period, GateHouse Media, another publisher of hundreds of small papers, has dropped almost 98 percent, to a market value under $26 million. The Sun-Times Media Group is down 91 percent, to less than $34 million.”

It appears that the internet may have slain one of the old world media dragons for real. With numbers like these occurring and share drops from the start of the year of 24 percent at the Washington Post Company, 26 percent for the New York Times Company and 52 percent at Gannett (poor USA Today) the vultures are circling. Maybe there will be some serious old media bargains in the future that some new media billionaire will try to resurrect the industry. Imagine the “New, New York Times” where “U Get the L8est Newz”. Oh brother. Give me the comics, I need a laugh.

  • If there’s an entrepreneur with a vision out there, I guess now it’s time to buy. Somebody needs to reinvent the print industry, agree, but it’s far from being dead as so many are hurrying to announce.

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  • The reality is that newspapers filled a part of the market that is not there anymore.

    But once stock prices reflect the true value of the property in todays market, which is their value on an online marketplace, they will stabilize.

    Newspapers still fill a need in the community, but so many of them have cutback to wire feeds that they are useless.

    Once a paper focuses on driving local news stories that are in demand and provides a solid online experience, they will get their legs. But 3 layers of editors are not needed to protect a million dollar company, but they were justified to protect the 100 million dollar entity.

    Soon the top heavy newsroom will be replaced with a small but highly effective local newsroom that delivers a great online experience. Then, and only then, will it be a place that will drive traffic and value to advertisers.

    Having your expensive 1/2 page ad stuck next to a round up of national news does not sell product anymore.

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  • Our local Raleigh paper, The News and Observer, has cut back on content in a cost savings effort and it shows. Sections have merged. We no longer have a solo business section like we did before.

    The sports writers between the Charlotte Observer and the N&O have sort of merged for synergies, which makes sense, but seems to have lost something along the way.

    The frustrating thing for the readers/subscribers is that they are getting a lesser product for the same amount of money.

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  • Dean

    I think that with the precipitous drop on market cap for publishers, there is an enormous opportunity for someone to reinvent the space…or at least squeeze a little more out of it with a relatively small risk/investment.

    I don’t beleive that newspapers dead yet…just need to find a way to coexist and thrive alongside electronic media. Of course, this is coming from someone who still listens to Ted Nugent on cassette tape (and only because my 8 track broke).

    Any MP readers got that reinvention idea?

  • When I think of the newspaper going out of style, not only am I saddened at the decline of an American institution that has help shape our great nation, these are a few other thoughts that come to mind:

    Where will I find cheap packing material to wrap all my dishes in when I move?

    What can I use for ground cover during my next spray painting project?

    Has anyone considered the effect it will have on the pinata industry?

    Is there a viable alternative to lining birdcages?

    I think that newspapers should look into the alternative uses and market on those strengths!

    Nathan’s last blog post..3 Rules of Social Selling Etiquette

  • I look at this as progress and a very good thing. By the time a newspaper is printing, in many cases it is already outdated news and information…it should be interesting to see how long it will take before the papers move to an only digital format…just think how many trees they can save!

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  • Yeah it is not a good time to be in the print industry. I do not know how it can be reinvented, what are they going to do? Personally, I do still like picking up a paper or a magazine, but I definitely don’t look at the ads.

  • InkyDaNewsman

    Gloat if you must, but at your own peril. If you are so overjoyed that you can’t wait until the day newspapers go bust, imagine all these little media websites which rely on newspapers for their content. Is there not just a little irony in quoting the NYT about the demise of newspapers? Do you really believe good reporting will simply magically happen on a million tiny websites without the need to pay salaries and sell advertising? And all those who went straight from marketing class to PR firms, OK, so newspapers will soon go the way of the dodo bird. Good luck marketing that press release when no one is there in the newsroom to attend your little press conference about your latest brilliant IT launch. Do you honestly believe investors will mine the blog community and pass that off as legitimate investment caliber research?
    TV and radio are also in trouble, O marketing guru, and if you believe not having an honest-to-goodness palpable newspaper isn’t worth supporting any longer, ask yourself just where that HDTV television gets its news, and much of their entertainment ideas, from?
    The best part about all this is the commentary accompanying the opinion. I love the one about ‘not looking at that expensive 1/2-page ad.” It reminded me of how assiduously most computer users avoid clicking on one of the annoying ads.
    Along with the decline in newspapers, has anyone noticed that our consumer-driven economy is in the crapper? Raise your hand from the keyboard and mouse if you believe there is a connection. If texting, try not to walk into that lamppos-

  • Papers are so slow to adjust. We have two papers in SLC. One has twice the circulation as the other and 30 less employees. Well, it had 30 less employees until the other paper had to layoff a chunk because classified ad revenue dropped like a rock since Jan. 1

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  • Excellent, a spirited supporter of the fine art of newspapering! InkyDaNewsman, it’s this kind of near instantaneous discourse that makes the web what it is. The printed page will always be valuable but, I suspect, just in a diminished capacity. I hope to always be able to crack open that paper every morning until the day I die. I am not so sure that I represent the masses though. We all know how this “free market” thing works …. the people buy what they want and the suppliers must meet the demand. If the demand for newspapers is waning it could just be market forces at work. Will the mega papers go away? I doubt it. I dare say though that they will have to deal with a new power structure that they may no longer sit at the top of in the future.

    Thanks for checking in, Inky.

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  • One of the things newspapers have done well is they’ve deepened the experience for readers online. This is particularly the case I think with local newspapers (local TV station, by and large, are successful at this as well). With local ad dollars moving more and more to the web over the next few years, newspapers are well-positioned for surviving the future at least in digital form.

    For more on this topic, you can read this post by Mark Ramsey from Hear2.0.

  • Looks my attempt at some link love for Mark failed. Try this if you’re truly interested in more on this topic.

  • you are north of 40 and are already nostalgic for the newspaper. I am nowhere near, and that is all I am saying and I feel terrible about the condition of the newspaper industry. I too would miss the newspaper if that were ever to disappear, but I think that is still a long way off. I suspect that consolidation is what is likely to take place.

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  • PS3

    I spend most of my life on the internet but there is something comforting about having something in your hands….newspapers are great for Sunday mornings over breakfast!

  • E-ink ebook readers revolution will help newspapers to survive. Even more it could kill news sites.

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  • Newspapers are yesterday’s news… so to speak. They are too slow and entrenched in archaic methods. A breaking story is on the internet in minutes, updated regularly and by the time that truck rolls around at 5am and tosses the bundle of newspapers onto the curb, like we see in the movies, it’s already three updates behind.

    Journalistic ability is something to be treasured as the one thing we tend to lose as information is diluted, is quality in favor of quantity but newspapers have failed to change with the times and their death is imminent.