Newspaper Death Spiral

The Romance of the Press

It’s been interesting, though a bit odd, for me, watching the hand-wringing over the “death of the press” as some of the major newspapers struggle to figure out how to make their budgets work in a world in which fewer people read “dead tree” editions and advertisers can take advantage of more targeted advertising online and in specialty publications. There is, it seems, a level of reverence which many people seem to attach to “the press”, which does not seem well born out what it actually is.

Looked at historically and economically — newspapers exist as a delivery system for ads. They seek to provide stories that people want to read (whether “news”, human interest, comics, crosswords or recipes) in order to persuade people it’s worth parting with the artificially low newsstand or subscription price.

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Big Brother and The Fish Wrapper Industry

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Content advisory in the video for one very crude section.  From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.  The Onion exaggerates a bit. Why the Boston Globe probably has at least a few years of death spiral left to it before it has zero subscribers.

The Federal Trade Commission has produced a staff  discussion draft which may be read here, filled with bad ideas to prop up the dead tree media.  Among the worst of the ideas is what boils down to government money being used to subsidize the fish wrapper industry:

Proposals for Increased Government Subsidies, Indirect and Direct A variety of proposals have emerged to allow further government support for journalism through either indirect or direct means. Whatever the means, care must be taken to ensure that government support does not result in biased and politicized news coverage.  :)

Increase Government Funding

Establish a “journalism” division of AmeriCorps.   AmeriCorps is the federal program that places young people with nonprofits to get training and do public service work.87 According to proponents, this proposal would help to ensure that young people who love journalism will stay in the field. “It strikes us as a win-win; we get more journalists covering our communities, and young journalists have a chance to gain valuable experience – even at a time when the small dailies where they might have started are laying reporters off.”

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