A Dying Art or a Deflating Balloon?

31 Jan

Since my first day in Journalism 1010, I’ve heard professors and professionals say that newspapers are dying quickly. Plenty of headlines in today’s news aggregates paint a slow and terrible death for big-time newsrooms around the country – The New York Times, being one of them, is facing another round of layoffs1. To most, the industry seems to be sinking. The keyword there is “seems.” After hearing Missourian General Manager Dan Potter lecture about the newspaper business, I’ve come to the conclusion that newspapers were just too big in the first place.

Mentioned extensively by Potter was the newspaper’s advantage, and now disadvantage, with locality. Newspapers were financial powerhouses 30 to 40 years ago. There was very little competition and a high demand for information since the Internet was not in existence. Circulation revenue was high and newsrooms were filled with reporters and editors interested in spreading news to their communities. Newspapers are now competing with cheaply run digital aggregates. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, make it easier and faster for viewers to consume news. These digital alternatives leech off of legacy media outlets to gain more popularity with the younger generations.

Today’s standard model for a newspaper’s funding is 80/20. This means that 80 percent of funds come from strictly advertising, either traditional or digital, and the other 20 percent comes from circulation revenue. Most newspapers like the Missourian depend primarily on this model, but there’s one particular newspaper that runs on a slightly stronger model. That newspaper is The New York Times. It runs on a 50/50 model, which means that 50 percent of funding comes from advertising and the other 50 percent comes from circulation. Potter explained that the NYT costs more to subscribe to and has a strong readership, which few newspapers have. An interesting fact was that for every traditional advertiser that a newspaper loses, it’d take 100 digital advertisers to regain the loss.

As sobering as it seems, I believe newspapers are getting what they deserve. This day and age proves that if one cannot operate social media and compete in the digital realm, that newspaper will lose viewers and possibly funding. I foresee more layoffs and business reduction as the years progress. As cliché as it sounds only the strong will survive.

1: http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2013/01/highlevel-layoffs-loom-at-ny-times-153952.html

Author: Matt Mazick


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