Monday, February 21, 2005

More gloom for papers

The Washington Post pitches in with this piece on the dire situation for daily newspapers.

It's bad, but there is a little bit of life in the old beasts yet:

"Newspaper companies are by no means close to extinction. Most large companies continue to report healthy profits, and ad revenues appear to be picking up. But classified advertising, specifically help-wanted ads, is a bellwether of how newspapers are regarded as effective advertising tools. Increasingly, employers are using other resources to recruit workers.

General-interest papers such as The Post and the New York Times are playing a sort of game of chicken with each other: None wants to be the first to charge to use the Web site, fearing that users will refuse and simply migrate to a competitor whose site still is free. Papers, however, have begun using their Web sites to provide Internet-only content that gives in-depth information on everything from football to politics beyond what is available in the newspaper. In future scenarios, such content may require a paid subscription. A potential model is ESPN's Web site, which includes a great deal of free content but charges $6.95 a month for its premium "Insider" reports. In the online news industry, this is called moving content 'behind the wall.'

Caroline H. Little, publisher of, said the site has considered charging for premium content, but she is worried by examples she has seen elsewhere in the industry. The New York Times recently hinted it may start charging for some of its Internet content.

'So, not to say that it's not a possibility in the future, but our first priority is growing our audience, and this would clearly hinder that,' Little wrote in an e-mail. About 80 percent of users live outside the Washington area, the site's research shows.

The good news for newspaper Web sites is that, after the 2001 dot-com crash, Internet advertising has roared back, exceeding previous highs. Total Internet ad spending in the first six months of 2004 was 40 percent higher than in the comparable period in 2003, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The sobering news? Internet advertising still accounts for only about 3 percent of total ad spending each year."

The Guardian was even gloomier last November:
"Suddenly a mood somewhere between apprehension and panic stalks newspaper offices. The end of the world, it seems, may finally be nigh. What are papers for any longer? What purpose do they serve? And why are fewer and fewer people buying them, year after year?"

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