July 06, 2006

Ink on Paper, The end of an era.

When I started out in the "newspaper bidness" 28 years ago, one old timer in the pressroom predicted that in 50 years there wouldn’t even be newspapers. No sweat, papers would die about the time I was ready to retire. Old Jack’s prediction turns out to have been pretty accurate, as I come to the realization that the printed page truly is a dinosaur that has become mired in the tar pits of the information age.
Declining retail and classified revenues, and declining circulation will eventually spell doom, first to the smaller unprofitable markets and eventually to the midsized circulation papers. There remains very few independant papers in the country today and the trend will be to for papers to cluster their resources in an attempt to delay the inevitable. Layoffs, declining stock prices and the continued consolidation within the industry are merey signs that the major corporations are having trouble squeezing returns out of their already bleeding properties.
Not to say that there won’t be newspapers around for the future. The larger markets will survive fora time although multipaper towns will continue to become a rarity. There may also eventually be a market for another National Daily ala USA Today.
Full color or the Newspaper in Education program has done little to put papers on the doorstep. As newsholes have been reduced, fluff sections have been reduced to 4 page thowaways. The hometown newspaper will have to reinvent itself, if it is to survive in the printed form.
"The power of the press belongs to the one that owns the press." and "Never argue with someone that buys his ink by the barrel." are two newspapers quotes I have always admired but are no longer relevent in this electronic age.
For a person with ink in his veins this is all a sad reality... And reasons to move on.

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