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Vin Crosbie on the Imminent Death of Newspapers

If you love newspapers, reading Vin Crosbie’s well researched essay on the imminent death of newspapers will break your heart. He predicts, backed up by numbers, that just as horses disappeared from the streets of America almost overnight so will newspapers.

I guess the best place to start is with his speech he made at the Second Annual Global Conference on Individuated Newspapers back in June. Then we will look at what he wrote this week. In his June speech, he said in part:

More than 1.3 billion people are gravitating to whatever … matches their individually unique mix of interests. They’re gravitating away from Mass Media and its one-size-fits-all attempt at satisfying 1.3 billion unique mixes of interests.

I’ll say it again: billions of people are gravitating online to find much more relevant matches of their interest than the traditional practices of Mass Media can give them.

The analog printing press, now more than 500 years old, cannot provide each of us what we want. The Internet can. Crosbie says:

The reason why Google and Yahoo! are the most used sites online is because people are hunting and gathering to find the topics that match their myriad and individual specific interests….

And those billions of people are gravitating away from generic, analog products that deliver the same mix of news to everyone. They’re moving away from the analog newspaper.

And going online is not helping, Crosbie told the audience back in June:

let’s look only at The New York Times, the premier among … 100 American dailies. The average visitor to its Web site … spent less time on the site all month than the average reader of the Times’ newsprint editions spends in a day. The figures for most other American dailies are even worse.

His perscription for change:

publishers must stop using only analog editorial practices and immediately begin adopting the technologies of mass customization. All of those technologies now exist. The pieces of technology are there, the publishers merely need to adopt and assemble them.

Okay that was in June, here is Crosbie this week on the fate of newspapers, it is just part of his essay fully supported by extensive numerical evidence:

More than half of the 1,439 daily newspapers in the United States won’t exist in print, e-paper, or Web site formats by the end of next decade. They will go out of business. The few national dailies — namely USA Today, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal — will have diminished but continuing existences via the Web and e-paper, but not in print. The first dailies to expire will be the regional dailies, which have already begun to implode. Those plus a very many smaller dailies, most of whose circulations are steadily evaporating, will decline to levels at which they will no longer be economically viable to publish daily. Further layoffs of staffs by those newspapers’ companies cannot avoid this fate – not so long as daily circulations and readerships continually and increasingly decline. (Layoffs are becoming little more than the remedy of bleeding that was used in attempts to cure ill patients during the 18th Century and cannot restore the industry’s health.)

It gets worse:

‘Hyperlocal’ news startup companies, whose services will be delivered not on newsprint but online, might replace many small dailies, but not most, and certainly not before the printed products’ demise. The deaths of large numbers of daily newspapers in the U.S. won’t cause a new Dark Age but will certainly cause a ‘Gray Age’ for American journalism during the next decade. Much local and regional news won’t see the light of publication.

Crosbie will be writing more in the coming days at his site, but alas this sentence is the one that I find the most depressing:

I’ll outline what the American daily industry might have done to avoid its demise.

Might have done, as if it is too late already.

2 Responses to “Vin Crosbie on the Imminent Death of Newspapers”

  1. Periodismo Ciudadano Says:

    [...] Witt, principal voz de PJNet (Public Journalism Network,) ha compilado algunos de los artículos, discursos y ensayos recientemente publicados por Vin [...]

  2. Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » Watching the demise of the newspaper Says:

    [...] to Vin’s piece (part two in the series is promised for tomorrow; part three next week). Len Witt wrote: If you love newspapers, reading Vin Crosbie’s well researched essay on the imminent death of [...]