Head. Sand. Insert.

Speaking of Garfield, he speaks on On The Media with overly quoted newspaper industry analyst John Morton, who acts as if there’s nothing strategically broken with the business he covers… because, one presumes, he still wants a business to cover.

BOB GARFIELD: I want to ask you about the Internet. Newspapers are losing readers to online sources. They’re also losing classified advertising, the most profitable part of their business, to online outfits like Craigslist and so forth. Is there anyone who’s getting that figured out and do you have any idea how that’s going to play out?

JOHN MORTON: Well, let me make a couple of observations. One is that the newspapers’ problems with circulation began long before there was an Internet. It’s been exacerbated by the Internet. It’s retail, it’s gone south. But, so far, the Internet has not become such a powerful force that you can attribute any decline in the newspaper business to it. But clearly, you know, the Internet is only going to get to be a bigger and bigger factor, and newspapers probably made a big mistake in the beginning when they adopted the assumption that everybody expects everything on the Internet to be free.

Oh, that fairy tale again.

Next time you see John Morton quoted — and you will — take him not just with a grain but with a whole box of Morton’s Salt.

  • http://spap-oop.blogspot.com Tish G

    Unless we actually do something to resolve the economic disparity between the upper-middle and the working/lower/poor classes in the U.S., newspapers really won’t go out of business. Actually, they will probably get worse because most have been absorbed by large corps like Knight-Ridder who really don’t give a damn about local issues or cultivating local reporters (their papers are the ones that have taken the hardest lay-off hit recently–proof that Knight-Ridder, like Enron, sucks and will bring everything around it down with it) They will cease to communicate about the neigborhood because they have become decentrailized to the point of irrelevance.

    Yet, since so many people can’t afford computers, can’t afford internet access, and can’t afford all kinds of fancy little features and downloads, they won’t be turning to the internet to get their news as so many top-down dommunicators think. If newspapers go under–mostly because people don’t read–cable TV, more than the ‘net, will be the news medium of choice.

    As I said in a previous post, I am amazed at the social myopia of so many denizens of the Internet. As I read more and more, it becomes more and more evident that y’all commute between your jobs and your homes and occasionally make a trip to The Mall, but rarely get out and find out about your less affluent neighbors. The classist attitudes of Netizens is laughablem yet frightening.

    As for Craigslist–take a good look at it. It preaches to the converted; is a tool for those in this insular little Internet community. It doesn’t speak to the average person out there at all, but to a savvy internet-oriented group of individuals who choose to interact with one another and keep opportunities among themselves. Networking is, after all, the way to make great job connections, and Craigslist is, for the most part, a simple way of networking with people in different parts of the country who are part of a specific socio-economic and educated social class. Take a look at Craigslist for Boston and then compare it with Craigslist for Hartford as well as with the traditional Springfield MA/Hartford want ads–print or electronic– and you will see what I mean.

  • Jane

    Knight-Ridder who really don’t give a damn about local issues or cultivating local reporters

    Aren’t local newspapers in a double-bind? On Monday, the front page of the my local paper’s business section was splashed with an enormous profile of a competitor. There was absolutely no news in that article. It was strictly a promotion piece for one of their advertisers. This local paper won’t touch this problematic industry with any depth. If they did, they’d cut off their advertising revenue. Instead this Gannett newspaper runs national stories. The readers are not being informed that an unscrupulous business practice taking place in Nevada, Florida, Utah is also taking place in their community. The local journalists can’t bring themselves to ask the hard questions of their local businessmen.

    Newspapers are struggling for the same reason radio has faltered – they no longer sell a product, they sell advertising.

  • Andy Freeman

    > Newspapers are struggling for the same reason radio has faltered – they no longer sell a product, they sell advertising.

    When wasn’t that true?

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    One small indicator:
    The local papers used to get a lot of business from supermarkets. On shopping day there would frequently be eight to ten full color flyers inserted as well as regular supermarket ads.

    With the decline in circulation the supermarkets are now turning to local pennysavers to handle their flyers. The whole bundle being delivered by the US mail for free.

    As I’ve postulated before, I think the decline in the use of mass transit is a big cause of loss of readership. NY still has afternoon papers because people take the train and want something to read on the way home. Drivers don’t read in either direction.

  • Ravo

    from Tish:
    Yet, since so many people can’t afford computers, can’t afford internet access, and can’t afford all kinds of fancy little features and downloads, they won’t be turning to the internet to get their news as so many top-down dommunicators think. If newspapers go under–mostly because people don’t read–cable TV, more than the ‘net, will be the news medium of choice.

    Hmmm….that’s a shame, since cable TV is much more expensive than an internet connection, and a cheap basic computer equivalent to the cost of a TV.

    Sometimes, cheaper computers are even free with the internet service agreement.

    It’s merely a matter of the choices people make for themselves.

  • http://fannick.blogspot.com Glenn Fannick

    I hope no one here is denying one of the comments from that On The Media show — that Craigslist is cutting into classified adversting? Certainly Craigs is not reaching the poor at the same rate as the wealthy, but it seems clear that all those free classifieds must be taking a significant number of dollars from newspapers — who do depend on that money. It also seems clear that there is a portion of the population who gets their news from the Web instead of buying a newspaper. There are probably about 37 reasons why newspapers are declining, the Web is just one of them.
    Lastly, that show also pointed out that The Wall Street Journal was one of those who was able and willing to not give its content away from the start and that those papers who did are now trying to claw their way back.

  • http://spap-oop.blogspot.com Tish G

    Ravo:

    The Internet doesn’t show soap operas all day long–and, if using dial-up, is hard to stream video or music. Plus, viewers have to interact with it, and many are afraid they will “hit the wrong button and blow it up.”

    Actually, where I live, basic cable is less than half the cost of dsl service and only a few dollars more than dial-up. Cable TV is still the better deal.