Monday, June 20, 2016

Cruel summer for newspapers Publishers see their businesses circling the drain in rapidly decaying orbit

We’ve grown accustomed to a narrative about the slow and painful death of newspapers.
The Internet is pilfering readers and advertisers from print. There’s a growing army of startups and platforms to which more and more people are flocking for their headlines. Announcements of layoffs and newspaper closures are so regular they strain the standard of newsworthiness.
This may sound like the same old story, but there’s a reason you may be getting the nagging feeling that lately, the storm clouds are getting darker. New York Times CEO Mark Thompson neatly summed up the current mood in a “Game of Thrones”-inspired essay in last week’s 2016 Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute: “Winter really is coming for many of the world’s news publishers.”
The past few weeks alone have produced no fewer than five studies broadcasting bleak statistics and ominous outlooks for newspapers, with some rays of light about the industry’s march toward innovation mixed in.
One of these, The Pew Research Center’s 2016 State of the News Media report, declared that U.S. newspapers had just seen their “worst year since the recession and its immediate aftermath.” Another, from PwC, described “a steady pattern of structural decline that is expected to continue over the next few years,” with $2.3 billion in lost revenue between 2011 and 2015, and an estimated $800 million hemorrhaged last year alone. Gallup, meanwhile, found that Americans’ confidence in newspapers has “hit an all time low.”
These statistical downers seem to amplify some of the reports coming out of America’s most venerable newspaper companies.
Tribune Publishing, which includes The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, has been caught between a hostile takeover attempt and a fanciful turnaround plan as the company’s stock price continues to tumble and its journalists grapple with depleted resources and morale. The New York Times is in the midst of an all-too-familiar cost-saving exercise as it once again evaluates how to realign its newsroom in a way that puts more energy into digital initiatives while ensuring the print edition stays robust.
At the same time, there’s a wave of consolidation washing over the U.S., with behemoths like Gannett and Digital First Media leading the charge as newspapers “gobble up one another to survive [the] digital apocalypse,” to borrow a March 29 Bloomberg headline.


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