The market changes. Paid circulation for newspapers have been in decline for years and recent data from the spring Audit Bureau of Circulations is no different. Year-over-year, circulation was down 8.7 percent after a decline of more than 10 percent in the fall.
One can argue about the left-wing bias in the main stream media – including the daily newspapers – but a significant contributing factor in the circulation decline is a change in the free market delivery options for news. Just two years ago, I would never have thought I’d be subscribed to Twitter-enabled outlets like Breaking News who provide me with short headlines and links to the details if I’m interested in reading more.
What about the demographics? In a State of the Media Report on Journalism.org in 2009, we find two of three seniors (65 and older) picked up a newspaper the day before, while one in three 18 to 24 year-olds did the same. Will we see the ultimate demise of most medium and large print newspapers? You can read more about the circulation numbers, which in some cases include paid online subscriptions, over at Editor & Publisher.
Does someone have to do something?
I think not. The news delivery market is changing, but that does not mean there is less news out there. As a matter of fact, I’m willing to bet younger individuals are actually absorbing more news, information and commentary on a daily basis. What they happen to retain and the quality of what they read can certainly be up for debate, but that has been the case since the beginning of time.
But my opinion matters little. Last fall, President Obama welcomed the idea of newspaper bailouts as long as they restructured into non-profit 501 (c) 3 corporations.
“I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding,” he said.
He said he would be happy to look a bills that could give tax newspapers tax-breaks if they were to restructure as 50[sic] (c) (3) educational corporations. One of the bills is that of Senator Ben Cardin, who has introduced the “Newspaper Revitalization Act.”
Obama’s misunderstanding of the federal government’s role knows no bounds, but at least Congress did not take the idea from Sen. Cardin (D-Md.) seriously as the legislation never even seemed to get a hearing. The president also seems under the impression print newspapers are some sort of all-perfect, politically-balanced entity that reports the facts, and only the facts.
I choose to be informed through a variety of distribution channels, none of which include print news. Does that make me a less-informed citizen with a brain full of mushy facts or an environmentalist?
I get so confused…