Showing posts with label newspaper sales. Show all posts
Showing posts with label newspaper sales. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Internet Is No Substitute for the Dying Newspaper Industry

The Internet Is No Substitute for the Dying Newspaper Industry
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig

The decline of newspapers is not about the replacement of the antiquated technology of news print with the lightning speed of the Internet. It does not signal an inevitable and salutary change. It is not a form of progress. The decline of newspapers is about the rise of the corporate state, the loss of civic and public responsibility on the part of much of our entrepreneurial class and the intellectual poverty of our post-literate world, a world where information is conveyed primarily through rapidly moving images rather than print.

All these forces have combined to strangle newspapers. And the blood on the floor, this year alone, is disheartening. Some 6,000 journalists nationwide have lost their jobs, news pages are being radically cut back and newspaper stocks have tumbled. Advertising revenues are dramatically falling off with many papers seeing double-digit drops. McClatchy Co., publisher of the Miami Herald, has seen its shares fall by 77 percent this year. Lee Enterprises Inc., which owns the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is down 84 percent. Gannett Co., which publishes USA Today, is trading at nearly a 17-year low. The San Francisco Chronicle is now losing $1 million a week.

The Internet will not save newspapers. Although all major newspapers, and most smaller ones, have Web sites, and have had for a while, newspaper Web sites make up less than 10 percent of newspaper ad revenue. Analysts say that although Net advertising amounts to $21 billion a year, that amount is actually relatively small. So far, the really big advertisers have stayed away, either unsure of how to use the Internet or suspicious that it can't match the viewer attention of older media.

Newspapers, when well run, are a public trust. They provide, at their best, the means for citizens to examine themselves, to ferret out lies and the abuse of power by elected officials and corrupt businesses, to give a voice to those who would, without the press, have no voice, and to follow, in ways a private citizen cannot, the daily workings of local, state and federal government. Newspapers hire people to write about city hall, the state capital, political campaigns, sports, music, art and theater. They keep citizens engaged with their cultural, civic and political life. When I began as a foreign correspondent 25 years ago, most major city papers had bureaus in Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Moscow. Reporters and photographers showed Americans how the world beyond our borders looked, thought and believed. Most of this is vanishing or has vanished.

We live under the happy illusion that we can transfer news-gathering to the Internet. News-gathering will continue to exist, as it does on this Web site and sites such as ProPublica and Slate, but these traditions now have to contend with a new, widespread and ideologically driven partisanship that dominates the dissemination of views and information, from Fox News to blogger screeds. The majority of bloggers and Internet addicts, like the endless rows of talking heads on television, do not report. They are largely parasites who cling to traditional news outlets. They can produce stinging and insightful commentary, which has happily seen the monopoly on opinion pieces by large papers shattered, but they rarely pick up the phone, much less go out and find a story. Nearly all reporting -- I would guess at least 80 percent -- is done by newspapers and the wire services. Take that away and we have a huge black hole.

Those who rely on the Internet gravitate to sites that reinforce their beliefs. The filtering of information through an ideological lens, which is destroying television journalism, defies the purpose of reporting. Journalism is about transmitting information that doesn't care what you think. Reporting challenges, countermands or destabilizes established beliefs. Reporting, which is time-consuming and often expensive, begins from the premise that there are things we need to know and understand, even if these things make us uncomfortable. If we lose this ethic we are left with pandering, packaging and partisanship. We are left awash in a sea of competing propaganda. Bloggers, unlike most established reporters, rarely admit errors. They cannot get fired. Facts, for many bloggers, are interchangeable with opinions. Take a look at The Drudge Report. This may be the new face of what we call news.

When the traditional news organizations go belly up we will lose a vast well of expertise and information. Our democracy will suffer a body blow. Not that many will notice. The average time a reader of The New York Times spends with the printed paper is about 45 minutes. The average time a viewer spends on The New York Times Web site is about seven minutes. There is a difference between browsing and reading. And the Web is built for browsing rather than for reading. When there is a long piece on the Internet, most of us have to print it out to get through it.

The rise of our corporate state has done the most, however, to decimate traditional news-gathering. Time Warner, Disney, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., General Electric and Viacom control nearly everything we read, watch, hear and ultimately think. And news that does not make a profit, as well as divert viewers from civic participation and challenging the status quo, is not worth pursuing. This is why the networks have shut down their foreign bureaus. This is why cable newscasts, with their chatty anchors, all look and sound like the "Today" show. This is why the FCC, in an example of how far our standards have fallen, defines shows like Fox's celebrity gossip program "TMZ" and the Christian Broadcast Network's "700 Club" as "bona fide newscasts." This is why television news personalities, people like Katie Couric, have become celebrities earning, in her case, $15 million a year. This is why newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune are being ruthlessly cannibalized by corporate trolls like Sam Zell, turned into empty husks that focus increasingly on boutique journalism. Corporations are not in the business of news. They hate news, real news. Real news is not convenient to their rape of the nation. Real news makes people ask questions. They prefer to close the prying eyes of reporters. They prefer to transform news into another form of mindless amusement and entertainment.

A democracy survives when its citizens have access to trustworthy and impartial sources of information, when it can discern lies from truth. Take this away and a democracy dies. The fusion of news and entertainment, the rise of a class of celebrity journalists on television who define reporting by their access to the famous and the powerful, the retreat by many readers into the ideological ghettos of the Internet and the ruthless drive by corporations to destroy the traditional news business are leaving us deaf, dumb and blind.

We are cleverly entertained during our descent. We have our own version of ancient Rome's bread and circuses with our ubiquitous and elaborate spectacles, sporting events, celebrity gossip and television reality shows. Societies in decline, as the Roman philosopher Cicero wrote, see their civic and political discourse contaminated by the excitement and emotional life of the arena. And the citizens in these degraded societies, he warned, always end up ruled by a despot, a Nero or a George W. Bush.

Chris Hedges, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, is the author of "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Survey: Newsprint is people's preference

Survey: Newsprint is people's preference
A poll commissioned by an industry group shows newspapers still reign.

Newspapers are still the reigning source of news, advertising and information, according to a recently released survey conducted by American Opinion Research. Eight in 10 adults read a newspaper per week, and Florida readers are 6 percent more likely to pick up a newspaper on the weekdays and 7 percent more likely to read a Sunday newspaper than the national average, the survey said.

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The survey was commissioned in December by the Florida Press Association, a nonprofit organization for newspapers and journalism-related businesses. It was conducted by American Opinion Research, which is headed by a former pollster from USA Today, which could raise some questions about the ethical foundation of such a survey.

In the 51-page report, findings included:

About 82 percent of Florida adults read a printed newspaper during an average seven-day week.

Print newspapers are the most-used venue for public notices. Two thirds of those surveyed said they would read less public notices if they were moved online.

About 66 percent of adults use the newspaper as their main source of local sales and shopping information.
The study paints a rosy picture of an industry that's recently experienced some turmoil. Circulation has been dropping for newspapers nationwide for years. Statewide, The Orlando Sentinel recently slashed 24 newsroom positions, and The Florida Times-Union implemented a hiring and salary raise freeze in February, citing declining advertising revenue.

But newspapers' monetary woes are a separate issue from the survey's results, said Dean Ridings, president and CEO of the Florida Press Association.

"The real estate downturn has affected a lot of different media but certainly newspapers," he said. "In addition to the Realtors not selling [homes] and not advertising, the title companies, the home big-box stores are slowing advertising - it's all related to real estate as well. Those have had a huge impact on the revenue of newspapers."

The survey also noted that printed newspapers are losing traction to the Internet when it comes to job, automotive, real estate and major appliance advertisement services for readers.

"Newspapers have lost ground," Ridings said. "But we still have the advantage when it comes to credibility."

The survey findings seem to be sound and comparable to those of national studies, said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit institute that studies journalism and ethics issues.

"A contributing factor to the statement about Florida readers reading more and in higher numbers than average could be the higher-than-average age of our population," Edmonds said. "It's factual and a good point, but there's a lot of shifting as the years go by with readers who used to be seven days a week readers and now they read two days a week. When you add all that up, that's a contributing factor to the loss of circulation."

And what about the potential ethical quagmire posed by the survey being commissioned by an institution that stands to gain from positive results?

"It is the kind of survey that points to some of the positives, and there's nothing particularly wrong with that," Edmonds said. "The Florida Press Association is a source of information and research but they're also in the business to promote the industry and that's OK, too."

Florida Press Association's Ridings insists that credibility was critical in disseminating the information, and he was shocked by such positive results.

"We get so lost with the problems that we're having that we tend to lose sight of the overwhelming evidence that newspapers are still a source of information," he said. "For us as an association, credibility is more important than hype. Our members are very skeptical."

It all came down to hard boiled-facts, according to Anthony Casale, CEO of American Opinion Research and former USA Today pollster. "We get paid whether the numbers are good or bad."

Monday, May 14, 2007

'Paper dumping' hotline planned

'Paper dumping' hotline planned
Mark Sweney

Ditched: copies of the London Paper and London Lite in a bin. Photo: Christian Sinibaldi

Londoners fed up with seeing dumped copies of London Lite and the London Paper around the capital may soon have an outlet for their frustration, with plans afoot for a complaints line people can call to report alleged dumping.
A complaints line is one of four proposals the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the body that audits newspaper sales, is considering as it seeks to stamp out dumping of the two London freesheets.

The ABC said its investigation of alleged dumping had found evidence that copies of London Lite, published by Associated Newspapers, and the News International-owned London Paper are being ditched.

As a result ABC is asking the publishers of both freesheets to adhere to a tighter code of conduct, including giving "consideration" to setting up a dumping complaints phone line for members of the public to report offences.

"The review has identified that copies of newspapers are being dumped which is, obviously, not compliant with the ABC rules," the organisation said.

ABC added that it was, however, "satisfied" that the reported circulation figures for April are "materially compliant".

"Having identified the distinct risk associated with hand distribution, ABC, in conjunction with publishers, has been working on improving the publisher management controls still further," the organisation added.

"ABC will be requiring additional improvements to the management control and reporting of the distribution."

The body's four-point plan to stamp out freesheet dumping in London also includes increased focus on internal publisher controls, compliance checking and complaints handling.

ABC is proposing more regular spot checks within London Lite and the London Paper distribution areas to monitor the effectiveness of publishers' compliance procedures and an ongoing review of hand distribution and ABC certification by industry representatives.

The circulation body launched the review following tit-for-tat allegations made last month by News International and Associated Newspapers - including the latter's release of video and photographic evidence that distributors were dumping free papers.

ABC said the review was instigated despite the fact that neither publisher made a formal complaint.