A newspaper was always so much more to its readers than a printed page full of news. It was the place that provided local, regional, national and international news. It was also at the center of your universe, your community. It was a breakfast routine. It was utilitarian as well as informational.
Unfortunately, everything that newspapers once provided is now available on the Internet in an efficient, immediate, and less expensive format. Let’s review.
Newspapers provided news and analysis, breaking news, opinion, arts and entertainment criticism. Now you can keep up to date with minute-by-minute breaking news with RSS Feeds, Google News, newspaper online news alerts, or the Huffington Post. Winner: The Internet.
We turned to the newspaper for shopping information. We could check the latest discount prices for tires, or learn when department store sales began. It was where we looked for a job or an apartment to rent. Now, we get daily deals from Groupon, roommates from Craigslist, and direct offers in emails from the few surviving department stores. Winner: The Internet.
Although journalists didn’t like to admit it, newspapers were a form of entertainment and education. We laughed while reading Dilbert and other comics. We chuckled at the advice from Ann Landers. And we improved our Bridge game with moves provided by the newspaper column. Now, we can find all of that and much more, including educational or entertaining You Tube videos, from an array of internet sites such as dilbert.com, astrology.com, even bridgedoctor.com. Plus we get to share with others who have similar interests. Winner: The Internet.
At least newspapers were full of helpful data: the closing stock prices, the starting times for movies, and obituaries. But Fandango will tell you what time the movie starts, what others think of it, and let you order a ticket. Who wants to see yesterday’s closing stock price when you can get up to the minute pricing from Bloomberg.com? And the Web even now has obituaries and death notices. Winner: The Internet.
But at least a newspaper provided the glue that kept a community engaged and together. You couldn’t start your day if you worked in the U.S. government or national politics without reading the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times entertainment section was the “bible” for movie executives. But now people with shared interests turn to Facebook or LinkedIn to see what is “hot” in their industry. Winner: The Internet.
So it’s no wonder newspaper company stocks are no longer the darling of Wall Street. Newspapers made with ink and paper, delivered by trucks, will be around for some time, at least until the Baby Boomer generation dies off, but their profits and readership will continue to deteriorate.
In a recent Ad Age survey published on Silicon Alley Insider, “local news” and “coupons” remain the two biggest reasons consumers subscribe to a local newspaper. So if you are a newspaper executive, you have to be paying a lot of attention to the future of Groupon, which may eventually replace newspaper coupons, and AOL’s Patch, which is trying to deliver local neighborhood news on over 500 community sites.
I’m just glad I don’t work for a newspaper company any more.