BTW – Journalism Continues to Collapse


Remember 2009?

The year that I like to call “The Great Media Collapse.”

Layoffs galore.  Newspapers folding.  Magazines selling for peanuts (remember the $5 million fire sale for BusinessWeek?).

2009 ended with more than 14,000 journalists in the unemployment line and newspaper circulations plunging to the lowest levels since the 1940s.

Not a good year for journalism.

Well, guess what?

It really never got better.  Journalism has continued to collapse.  Not in the epic fashion of 2009, but through a steady drumbeat of downsizing and attrition. News rooms are smaller.  Page counts are lower.  Coverage is less comprehensive.

And now we getting additional rounds of layoffs.

The New York Times (again).  TIME Magazine.  And then today at Dow Jones’ MarketWatch (called a “bloodbath” by insiders and ironically on the first day that the Dow hit 14,000 since 2007).

The question arises yet again: Is the business of journalism sustainable in an online world?  Will people – and more importantly advertisers – pay money to fund independent news gathering?

The trend lines point to no.  What do you say?


The Great Media Collapse of 2009

BusinessWeek Sells for Less Than a 4-bedroom Condo in Manhattan

Politico post “High-level layoffs at N.Y. Times”

Daily Intelligencer post “MarketWatch Gets in on Unfortunate Layoff Trend”

13 Responses to “BTW – Journalism Continues to Collapse”

  1. Holy crap I just wrote about this today – and you know, it’s a troubling phenomenon – for those of us in the media and those at home on their LazyBoys waiting for the paper to be delivered … I still think there will be a demand for actual print … at least I hope so – online news just doesn’t feel the same … that’s my two cents.

  2. Hi Snosler:
    I wish I could agree, but thus far the generation under 40 has weighed in with their wallets. The message is clear: they aren’t willing to pay for print news. Print won’t disappear (few technologies ever do) but it will become niche – like vinyl records and fax machines. I’m just hoping that journalism can find a way to monetize online.

  3. George,

    Over here across the border, I’d say we’ve seen our fair share of it as well; such as the National Post no longer printing a Sunday edition, papers such as the Toronto Sun trying to push for online subscriptions and for part of my business as a freelance writer for magazines; there is an increasing amount of print publications unwilling to pay for or accept freelance submissions.

    Regarding online subscriptions, I personally get my news from TV, social media updates from local news outlets that are ON the platforms, which automatically link to the websites of said TV news stations. I’m not quite sure that for this generation, online subscriptions to local print news outlets generates as much value as companies like the Postmedia Network are hoping.


  4. Good points, George. And a tip of the cap for tweeting this story with a “Super Bowl” headline. SEO at its best.

  5. Hi Mike:
    Capture the audience where its attention is currently directed!

  6. On one hand, bloggers, linkers, et al need to have content that they can point to or riff off…on the other hand, yes, subscriptions (and ad sales) for print media has gone off the cliff. There’s a market for journalism and reporting, but we haven’t see exactly what that market looks like yet. (We’ve had glimpses though…)

  7. I agree that the new market parameters for journalism online are unknown. Not sure what you mean by the glimpse. What glimpse? I’m starting to think it needs to collapse entirely until we realize we need it. Then we figure it out.

  8. No! I don’t want it to collapse entirely! Me and the other 5 people in my town who subscribe to daily newspapers don’t want our morning routines to be so disrupted.

    By glimpse I meant: 1) the success of niche media (WSJ, New Yorker mag, etc.), 2) pay walls, 3) trend of hyper-local news, e.g. Patch, 4) cross-over media with web sites/apps integrating with TV 5) attempts at new models like GlobalPost 6) crowd-sourced or user-generated news coming from social media feeds (e.g. Twitter reports about breaking news)

  9. Hi Alison:
    Gotcha. Keep reading your print newspaper! Although I’m not sure I think the Patch model of hyperlocal is overly successful. Remains to be seen so far. They appear to have a business model of overworking solo editors. And while all the innovations you discuss are cool they are not innovations in making money selling journalism. That’s where we need the real innovations!

  10. Yes, totally agree about Patch – it seems we’re still trying to figure out what the future holds.

    One more thought…your “collapse entirely” comment reminded me of something my local librarian said. (Yes, I’m a library advocate and complete dinosaur.) We were talking about local cuts in funding for libraries and she said it almost seems smarter to close a library for a short while (and have people miss it and realize its value) than to cut hours and services. When hours or services are cut it ends up annoying some library users and they can develop a sense of “what’s the point in funding the library, it’s not useful anyway.” I can see that happening in the print newspaper industry – many dailies have switched to 3 issues/week and have trimmed down their beat sections.

    While I understand where this argument is coming from, I would really hate to see these types of institutions collapse. While a new model might rise from the ashes there’s also the risk that we’ll lose something of value forever.

  11. Hi Alison:
    That is a great story (BTW – I go to the library 2-3 times a month and think it is an immensely valuable resource). I think that story holds true for newspapers. I’ll take my own experience with the Boston Globe as an example. When the Globe started to cutback on coverage: eliminating international reporting, less New England coverage and started to increase the use of wire copy, I found it less valuable. In fact, I became annoyed because I really enjoyed all that stuff. So I let my subscription lapse. I still read, but my main news source is now the New York Times – because they still provide all of what I want (and, yes, I know the Times owns the Globe and can be blamed for a lot of the cuts – but that’s a different story).

    So maybe your librarian is on to something…

  12. Alison really nailed it. As someone (still) in the news biz, I’ve often wondered if the turnaround hinges on people someday realizing they can’t do without, like Alison’s library example. I say to my friends, the day newspapers go away and the public must rely on the government for updates on war and the economy (regardless of political leanings) is the day newspapers will begin their rebound. I hope.

  13. Hi Mike:
    The government – in my mind – is the least of our worries. What about getting all product news from the manufacturers? What about getting news about the stock only from those issuing it? What about uncovering insider trading, pollution and environmental abuses, unsafe worker conditions and dangerous products? A free (and well funded) press not only helps uncover malfeasance from the government, but from private enterprise.

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