The death knell for the newspaper industry has sounded loudly in
In the past decade, employment by newspaper organizations has
declined nearly 40%,
to numbers from the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor
Statistics. While 20 years ago newspapers were
$0.15 on every pre-tax dollar, today newspapers are burdened by
declining advertising revenue. The Newspaper Association of America
that from 2006 to 2011 newspaper advertising revenue declined 50%.
Last year, IBISWorld
the newspaper industry as the fifth fastest declining industry in
America, right after recordable media manufacturers. Industry
revenues are projected to decline at an average rate of 4.2% per
year from 2012 to 2017, which is bad news for big players like
The New York Times
This makes it difficult to explain why newspapers -- newspaper
companies, that is -- are this summer's hottest must-have
accessory. In a week's time, three high-profile newspaper purchases
have occurred: Boston Red Sox owner John Henry bought
The Boston Globe
for $70 million; IBT Media acquired
from media conglomerate
) founder and CEO Jeff Bezos purchased
The Washington Post
for $250 million.
Bezos has arguably gained the most media attention among the three,
many questioning the reasoning behind his entering a troubled
, Brad Stone
to understand Bezos's thinking:
With the rise of the Kindle, Bezos created publishing imprints
that encouraged authors to experiment and sell their books directly
to readers while collecting an above-average royalty. This was
immediately framed by observers as an attack on Amazon's oldest
partners, traditional publishers-and it was, in part. But Kindle
Singles, which distributes bite-size novellas, and Kindle Serials,
books that are meted out in chapters, have also given writers new
ways to find an audience and earn a living. He's attempting to do
something similar with Amazon Studios, which backs original
television shows and gives filmmakers an outlet for their work
outside the usual Hollywood power structure. Bezos isn't trying to
kill the media business; he's trying to reinvent it, racing against
the likes of Apple and Google to build the most comprehensive array
of devices and innovative online news and entertainment
is key here. How Henry, IAC, and Bezos reinvent these businesses
will likely be watched closely over the coming years. Bezos himself
has publicly admitted he does not have a definite plan for
The Washington Post.
"There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy,"
Bezos said in an open letter
The Washington Post.
"We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment."
While there might not be a map, there are certainly indicators of
what audiences need and want, and what news organizations currently
Last month, the Pew Research Center polled 1,480 adults on the
their attitudes toward news organizations. What they found could
serve as a bellwether for what new players in the space will push
for with their companies.
The research found that 69% of people say television is their top
source of news. However, the Internet is catching up. Fifty percent
of the public uses the Internet as their main source of national
and international news, up from 43% in 2011. Of people between the
ages of 18 and 29 years old, a whopping 71% say the Internet is
their main source of news, versus 55% who cite television as their
main source of news. Among 30-49 year olds, 63% use the Internet as
their main source of news.
Newspaper readership has been the hardest hit, according to the
study. In 2001, 45% of Americans cited the newspaper as their main
source of news. Today, a mere 28% turn to broadsheets over
television, the Internet, and radio.
While readership is clearly transitioning, public opinion of the
news is suffering.
A mere 28% of people feel journalists contribute a lot to society's
well-being, down from 38% of people polled in 2009. At the same
time, 78% of people believe news organizations are biased, and 67%
believe news stories are often inaccurate -- compare that to 1985,
when 44% believed news organizations were inaccurate. Regarding
perceptions of news organizations overall, 65% of people say news
organizations tend to favor one side, and 75% say they are often
influenced by powerful people and organizations.
What will the new generation of newspaper barons do to boost public
opinion of journalists and news organizations? That's to be seen.
However, one finding of the study did highlight a role news
organizations seems to be winning popularity in: as a political
A large majority of the public (68%) believes news organizations
keep political leaders from doing things that should not be done.
That opinion is nearly equal amongst Democrats, Republicans, and
Independents. About half of those surveyed (48%) say news
organizations help rather than hurt democracy, versus 35% who
believe it doesn't. Young people, those between the ages of 18 and
29 years old, increasingly believe the press has prevented
political leaders from doing things that shouldn't be done. In
2011, 56% of young people believed this. Now, 75% of young adults
Last year, the public was 10% less likely to view the press as an
effective political watchdog.
"Young people have especially become more likely to say news
organizations keep political leaders from doing things that should
not be done, a shift in opinion that has taken place concurrently
with rising concerns about civil liberties," the report points out.
Thinking about the future, the picture of a typical young reader
comes together. He or she reads the news on the Internet -- maybe
on a Kindle or an
) iPad) -- and might not trust that the news is free of bias.
However, he or she does see the press as an effective watchdog.
For players like Bezos, who knows to focus his business strategy on
the long versus short run, this is a customer profile to pay