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The New York Times logo is seen on the headquarters in New York City. How much longer does the newspaper of record have left?
And for pretty much all the other newspapers, as well. I'm not sure if I totally buy that argument-from-armageddon — local papers may be able to make a go of it, while big national dailies could be in trouble. But you can get very worried about the Grey Lady's future if you run through Eric Jackson's brief yet decimating PowerPoint at Forbes.
Here's the presentation. It's worth flipping through the full deck.
The real issue continues to be one of structural decline and a profound disruption of the business model of newspapers. The idea that the brand — the New York Times, for example — can simply migrate to the web and keep on keepin' on is now being aggressively questioned. Yes, we could have a "New York Times" online that does what the print product did for O! those many years. But the revenue won't support the business of the New York Times Company.
The Los Angeles Times building. It's emptier than it was last week.
The first quarter of 2012 is almost over, and you know what that means: more layoffs at the Los Angeles Times. According to LAObserved, "as many as 20 people may be out" — but the business section is hiring a reporter to cover the food-and-agriculture beat.
Layoffs have become a fact of life at the LAT, whose parent, Tribune Co., is still in bankruptcy. What appears to be going on now is that the paper is chopping back on its features and special sections, concentrating instead on news, business, sports, and entertainment — the core coverage areas. Three stand-alone weekly section, for example, were recently rolled into one Saturday section.
This happened at the same time the LAT announced the introduction of a paywall
Economic pressure on the newspaper business has caused a reversal — a slow reversal — of a trend that defined the growth of big metro dailies like the LATimes and the New York Times. The creation of additional sections covering topics like food, health, science meant that newspapers needed additional platforms for ads. This transformed broadsheets into hefty print products. The Wall Street Journal has defied this reversal, adding lifestyle sections since 2010. But that's a case of a paper that primarily covered the financial markets going for a more general interest/metro New York mix.
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The Los Angeles Times building as seen on the evening of September 20, 2006 in Los Angeles, California.
It's finally happened. The Los Angeles Times has joined the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal in charging for online content. It's a paywall, but they're not calling it that. They're calling it a membership program. And the switch gets flipped March 5.
LA Observed sums it all up (and also included LAT President Kathy Thomson's memo):
Freeloaders get 15 stories for free in a month. Otherwise, it's $3.99 for a week of digital access, less if you take the Sunday paper in print, the Times story says. There's a cheaper introductory rate of 99 cents for four weeks of what the paper calls a membership program, to go into effect March 5. Print subscribers get the online paper for free.
You can compare this with the New York Times paywall, which we learned earlier this month has managed to convince 325,000 folks a month to to pay for access the online edition. The NYT also charges a 99-cent four-week intro rate, but thereafter it jumps to $15-35, depending on whether you want full online, mobile, and tablet access. For now, the LAT is keeping tablet and mobile access free — perhaps because it's reportedly pursuing a proprietary tablet that may affect how content for the device is bundled.
AP Photo/Sang Tan
A man views a news stand displaying national newspapers, some carrying the story on WikiLeaks' release of classified U.S. State Department documents, at a newsagent in central London, Monday, Nov. 29, 2010.
It's becoming abundantly apparent that even a robust online presence can't rescue newspapers as we know them. The problem is simple: online revenue, while growing, can't replace the print losses. This has seriously undermined the profits margins of big-city dailies, from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times to the Washington Post. Small-market dailies are having an easier time of it, but that's because they have lower costs to support and don't need to become online powerhouses.
Web traffic for newspapers keeps growing, but not fast enough for Washington Post staffers, who on Wednesday learned there would be yet another round of voluntary buyouts at the paper.
The buyouts - up to 48 news staffers at the Post, according to the paper's ombudsman - are the latest in a new round of cuts at major newspapers as online traffic grows and overall unemployment numbers fall nationwide.
The average number of daily visitors to Washington Post's site jumped by more than 3 million, or nearly 15 percent, during the last quarter of 2011, according to a study released last week by the Newspaper Association of America.
The number of unique visitors over that period increased nearly 6 percent, while the total minutes visitors spent on the site rose by 14 percent.
But all those eyeballs are not translating into real money, or at least not at enough of a clip to cushion circulation losses and declining print advertising revenue.