Newspaper sales in the US have been declining for years, but the global financial crisis looks set to push the American print media industry off a cliff. Did the media dig its own hole? Is this the death of American newspapers? Here’s what the pundits say:

Beer is a better investment than US newspaper companies. Do the executives who manage America’s major daily newspaper publishing companies think they know what they’re doing? They’ll assure you the answer is yes. But how obvious does the evidence have to be before even they have to admit that the answer obviously is no? — Digital Deliverance

Fat newspaper profits are history. To date, most publishers have elected to buttress their profitability as much as possible by attacking the two most elastic expense categories: staffing and paper consumption. But this short-sighted effort may be compromising the quality of the core product to such a degree that it actually may speed the decline of the industry as publishers attempt to transition to a new, more sustainable business model — assuming one is out there. — Reflections of a Newsosaur

The economics of moving from print to online: lose one hundred, get back eight. Let’s kill a myth. The dream of a compact newsroom, able to output a high-intensity general news website doesn’t fly. Numbers simply don’t add up. And here is why. — Monday Note

Advertising plunge will kill newspapers — and there won’t be a bailout. If you follow the journalism industry publications and blogosphere, then you’ve probably witnessed an industry doing it’s finest fiddling while Rome burns. Everyone’s talking ad nauseam about the problems with newspapers and the industry. Everyone is wondering, “What is killing newspapers?” Here’s your answer: “A lack of money.” Yes, it’s really that simple. — Kiyoshi Martinez

Newspaper circulation: Now can we call this a crisis? This is not exactly a surprise, but it’s disappointing nonetheless. Circulation is down, again, across the board at US newspapers. According to the latest figures released this morning from the Audit Bureau of Circulation, overall daily circulation for the period ending September, 2008 was down 4.6%, and Sunday was down 4.8% And these numbers were compiled before the financial panic of 2008. That will be taken into account in the numbers reported in March, 2009. — Zero Percent Idle

Stocks: The meltdown and the media. This year, the financial panic has unfolded minute by minute in front of investors’ eyes. Meanwhile, online tools allow investors to make rash decisions, buying or selling stocks with the click of a mouse. It’s a media environment that seems like a recipe for panic. Thus, CNBC’s Jim Cramer terrified many with his call on Oct. 6 for investors to sell stocks. “Whatever money you may need for the next five years,” he said, “please take it out of the stock market right now, this week.” — Business Week

Slaughtering the cash cows a bit too early. In a sense, newspapers have been slaughtering the cash cows — print revenues still drive more than 85% of the business — a bit too fast. No doubt, what we’re talking about big picture is the transition of the business from print to digital. What today’s numbers show is that the movement is accelerating, an acceleration caused both by larger forces (younger readers preferring online, the new green revolution) and by publishers’ own cost-cutting. The continuing crunch issue in that: readers online are still worth no more than a dime compared to the dollar in print. — Content Bridges

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey