The New York Times just announced that, in order to shore up their revenues, they will be increasing prices from $5.00 to $6.00 for the Sunday edition, and from $1.50 to $2.00 for weekdays and Saturdays. They will also be shuttering the Boston Globe.
After the close of the Rocky Mountain News, which I used to read quite often when I lived in Grand Junction, CO, no one should be surprised that even some of the oldest and most established newspapers are suffering and threatening closure. It doesn’t make it any easier to watch all of this carnage, though. I love newspapers — used to read several a day — but even I admit that I’m cutting back on my newspaper-buying. The Dallas Morning News daily is now $1.00, while the Sunday editions are $4.00. Doesn’t sound like much, but when you have an alternative and you’re a self-employed person with a limited budget, the online editions are awfully tempting. That does mean, of course, that I’m the reason why these folks are losing their jobs, why cities are saying goodbyes to their only newspaper, but hard decisions aren’t just the purview of big corporations. We individuals have to make them as well.
Some people have said that the newspapers themselves are to blame for allowing their content to essentially be distributed for free on the Internet, while requiring folks at coffee shops and grocery stores to actually fork over their dwindling dollars for a paper copy. I agree. The only way that the remaining newspapers can survive is to return to the pay-for-content subscription model, since those advertising revenues will never return. People who’ve grown accustomed to free content will holler and howl and bitch and moan, but remember what everyone said about Napster and the demise of the music industry after the former was shut down by the authorities? Now, the industry is as healthy as ever, and plenty of people not only don’t mind paying for music on iTunes, they’re doing it in droves.
Newspapers will always have a role to play in our society. Sure, bloggers like me and tons of Web sites provide just about any iota of information you could possibly want about what’s going on in the world, but think about it: where do these folks get much of their info? Citizen journalists with Flips and digital cameras around the world supply us with lots of on-the-ground photos, videos and content, but nothing beats the kind of quality writing and analysis that experienced professionals provide. I know of wonderful commentators and bloggers online whose talent and skill rival those of a Nicholas Kristof, but they’re few and far between, and their own relatively limited resources will never allow them to have the kind of breadth and depth and reach of a, say, New York Times.
I still have faith that newspapers are here to stay. The question, though, is whether or not they recognize their continued relevance and make the changes necessary to shore up what remaining resources they have to transform themselves and their failing business model into something that will weather this economic storm,