Category Archives: The basics

These entries lay down several of the basic concepts and principles discussed in this blog.

Part I: The Mass Media bubble

Newspaper companies have fallen farther and faster in the last six years than anyone could have imagined.

Beginning with the third quarter of 2006, newspapers now have seen 22 consecutive quarters of declines in print ad revenues – a loss of 57 percent. And there’s no end in sight, as we’re seeing continued declines in 2012. Most analysts also see continued declines in the years beyond.

The recession was a big part of this, but for most of the U.S. economy, it ended in the summer of 2009 – nearly three years ago – with a return to weak growth. Yet newspaper ad revenues continued to plunge at double-digit rates in 2009 and 2010, easing to single-digit declines in 2011 with few signs of relief in 2012.

This is much more than a recession. What’s happening to the newspaper business, and why? Read the rest of this entry


Part II — The end of the Mass Media Era

(Part I described the “Mass Media Era” as a 150-year bubble that produced an incredibly profitable mass media business model — one that is now breaking down.)

Ask most people why newspapers have fallen so far in the last few years, and they’ll say, “The Internet.” And they’ll be right, in a simplistic sort of way.

But let’s look closer. What’s really happening is that the lopsided old “mass media” information system — a few providers sending limited amounts of information to huge audiences — is now being engulfed and dwarfed by an information system that is truly “mass” on both ends — sending and receiving.

Call it the Internet, but it’s really this: Read the rest of this entry

Part III — What about news?

Six years into a massive disruption of the newspaper business, most U.S. newspaper companies are driving hard toward solutions they hope will stop the revenue slide and stabilize the business. They are focused mainly on two things: driving costs down and driving digital sales up.

With revenues down by half since 2005, painful cost reductions have been keeping most newspaper companies alive and in the black. At the same time, some companies have achieved encouraging gains in digital revenue. But few have managed to fully offset their print declines, even in the most recent reporting periods.

So the business keeps shrinking.

Fewer people, fewer resources, more consolidations, more outsourcing, more partnerships, redoubled digital sales efforts … most newspaper executives probably believe they are rethinking everything.

But few are rethinking the assumption that news can be the heart of a successful local media model. Mostly, they’re just trying to produce as much news as they can with fewer people, distributing it on more digital platforms and selling more ads around it. They don’t seem to question whether news can generate the audiences and revenues they need to stay in business.

Here’s the brutal fact: News isn’t getting it done. Read the rest of this entry