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Over the last six months, we have noted several newspapers that have decided not to print one or two days a week. Then last week’s news that the Christian Science Monitor would cease daily publication and become a weekly. And now, U.S. News and World Report is going monthly. This is bad. This is good.
The bad news is pretty obvious: Advertising is down in just about every medium and major ad category. While circulation and subscriptions might also be down, they are less critical to the near-term economics although symptomatic of the longer-term challenges the print news industry faces.
The good news? Some powerful national brands are trying to push consumers online. If the goal is to preserve quality journalism, diversity of views, investigative reporting and the like, something radical has to happen. Eliminating distribution, production and paper costs virtually reduces the costs to what is essential, the voice. However, while traffic is up at most news sites and newspapers can claim their fair share, something is still getting lost in the translation. The amount of time spent on these sites is well below the time believed to have been spent in the print counterpart. If major brands push consumers online more heavily — i.e. it’s this or nothing — there might really be a business there. Increased time spent on a site should result in more ad impressions. If enough publications really push, maybe others will be brave enough to follow. Maybe more advertisers will take notice and join them. This could be good. It could add years to papers’ respective lives.
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