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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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April 12, 2008 10:26 AM

The irrelevant newspaper? Not a chance

Posted by Ryan Blethen

In my column Friday, which can be found here, I wrote that the loud chatter surrounding the death of newspapers should be toned down, or halted all together. There is no question newspapers are suffering and some newspapers might not make it. Many more than not will survive. Why do I believe this?

Because the problem newspapers face has more to do with the loss of classified advertising and a changing business model than with competition from new media forms like blogs and citizen journalism. Once publishers do the messy task of aligning their revenues with expenditures and learn to live with profit margins in the teens, even the low teens, newspapers will find solid footing.

The response to the column has been interesting. A number of readers said they are sticking with the newspaper and will always read the Times. I also received a number of lectures about why newspapers are irrelevant. Most of these folks missed the mark. They attributed our failure to being too liberal, too conservative, or not knowing enough about the Constitution.

The third group of e-mails attributed the supposed demise of newspapers to the Internet. Nearly all of these e-mailers said they read the paper online. My response was, great! Please do read us online! Read us however you want. I really do not care how people are reading newspapers as long as they are reading.

I view readership holistically. It would be foolish to lament losses in print circulation, which is not bad here compared to the rest of the industry, without recognizing the amazing reach newspapers have online. This brings us back to the revenue model. Circulation was never the revenue engine of the industry. That is the domain of advertising. And therein lies the newspaper industries problem and salvation.

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