Newspapers, as we know, are losing readers in print, although they seem to be doing ok when you figure in online readership. But online readership isn't offsetting the drops in ad revenues that papers continue to suffer.
The Newspaper Association of America reports that 3rd Quarter ad income went down by 5 percent, marking the 25th consecutive quarter that ad revenues have declined. From 2006 through 2011, newspaper ad revenues fell by a staggering 51 percent, from $49.3 billion to $23.9 billion.
As reported here and elsewhere, publishers are struggling to find ways to improve income -- online paywalls and reduced print editions are two changes that we're seeing. But when they start cutting newsroom staffing to save money, it seems like publishers are just hastening their own demise. If a paper doesn't provide something distinctive in its news and information -- whether it's good local news reporting or outstanding analysis and commentary -- readers in print and online will simply go elsewhere. And then there will be no readers that publishers can sell advertising to reach.
The Fishbowl NY blog, reporting on the decline, says, "We hope this guilt trip is enough to persuade any of you who still don’t pay to read newspapers to finally start forking over some cash."
A good thought, but I think it will take some real innovation and commitment to news by publishers to try to win back readers and, eventually, paying advertisers. We know that the real money comes from advertising and not as much from subscription and newsstand sales.