Who exactly is killing the press


A friend who works at Google wanted to be sure I'd seen a new study from the Pew Internet Center* about what exactly is cutting the heart out of advertising revenues for the newspaper business. The headline on a CNET story about the study gets right to the point:


The Pew study also contains this "story of an industry's decline in one chart" graphic, showing how classified ad revenue for papers has fallen from around $20 billion a year to under $10 billion during the era of Craigslist. (And, yes, the study argues that there's a causal connection here, not just a coincidence of timing.) A ten billion dollar revenue hole says a lot about why all papers -- well run, poorly run, concentrating on local issues, concentrating on national and world affairs, up market, down market -- are in trouble, all at the same time.


To Google, it makes a difference whether the shorthand slogan in people's minds is "Craigslist is killing off newspapers" rather than "Google is doing them in." For the papers themselves, it's a fine distinction -- sort of like dinosaurs spending their last moments arguing whether it was a giant meteor strike or a bunch of volcanoes that was wiping them out. Still, a distinction worth bearing in mind for precision in blame-casting.
* Which is run by another friend, Lee Rainie; my wife has done Pew Internet studies too.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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