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.