The circulation figures for the top 25 dailies in the US are out, and they're horrifying. The median decline is well into the teens; only the Wall Street Journal gained (very slightly).
think we're witnessing the end of the newspaper business, full stop,
not the end of the newspaper business as we know it. The economics just
aren't there. At some point, industries enter a death spiral: too few
consumers raises their average costs, meaning they eventually have to
pass price increases onto their customers. That drives more customers
away. Rinse and repeat . . .
For twenty years, newspapers have been trying to slow the process with increasingly desperate cost cutting, but almost all are at the end of that rope; they can't cut their newsroom or production staff any further and still put out a newspaper. There just aren't enough customers who are willing to pay for their product what it costs to produce it.
The numbers seem to confirm something I've thought for a while: we're eventually going to end up with a few national papers, a la Britain, rather than local dailies. The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times (sorry, conservatives!) are weathering the downturn better than most, and it's not surprising: business, politics, and national upper-middlebrow culture. But in 25 years, will any of them still be printing their product on the pulped up remains of dead trees? It doesn't seem all that likely.