While We're on the Subject: Whither "Newspapers"?

I'm a newspaper junkie (my idea of a fun vacation is one where I get to spend two hours reading newspapers while I eat breakfast).

No surprise, I've devoted more brain-time that I should the past six months pondering the future of "newspapers." I intended to post a series of entries about this but -- you know how that goes. (Blame Carlos Brito. The A-B InBev deal took over my life for awhile).

Anyway -- unless you're living under a rock, you know that newspapers are in trouble: Circulations are declining. Some companies have declared bankruptcy. A Detroit newspaper is limiting home delivery to just a few days a week. The newspapers that my husband and I have delivered to our home are, well. . . . let's just say those weigh less now than they did a year ago. Everyone and her mother has an opinion about why this is happening, but as far as I'm concerned, the bottom dropped out when newspapers decided to give it away for free.

Example: I've been reading the New York Times for about twenty years. First, I bought a copy every day (back in the pre-internet days). Then the paper went online. There was a nominal subscription fee ($49.00 a year, if I remember right). I happily paid.

But then --- maybe three years ago? Four years? All of a sudden --the whole thing was free.

"Wait a second," I thought to myself. "How the HELL can they just give this stuff away? This is insane!"

The insanity has caught up with the Times and every other newspaper in the country. One of two things will happen: Either newspapers will go bust and there won't be any more "newspapers," paper or electronic; or, newspaper owners will wise up and start charging again. (As far as I know, the Wall Street Journal is the only newspaper that still charges. And it's doing okay. Yes, it gets thinner by the day, but it's okay. Or as about "okay" as a newspaper can be.)

Anyway, there's an assessment of some alternatives by David Carr in yesterday's Times.

For two other cogent analyses, see this piece at Scholars & Rogues, and this from American Journalism Review.