Dan Kennedy writes that the newspaper industry isn’t doing as bad as we may think:
At a moment when the newspaper business is hanging by a thread, it seems strange to suggest that maybe things aren’t that bad. After all, as the Newsosaur, Alan Mutter, points out, 142 American newspapers shut their doors in 2009, and nearly 15,000 jobs at US newspapers have disappeared during the past year.
Yet if you had believed the headlines, you would have expected the mediascape to look a lot worse for print.
Last December, Tribune Company, whose holdings include the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, filed for bankruptcy. Wall Street bad boy-turned-online provocateur Henry Blodget was predicting the New York Times‘s parent company would run out of cash. Right on cue, the Times Company threatened to close its second largest newspaper, the Boston Globe, which at one time was projected to lose $85m this year. And Hearst similarly announced it might shutter the San Francisco Chronicle in the face of mounting losses.
As 2009 draws to a close, all of those papers are still alive, if not especially healthy. The largest papers to stop printing in 2009 were a pair of second-ranked city dailies, always vulnerable during a recession: Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, which went out of business, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which moved to be online-only. For most folks living in other large metropolitan areas, surprisingly little has changed.
If you don’t have time to read the rest, he has three basic points:
1) Newspapers are reasonably profitable — but many of them have loads of debt that makes things look worse than they are.
2) Newspapers had gotten fat with staff, particularly when viewed in the new media environment.
3) Newspapers are finally learning how to attract readers and advertisers to the Web.
A little good news for the new year, mayhaps.