Check out this interesting article from Columbia Journalism Review touting the resiliency of print newspapers.
This adds to the piling evidence (including a recent study conducted by the Nieman Journalism Lab) that print newspaper readership is long from dead. It also lends some credence to the argument that newspapers, like most other American industries, are victims of the recession.
Most assuredly, there is some truth to that. If someone loses his or her job, the newspaper subscription would probably be high up on the list of non-essentials fingered for cancellation. Also, when everyone is affected, businesses can’t afford to advertise.
Newspaper shareholders, like John Rogers Jr., seem to think the end of the recession will signal renewed life at newspapers. Others, like Alan Mutter, aren’t so optimistic.
I think the author of the CJR piece, Ryan Chittum, makes several excellent points. This quote is probably the article’s central thesis:
But this is fifteen years into the age of the online newspaper—and going on a decade into the high-speed Internet era—and you can spin it a couple of ways: It points to the surprising resiliency of print, or it signals the pitiful job newspapers have done online.
Editor & Publisher regularly publishes statistics regarding online newspaper readership. June was a tough month for online newspapers, with year-to-year readership at some prominent papers (New York Times, Chicago Tribune, etc.) either down or stagnant.
My feelings about all this are bittersweet. Part of me is cheering the continued, albeit more modest, success of print products. The other part of me knows that online journalism is the future, and we are already screwing it up (in ways outlined in this UMass Journalism Professors Blog post).
I take solace in the fact that, if nothing else, this is proof that a legacy print product of some kind will be around for awhile. As one of my readers posted in a comment last week, “Sunday morning with coffee and a paper sounds good to me.” (Thanks, Melissa!)