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Why Are Newspapers Dying?

One of the unfortunate aspects of the global economic downturn is that newspapers are folding at an increasing rate. Advertising revenue is down significantly and newspapers are being forced to take significant steps to align their costs with the new economic reality. Is this a concern given the traditional role that newspapers have served as a chronicler of the life and times of our ancestors? This article explores the impact that disappearing newspapers will have on the field of genealogy and genealogy news.

In the last several weeks, several newspaper chains have entered bankruptcy proceedings. For example, the Journal Register Company shut down the 150-year old Rocky Mountain News of Denver, while the Chicago Tribune and Minneapolis Star Tribune are both in bankruptcy protection and may cease to publish.

Many community newspapers in the US, UK and Canada have simply shut down. Newspapers are being forced to write their own obituary as they are being squeezed between high newsgathering costs, decreasing ad revenue and the long-term secular trend away from print editions and towards digital news. Traditional print newspapers are having difficulty competing in the digital domain where their competitors are smaller, more focused and generally much more nimble.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the first big-city daily newspaper to take the plunge by totally abandoning the print edition and moving solely to a digital online edition. The Seattle P.I. is an experiment that is being closely watched by other newspaper groups, including the Christian Science Monitor and the Kentucky Post, both of which have also migrated online.

To adjust to the economic realities of the internet, where advertising revenue is much lower than in the print world, the Seattle P.I. had to fire 90% of its newsroom staff of 165 people. In the future, the online P.I. will have just 20 journalists, which is thin by traditional big-city newspaper standards. Even the largest newspapers are cutting back. The New York Times has slashed its dividend, sold off real estate, cut pay for many employees and plans to lay off 100 staff, all in an attempt to preserve cash flow.

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