Rumors of (the newspaper’s) death …

A whiff of obsolscence seems to hang over the newspaper industry but the World Association of Newspapers’ Press Trends 2006 report suggests that print continues to eke out small gains in its global audience, thanks largely to stronger readership in Asia and a burst of free dailies, particularly in Europe. Following the money, “newspapers’ share of the world ad market held relatively steady with 30.2 percent, marginally down from 30.3 percent in 2004,” according to a free summary from the Center for Media Research. Based on this survey of newspaper trends iin 216 countries, the Japanese are newsiest people on earth: they buy 634 dailies per thousand adults, surpassing the Norwegians who buy 626 papers per thousand. The full report is for sale.

Another extract from the Center’s synopsis suggests that the decline of U.S. newspapers is concentrated in evening rather than morning dailies. Specifically:

“The circulation of US dailies fell -2.35 percent in 2005 and -4.02 percent over five years. Most of the decline came in evening dailies, which saw a year-on-year circulation decline of -6.6 percent, compared with only -1.6 percent for morning dailies. Over the past five years, evening dailies declined -17.5 percent, compared with a -1.4 percent drop for morning newspapers.”

So there’s hope for hacks? Poynter Institute commentator Rick Edmonds recently condensed a conference on the future of news into a very readable essay that suggests both editorial and business departments need a shakeup. He wrote:

“As businesses, newspapers must generate new sources of income as traditional ones fade. That includes online display advertising, rich and competitive local classified, local search, other online income and multiple niche publications. They must also get the best results — discovering new lines of business and holding on to the old — in the paper edition … This implies some redefinition of business/news roles and dynamics.”

Easier said than done in an industry in which the news and business departments have no contact — so the news won’t be tainted. But the industry will get swallowed by the Internet unless something changes. Can newsies get smarter about making money without selling out?

The new voice of news YourHub is a citizen journalism spinoff of the Denver newspapers that is reportedly already making a profit. YourHub is a software and coaching service. The “news” is written by amateurs. Frequent contributor Francis Miller recently explained why he has written more than 300 entries:

“ is not the quality of the Sunday New York Times, and it rarely contains stories of international significance. There are a lot of cat-and-dog stories and one has to pan sand and gravel to find the gold nuggets. But, this obscures the currents beneath the surface of the water. What is happening is that people who have never had the opportunity to write and see their comments published can do so without kissing an editor’s behind or grovelling at the feet of a gatekeeper. It is raw, unvarnished, from the heart, out the gazoo, smoke blown up the skirt kind of stuff … I like and compliment the Rocky Mountain News for pioneering it as an alternative force in Colorado media.”