Cry the beloved newspaper

death notice.jpg
Slow leak is the metaphor oft used to describe the U.S. newspaper industry today. Now an Economist’s article titled, “More Media, Less News,” suggests this flattening affect is at least a trans-Atlantic phenomenon. But a slow leak is better than a blowout. Here is one sobering snippet that captures the industry’s challenge while suggesting there is still time for the newspaper, which remains media’s newsmuscle, to metamorphose itself:

“Jim Chisholm, of iMedia, a joint-venture consultancy with IFRA, a newspaper trade association, predicts that a quarter of print classified ads will be lost to digital media in the next ten years. Overall, says iMedia, newspapers claimed 36% of total global advertising in 1995 and 30% in 2005. It reckons they will lose another five percentage points by 2015.”

Thanks to Paid Content for the pointer to the article. In it, the Economist notes the rise of free dailies, as exemplified by the Swedish Metro chain, and the double-digit revenue growth at newspaper online sites … which are so far just about balancing out the loss of print revenues.

Speaking of which, MediaPost reports on second quarter 2006 U.S. newspaper ad revenues: web dollars up 33 percent, print dollars down a bit, with “combined revenues … almost flat, growing just 1.1 percent to end at $12.4 billion.”

What, then, is to be done? USA Today recently took an insightful look at a notion called “fidelity” — the creation of an experience which the media consumer values over and above the importance or entertainment value of the content. It’s a subtle but interesting concept. The piece, by USA Today writer Kevin Maney, is aimed at audiovisual media rather than newspapers. But will newspapers remain ink-stained experiences or must they become purveyors of fidelity? Or whatever that may mean their context.

Netflix goes indie. The USA Today piece quotes Reed Hastings of NetFlix, and it reminded me that Netflix will be expanding distribution of independent films. That struck me as a great development and I will tap into it more deeply but this morning I didn’t take the time to do any homework so let me hold that thought for another day.