In 2006, The Economist asked in a cover story: “Who killed the newspaper?” The magazine said “it is only a matter of time” before newspapers “shut down in large numbers.” In fact, “over the next few decades half the rich world’s general papers may fold.”
One threat to newspapers, the magazine said six years ago, is “a new force of ‘citizen’ journalists and bloggers [that’s] itching to hold politicians to account.”
New online models will spring up as papers retreat. One non-profit group, NewAssignment.Net, plans to combine the work of amateurs and professionals to produce investigative stories on the internet. Aptly, $10,000 of cash for the project has come from Craig Newmark, of Craigslist, a group of free classified-advertisement websites that has probably done more than anything to destroy newspapers’ income.
The piece went on to say that for hard-news reporting, “the results of net journalism have admittedly been limited … but it is still early days.” (What happened to NewAssignment.net? It hasn’t been updated since 2010.)
Six years later, the Economist reports “things have started to look a bit less grim, particularly in America.” Here’s why that is, according to the magazine:
* “At some papers, such as the New York Times, circulation revenues this year are forecast to offset the decline in advertising for the first time in at least five years.”
* “Tablets and other mobile devices have also been a boon for news organisations, because they make paid digital subscriptions more attractive.”
* “Newspapers have been heartened by evidence that pay systems can work.”
This cheery report comes out as The Huffington Post Media section headline screams “BLEAK WEEK,” citing The Daily’s demise, New York Times buyouts, Plain Dealer layoffs and other bad news.
The Economist’s piece is, tweets Raju Narisetti of the Wall Street Journal, “a premature toast to newspapers.”