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Online News Overtakes Print in the US

by December 29, 2008
Internet News overtakes Print

Internet News overtakes Print

For years the common response to an introduction about Audioholics would include some form of the following: "Oh, are you a print magazine?"

Um, no.

You see, we can actually publish articles in real-time instead of having to line them up 3 months in advance and then being behind the curve in terms of what's going on in the industry. I mean seriously... If Onkyo makes a new product announcement we can post it the same day. A print mag has to beg for the info early (which isn't always possible, or they might get the specs wrong) or consumers need to wait up to 2 months to get that info from the print magazine. Real-time is always better for anything that involves new information and news. Well, 2009 seems to be the year that online news has finally overtaken print - at least in the US.

Remember, it costs lots of money to print paper. So much so, that articles and reviews are limited in terms of how lengthy they can be. Each additional page costs the company money to print... so why not just put out a 3 page review instead of the original 8 pages your reviewer could have written? I've written several reviews and served as a subject matter expert for several print magazine reviews and articles. The first thing they tell us is how many words we're limited to. Content is trumped by resources.

Perish the thought!

Now the United States (and the general media) seem to be "fessing up" about the shake-up that's been going on in the industry. There has been a steady erosion of the print media for the past 5+ years. I am intimately familiar with this transition. I've been following it and saving headlines and news reports for at least that long as I watched the situation unfold. At first it was difficult to find anyone readily admitting this decline - after all, it affected the very people that report the news. Headlines and articles were often buried deep within the folds of the papers or located in the financial sector (which was more interested in the truth and less in saving face). 2005 seemed to be a major tipping point and it seemed that no one could deny that something was definitely afoot.

Here is just a small sampling of some headlines I've collected over the years:

  • THE world's newspapers enjoyed buoyant advertising sales in 2003 but overall reader numbers were in marginal decline, according to a report on the state of the industry delivered at the 57th annual World Newspaper Congress today. - The Daily Telegraph, 2004
  • Rupert Murdoch urged newspaper editors Wednesday to embrace the Internet, saying print news executives have "sat by and watched" as a new generation of digital consumers has turned away from newspapers. - News Corp, 2005
  • The head of The Wall Street Journal's empire, Peter Kann, could be sweating over his job, again. Earnings plunged by 54 percent... with its fledgling online operations earning more money for the first time than the flagship Journal and the weekly Barron's. Kann blamed the slump on weak advertising at the Journal, which lost 8 percent of its ads in the first quarter and expects the slump to continue. - New York Post, 2005
  • Circulation at Tribune Co. papers will show declines in the next Fas-Fax report, with the most troubling plunge at the Los Angeles Times, Tribune Publishing President Scott Smith confirmed during a conference call with analysts this morning... Smith acknowledged the Times will drop more than 5.5%. Smith said that for the entire group, home-delivered copies are down about 4% while the drop in single-copy sales is even greater. - Editor & Publisher, 2005
  • Belo Corp. said Thursday that upcoming Audit Bureau of Circulation figures will show that its flagship Dallas Morning News will take a circulation hit of about 13% on Sundays and 9% on other days, for the most recent six-month period. - Editor & Publisher, 2005
  • Time Inc. subpoenaed on circulation practices. Several publishers were found to have overstated their circulation figures. These include Belo Corp.'s Dallas Morning News, Hollinger International Inc.'s Chicago Sun-Times and Tribune Co.'s Newsday from Long Island. - Reuters, 2005
  • It's Official: 2005 will be the newspaper industry's worst year since the last ad industry recession. And things aren't looking much better for next year either, according to a top Wall Street firm's report on newspaper publishing. "Sadly, 2005 is shaping up as the industry's worst year from a revenue growth perspective since the recession impacted 2001-2002 period," says the report from Goldman Sachs, adding a warning that meaningful growth in 2006 is "very unlikely." - Goldman Sachs Report, 2005
  • Newspapers have no future without online and digital services, media executives heard at a World Association of Newspapers meeting in Madrid. "We are getting the whole organization ready for a digital future," said Simon Waldman, director of digital publishing at Guardian Newspapers, whose Guardian Unlimited site is by far the most popular British newspaper online site, ahead of The Sun, The Times and The Telegraph. - AFP, 2005
  • The internet will this year overtake national newspapers to become the third biggest advertising medium by spend, according to authoritative forecasts. By the end of 2007, internet advertising will close the gap on regional newspapers, the number two medium, but will still be well short of television, the biggest outlet in the £12bn-a-year media advertising market. - Financial Times, 2006
  • The Audit Bureau of Circulations FAS-FAX report for the six-month period ending September 2006 released this morning confirmed yet again that major metros are struggling to show growth. The losses are steep while the gains are meager. This is the fourth consecutive semi-annual report to register a severe drop in daily circulation and -- perhaps more troubling to the industry -- Sunday copies. While the estimated decline 2.5% for daily circulation for all reporting papers may seem negligible, consider that in years past that decrease averaged around 1%. Sunday, considered the industry's bread-and-butter,
    showed even steeper losses, with a decline of 3%. - Editor & Publisher, 2006
  • Early Wednesday, Goldman Sachs became one of the first newspaper industry analyst firms to analyze the shocking announcement of the pending sale of the Star Tribune of Minneapolis by McClatchy Co. to a private equity firm. In its heading, Goldman stated it plainly: "Minneapolis valuation a Bearish signal for newspaper industry." - Editor & Publisher, 2006
  • Today's job eliminations at Time Inc. totaled 289 mostly editorial posts after all was said and done, including layoffs at crown jewel People, flagship Time and other magazines from Entertainment Weekly to Sports Illustrated. - Advertising Age, 2007
  • U.S. media job cuts surged 88 percent in 2006 from the previous year, a downsizing trend expected to continue this year, a survey said Thursday. The media industry slashed 17,809 jobs last year, a nearly two-fold increase from the 9,453 cuts in 2005, outplacement consultancy Challenger Gray & Christmas said. - United Press International, 2007
  • For centuries, readers thumbed through the crackling pages of Sweden's Post-och Inrikes Tidningar newspaper. No longer. The world's oldest paper still in circulation has dropped its paper edition and now exists only in cyberspace. The newspaper, founded in 1645 by Sweden's Queen Kristina, became a Web-only publication on Jan. 1. It's a fate, many ink-stained writers and readers fear, that may await many of the world's most venerable journals. - Associated Press, 2007
  • NY Times publisher: Our goal is to manage the transition from print to Internet... profits from the paper have been declining for four years... and just last week, the group Sulzberger leads admitted suffering a $570 million loss because of write offs and losses at the Boston Globe. - Haaretz, 2007
  • At USA Today, the nation’s biggest newspaper, ad revenue was down 14 percent this February, compared with February last year. Gannett, which owns USA Today and is the nation’s biggest newspaper company, reported that its overall ad revenue declined 3.8 percent in February from February 2006. Ad revenue at The New York Times Company fell 6 percent overall, declining 7.5 percent at The New York Times; ad revenue at the company’s New England Media Group, which includes The Boston Globe, was down 4 percent. At The Wall Street Journal, published by Dow Jones, it was off 10 percent. The Tribune Company, whose papers include The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun, reported losses of more than 5 percent. So did McClatchy, whose papers include The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee and The Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky. - New York Times, 2007
  • The New York Times Company, the parent of The New York Times, posted a $335,000 loss in the first quarter — one of the worst periods the company and the newspaper industry have seen — falling far short of both analysts’ expectations and its $23.9 million profit in the quarter a year earlier. The company’s main source of revenue, newspaper advertising in print and online, fell 10.6 percent, the sharpest drop in memory, as the industry suffers the twin blows of an economic downturn and the continuing long-term shift of readers and advertisers to the Internet. - New York Times, 2008
  • In 2009, the Monitor will become the first nationally circulated newspaper to replace its daily print edition with its website; the 100 year-old news organization will also offer subscribers weekly print and daily e-mail editions. - Christian Science Monitor, 2008

And my personal favorite:

  • Survey Reveals 75% of TV/Home Theater Buyers Consider Product Reviews, Online Comments Before Purchase. Three-quarters of recent television, audio, and home theater equipment purchasers ranked online product reviews and comments from other shoppers as having some or significant influence on their buying decision, according to the Fall 2008 Ad-ology Media Influence on Consumer Choice survey. - Wall Street Online, 2008

It's Official. Online News Has Overtaken Print

Internet vs TV news

Now, a Pew study released in early December shows online news has overtaken print media in the US. This is a big deal as it shows that in a year when there has been plenty of news to report about, Americans went online instead of waiting for their daily newspaper. 2007 seemed to be the big year for this change and I suspect the Presidential race was more than a little responsible for helping people understand the real-time benefits of online news sources. Once people understood this fundamental advantage - and I believe they now do - it marks it as all but impossible for print media to recover.

According to the Pew report, young people take this a step further. For those under 30, "the internet now rivals television as a main source of national and international news. Nearly six-in-ten Americans younger than 30 (59%) say they get most of their national and international news online; an identical percentage cites television. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied mostly on television for news than mentioned the internet (68% vs. 34%)." What a difference a year makes.

So what do we have to look forward to? Well, as much as I'd like to rejoice over the inevitable (though interminably slow) death of print, the truth is that it's a bit sad to see. Print is dying out, not for lack of editorial prowess or being interesting to read, but for simply not having the forward-thinking chops to recognize their industry was in danger of obsolescence. They opted to ride the sinking ship to the bottom of the ocean rather than look ahead for a potential life raft of opportunity (print mags were notoriously slow to put their content online, and some still refuse to do so in full). We're witnessing the end of an era, and that era was - for the most part - very successful and useful in its day. Will online be able to take up the slack? We hope so, but it will entail lots of resources and editorial content that is compelling and integrous. In short, we've got our work cut out for us and we better buck up.

Yes, there are plenty of readers who will continue to grasp their magazines and newspapers in their tight-fisted hands until they can no longer do so. For us, we've always thought there was room for both. What we didn't understand was the lack of respect print (and many advertising manufacturers) had for online publications. Soon, even the most sluggard of old-school print advertisers will have to recognize that paid subscriptions are drying up fast, with many magazines (and newspapers) doing anything they can to raise and maintain circulation rates. We remember in December 2004 when Ultimate AV mag (formerly Stereophile Guide to Home Theater) moved its operations entirely online.

I get a call every couple months from my local newspaper offering to give me 4 free newspapers a week for absolutely no additional money (I refuse since I don't read it - why waste paper). As for the home theater industry, subscriptions from most can be had for almost free, and not just for industry professionals.


CE Pro

Stereophile
We found Stereophile for $10/yr online, and for $8/yr on eBay


Home Theater Magazine
You can likely find one of these falling out of any HT Mag sitting in a bookstore. It too, was found on eBay


Electronic House

The future seems to lie with consolidation and more transition to online models. Of course many sites like Audioholics have current readership that dwarfs our print counterparts, so it is unclear what the fates of these publications will be and how quickly those fates will be realized. In either case, we wish the best for the consumer in the year to come! We have our own roadmap and we'll be implementing it over the next several years to reach our goals. Let's hope the print media is currently working on a plan to stay relevant in a country that is more and more interested in just-in-time news reporting and getting relevant information quickly and accurately.

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About the author:

Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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Recent Forum Posts:

fredk posts on January 04, 2009 14:37
I was first introduced to the internet in 1989. It struck me then that this tool was going to have a major impact on the way we communicate because it eliminated barriers of all sorts.

The shift away from paper is one change that affects the big publishers. The shift towards getting news direct from the source is just as great a long term threat.

The ability to interact directly with the source is a huge shift in opportunity. Don't agree with what a publisher puts on his site? Not sure you understand what was written? Just post a response attached to the original article and lo and behold, you get a response.

Now that is real tangible added value!!
cwall99 posts on December 29, 2008 17:36
The news…

Now all I need is a device to read it on that I can:

a) Take with me into the bathroom
b) Swat a fly with
c) Line a bird cage with
d) Not have to worry about my battery
rnatalli posts on December 29, 2008 14:27
All I have to say is it's about time.
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