In her recent column (“For What It’s Worth”), media maven Marcy Burstiner laments the fact that most people “won’t pay any price” for online news (“Media Maven,” June 4). This is often given as the explanation for the dismal state of the newspaper industry.
Whether Ms. Burstiner or I will or won’t pay for online news is not the issue. Readers have never paid for news. I pay about 60 cents per day to have the Times-Standard delivered to my house each morning by 6 a.m., which doesn’t come close to covering the cost of printing and distributing the paper, let alone the salaries of reporters. Newspapers have always been primarily supported by advertisers, and it is the decline in ad revenue that is killing newspapers.
The problem papers face is that while advertisers will pay for ads on free television and radio stations and free weeklies like the Journal, they won’t pay for Internet eyeballs. Most newspapers now have more readers than ever, when online viewing is taken into account. What hurts papers is not the loss of subscription revenue when a reader goes from paper to pixels, it’s the decline in advertising dollars that follows. Internet advertising is still in its infancy, and it seems likely that advertisers will eventually become comfortable paying reasonable rates for online ads. The question is whether newspapers can hold out until that happens.
Scott Brown, Eureka
Re: The Media Maven’s thoughts on the possible demise of our print media. A thoughtful program on Bill Moyers this past weekend gave some clues as to the reasons for this decline. The guests pointed to the rather craven attitude the media takes towards the bureaucracy, particularly liberals, regarding those on “their side of the aisle.”
Instead of a watchdog, the media is too often a lapdog, as the present honeymoon for President Obama illustrates. He has already broken many of his pre-election promises, to little criticism. The panelists noted that the media is, too often, a filter of the truth, instead of a fearless critic.
A further indication of this is the total dearth, locally, of critical articles about the state budget crisis. The political class’ story line is presented pretty much verbatim, even though they are probably the actual cause of most of the deficit. (Eliminating their pensions, alone, could save billions, as it has for many businesses in the private sector.)
Passive media of this type has every right to go down the road to extinction, as leaner, meaner, less indebted reporters, are already at work in the alternative press.
Joshua Kinch, Freshwater