The recent story on 60 Minutes about the New Orleans Times Picayune having gone to a three-day per week print publication schedule brought a lot of attention to the problems facing the daily newspaper industry.
But what that national story didn’t do was highlight the fact that many daily newspapers are struggling not just because of the economy and Internet, but also because of their own lack of flexibility in adapting to a changing environment. Daily newspapers aren’t just victims of the times, as some commentators suggest.
A quick review of how daily newspapers got into this mess is in order. From 1982 to 2005, the U.S. saw massive economic growth. In addition, this was the era when cheap personal computers revolutionized newspaper production by bringing greater efficiency to what had been a plodding process of getting the elements of a newspaper (news, advertising and photos) into print.
The twin effects of a growing economy and greater efficiency created large profits for many daily newspapers and asset values soared. That led to an increasing pace of consolidation as newspaper groups bought more and more newspaper properties.
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