Is it last call for newspapers?

Clay Shirky thinks so. He cites this graph:

NewspaperAdRevenue

Journalists have been infantilized throughout the last decade, kept in a state of relative ignorance about the firms that employ them. A friend tells a story of reporters being asked the paid print circulation of their own publication. Their guesses ranged from 150,000 to 300,000; the actual figure was 35,000. If a reporter was that uninformed about a business he was covering, he’d be taken off the story….

Contrary to the contrived ignorance of media reporters, the future of the daily newspaper is one of the few certainties in the current landscape: Most of them are going away, in this decade. (If you work at a paper and you don’t know what’s happened to your own circulation or revenue in the last few years, now might be a good time to ask.) We’re late enough in the process that we can even predict the likely circumstance of its demise.

I have no reason to think he’s wrong. The odd thing is that, even as newspapers slip into free-fall, the ordinary citizen’s access to top quality reporting and commentary has never been better. This unprecedented cornucopia of information has masked the decline of newspapers, even as reporting by men and women still employed by newspapers has fuelled so much of it.

Shirky is clear-eyed about what their loss will mean:

The death of newspapers is sad, but the threatened loss of journalistic talent is catastrophic. If that’s you, it’s time to learn something outside the production routine of your current job. It will be difficult and annoying, your employer won’t be much help, and it may not even work, but we’re nearing the next great contraction. If you want to get through it, doing almost anything will be better than doing almost nothing.

H/T: Steve Manley

 

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