America's newspapers have been facing tough times- even before the recession
In fact, the industry is in dire straits, and there's no talk of any billion dollar bailouts. So could newspapers soon be a thing of the past in this technology-driven world?
Tough Times for the Print Press
For years, it's been a traditional way of life - sipping coffee and reading the paper in the morning.
"While I'm eating breakfast, I've got my newspaper in front of me," said one newspaper reader. Start at the sports page, and go through that.
Another newspaper reader said, "There's something special about sitting down with a newspaper, and holding it in your hand and reading it, for me anyhow." Newspaper executives relish comments like that.
But just read the recent headlines and you realize routine readers are harder to find these days.
Troubles for the nation's newspapers can be blamed on a drop in subscribers and advertising revenue - heavy corporate debt and a rise in Internet use.
The Web Rules
Jen Link gets her news online.
"It's fast, easy access," Link said. "You can go exactly to what you want to see. You can get it for free."
The reality is most people now are getting their news online, especially younger people," said Dan Gainor, vice president of Media Research Center.
"The statistic is in the last couple of years, print newspapers have lost somewhere around 43,000 employees," Gainor explained. "You can't go through that kind of change in what amounts to a knowledge industry, and not have bad things happening. Bad News for Big Papers
And bad things are happening to big players.
The Tribune Company, publisher of The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times is in chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The New York Times Company needs to borrow millions of dollars against its new headquarters to help pay off debt.
And the 100-year-old Christian Science Monitor plans to stop printing newspapers next spring.It will become the first national newspaper published only on the Internet.
Overall in the U.S., the market for getting news hot off the press is declining. In fact, the circulation in nearly all of the top 25 newspapers in the country is down in the past three years.
"They're massively in decline," Gainor said. "One statistic says the top 25 newspapers in 1998 had 18 million readers. In 2008, they have 14 million readers. So they are clearly in decline."
For Sale Signs Becoming More Plentiful
And it's spreading like an epidemic -- Denver's Rocky Mountain News is for sale.
The Miami Herald is reportedly also up for grabs. And in the Motor City, both the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News are cutting back home deliveries to as few as two days a week.
Business doesn't appear to be slowing down at the Virginian Pilot's production plant but appearances can be deceiving. The Pilot's owner had put the paper on the market but no one was willing to pay the price.
President and publisher Maurice Jones says the Pilot is now actually seeing an increase in readers, but advertising is the Achilles heel right now.
"The real challenge is that we've got advertisers who are struggling and cutting back, and therefore our revenues, our principle source of revenue is getting smaller, and so we have to adjust our cost to reflect that," Jones explained.
Pilot to Slash Jobs
Jones says the Pilot plans to cut 150 positions by the end of the year. You can already see empty sections in the newsroom.
Managing Editor Maria Carrillo says morale is low, but employees are not giving up.
"Everybody's still determined to put out a good newspaper, determined to do a good job on our website, so we're plugging away," Carrillo said.
"We sometime ago, made a decision that we could no longer afford to be a newspaper company -- that what we needed to be was a diverse media company," Jones said. That includes the Pilot's online edition and several niche publications.
Is Diversification the Key?
Gainor said, "Ultimately, a lot of the media outlets are already shifting either in part or in total to the Internet."
"Moving online, cutting costs - I think in the future you'll see a lot of virtual newsrooms, where you won't even have the big costs of having the office space" Gainor predicts. "You'll have a lot of people working from their cars, working from laptops, and cell phones, and PDAs, and you never see them in the office.
And that could eventually mean a computer on your table instead of newsprint on your fingers as part of your morning routine.