Most print newspapers have 5 years to live, USC report claims

LA Weekly
“Most print newspapers will be gone in five years,” says a new report from the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future. The forecast by center director Jeffrey I. Cole, based on 10 years of studies, says, “America is at a major digital turning point … We believe that the only print newspapers that will survive will be at the extremes of the medium — the largest and the smallest.” The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal will likely survive, along with some local weeklies, Cole writes. John Robinson responds: “Wanna bet?” || Related: Ken Auletta: “Digital is almost as disruptive to traditional media as electricity was to the candle business”  (

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Caroline. One thing I would emphasize is that this study only says the print edition of newspapers will be gone in five years, not the companies as a whole. So it does allow for the possibility that publishers evolve successfully into digital media.

  • Anonymous

    The claim that most print newspapers will be dead in five years clearly does not take into account the history of modern media evolution. Newspapers did not succumb to radio or television. As for digital platforms, they are not precipitating newspapers’ demise; rather, they are reinforcing the value of newspaper journalism – in all media – and enriching consumers’ relationships with their newspapers. 
    Newspapers are adapting and changing in response to the digital revolution – that’s clear in newspapers’ huge Web audiences, the explosive use of tablets, and the dramatic increase in mobile Web audiences by 65 percent year over year. In addition, it’s even more important to keep in mind that local newspaper websites rank first among all local media sources for trustworthiness.
    Print newspapers, in fact, are witnessing a resurgence of interest among newspaper readers. Consider the following:
    ·         Across the country, major papers are reporting circulation gains for their profitable Sunday editions – with increases of 4, 5 and 6 percent being the new norm.
    ·         This year, Thanksgiving Day newspapers set new records for circulation revenues and for the hefty weight of inserts that advertisers paid newspapers to deliver to their highly engaged readers.
    ·         Today’s print newspapers record impressive national audience statistics:
    o   More than 104 million adults read printed newspapers on an average Sunday.
    o   There are 93 million adult readers of print papers on an average weekday.
    o   Across seven days, the adult newspaper print audience is 151 million.  Combined with newspaper online use, the seven-day newspaper audience totals 163 million adults.
    This isn’t the first time we’ve heard a prediction about the disappearance of print newspapers. As one commenter already pointed out, Ted Turner – in 1981 – predicted newspapers would be dead in 10 years. If anything, our audiences are stronger than ever.
    Caroline Little
    President and CEO, Newspaper Association of America

  • Marc

    Historically, there was the crier who made the rounds of the villages with the news who was supplanted, after printing made its way west, by the printing press. Remember the “miracle” of the Guttenburg Bible and printing and the revolution that it caused when some bright entrepreneur of the era ran the first single-page newspaper with the local news. It was the technology of the time, one supplanting the other. Traditional newspapers lasted a long time, historically speaking, about 500 years, until a new technology supplanted them called radio and its outgrowth television and later cable. As each technology came along something was supplanted; now it is the newspaper’s turn. As one poster noted, Ebay and its classifieds have effectively taken a lot of revenue from dailies as have local internet sites which offer local business the chance to target customers, as well as specialty sites and the social media which seem to have become today’s new “newspaper.” It’s not that folks aren’t reading or viewing images anymore, they certainly are, but online. Yes, I broke into newspapering a long time ago and spent my time on the copydesk and then went into technology and helped to spread the Internet (I remember when there were fewer than 20,000 people on what was called Darpanet in the 1980s and I actually had three class A net numbers to myself and my machines). I was writing at the time for a computer company, handling documentation, as well as doing what I do now, freelance, but now strictly on the Internet. The original poster, Mike Fine and I go way back through college to grade school, in fact, and he stayed with the paper that I left to form my own syndication service that tanked when the economy and illness forced me to rein in during the 1980s. Now 30 years later, we mourn the demise of the paper. Technology always seems to find a way to supplant one thing with another and this is just another case of it. What will come next? I haven’t the foggiest, but I suspect the rapidly changing landscape of “social media” and the Internet will be as different 5 years from now as will the demise of the newspaper. Right now there’s “Patchcasting” available from some outlets and Yahoo offers its own news outlets. Even the AP has moved to the Internet heavily. So, this is just, as Darwin found, the result of natural selection, which keeps on going. If it were to stop then we’d have a problem, the Romans found that out after 473 and Latin became extinct as did the vaunted Roman mail rider service. In sum, technology begets change and change begets people who pine for the “old days” that never really existed anyway.

  • Shane Behling

    Ebay did the newspapers in,,,,,,,the want ads is where newspapers made their money. Those days are long gone.

  • Paul Steinle

    Why do folks continue to make definitive, time-line predictions about the demise of newspapers? 

    The trends only work as predictors if these trends proceed as straight lines, without variance, and they never do — because (in this case) every news consumer is not the same. We interviewed Philip Meyer in 2010. He scoffed at the notion that newspapers would be dead by 2043. He said a journalist read some graphs from his book, “The Vanishing Newspaper” and extrapolated that date, but Meyer said that ASSUMED these trends would proceed without variance to zero, which he told us, they never do.Newspapers offer a unique information experience for news readers, which some folks still treasure. And there’s still an bunch of these newspaper-reading folks around. Newspapers offer a laid-back, contemplative news assimilating experience for readers who like random access to many stories at once, the serendipity of discovering unexpected news visually, and the story-telling interaction of still photos, graphics and words.The newspaper is a unique medium. And certain kinds of advertising (as well as story-telling) also work best in this newspaper environment.Newspapers may yet die for many reasons yet unknown, but there are still about 1300-1400 daily newspapers, many of whom — those without heavy debt services — are today earning double-digit profits. At the same time, newspaper companies are changing rapidly, becoming multi-media, multi-platform news and information organizations. That newspapers are transforming is apparent. Seeing all that energy dead in five years, seems like a stretch.    

  • Denise

    Many have predicted — to their embarrassment — the demise of newspapers. Ted Turner said in the late ’70s, when he unveiled CNN, that cable news would kill newspapers in five years.
    So using that kind of math, newspapers have at least 30 more years to go! I think newspapers will be around as long as baby boomers are around. We may be reaching retirement, but we’ve still got 20+ years of life left — and we LIKE reading newspapers. Just ask any newspaper to give you its demographics. The average age is 44.

  • Christopher Krug