A couple of possibly competing data points about newspapers.
First, The Sun shared news recently of another reduction in local coverage. A daily feature just a few years ago, the Howard Section will now come out on Thursdays and Sundays only. Whether this results in an actual decrease in local stories or simply a consolidation of the same amount of stories on fewer days remains to be seen, but I'd put money on the latter in the short term and the former in the long term.
Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center just released a report detailing cutbacks at newspapers.
It has fewer pages than three years ago, the paper stock is thinner, and the stories are shorter. There is less foreign and national news, less space devoted to science, the arts, features and a range of specialized subjects. Business coverage is either packaged in an increasingly thin stand-alone section or collapsed into another part of the paper. The crossword puzzle has shrunk, the TV listings and stock tables may have disappeared, but coverage of some local issues has strengthened and investigative reporting remains highly valued.So, according to the smart folks at Pew, while the rest of the paper withers, the local sections seem to be doing fine, if not better, yet, our local rag is cutting back on space for local news. What gives?
I actually don't think these are contradictory as they may seem. With so many options for consuming news on the big issues, consumers have turned to other outlets-- blogs, television, crazy emails from their grandparents, etc. In trying to find their niche in this changing landscape, newspapers, on average, have started devoting a greater share of their resources to local news, where the array of available options for consumers is considerably smaller; this is the transformation noted in Pew's study.
But even in this less competitive market, papers are finding it difficult to stay profitable because they're still relying on essentially the same model that's been used for decades, one that has largely failed to adapt to changing consumer preferences and technology. Traditional news organizations were painfully slow to embrace the internet, and even now that most have caught on to its permanence, they are stuck trying to play catch up in a game that's on a completely different field. In many cases, "tech-savvy" newspapers are still operating in the same paradigm, doing what they've always done, only digitally, which probably isn't going to cut it for much longer.
However, as long as people value information and their time, there will always be money to be made delivering news, whether local, regional, national or international. I'll leave it up to the smart people to figure out how.