Thursday, September 06, 2012

Free-fall: Adjusted for Inflation, Print Newspaper Advertising Will be Lower This Year Than in 1950

The blue line in the chart above displays total annual print newspaper advertising revenue (for the categories national, retail and classified) based on actual annual data from 1950 to 2011, and estimated annual revenue for 2012 using quarterly data through the second quarter of this year, from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA).  The advertising revenues have been adjusted for inflation using the CPI, and appear in the chart as millions of constant 2012 dollars.  Estimated print advertising revenues of $19.0 billion in 2012 will be the lowest annual  amount spent on print newspaper advertising since the NAA started tracking ad revenue in 1950.   

The decline in print newspaper advertising to a 62-year low is amazing by itself, but the sharp decline in recent years is pretty stunning.  This year's ad revenues of $19 billion will be less than half of the $46 billion spent just five years ago in 2007, and a little more than one-third of the $56.5 billion spent in 2004.


Here's another perspective: It took 50 years to go from about $20 billion in annual newspaper print ad revenue in 1950 (adjusted for inflation) to $63.5 billion in 2000, and then only 12 years to go from $63.5 billion back to less than $20 billion in 2012.

Even when online advertising is added to the print ads (see red line in chart), the combined total spending for print and online advertising this year will still only be about $22.4 billion, less than  the $22.47 billion spent on print advertising in 1953.


Economic Lesson:
It's another one of those huge Schumpeterian gales of creative destruction.  

67 Comments:

At 9/06/2012 9:59 PM, OpenID Jack Nasty said...

Good riddance to the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party!

 
At 9/06/2012 10:00 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

the bigger story - underlies the news freefall and that's how advertising has changed.

And ...it's not done....

and more than just news outlets will be affected...

and..it's not clear Facebook has the right answer either...

in every disaster, there is opportunity.

 
At 9/07/2012 12:07 AM, Blogger sethstorm said...

Jack Nasty:
While replacing it with something else that is the propaganda arm of someone else

I'm not sure that you're looking for the right solution.

 
At 9/07/2012 1:45 AM, Blogger Mkelley said...

I no longer need to read my local fishwrap. All the national and international stuff there is just Democrat talking points from the AP. I can get this "news" for free on the internet if I get that desperate.

 
At 9/07/2012 2:27 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Yes, I am sure government will do an excellent job of policing itself.

 
At 9/07/2012 5:36 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

Aww, poor newspapers. Can't get no love

 
At 9/07/2012 6:34 AM, Blogger Methinks said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9/07/2012 6:59 AM, Blogger Methinks said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9/07/2012 7:04 AM, Blogger Anonymous Bosh said...

What's a newspaper?

 
At 9/07/2012 7:06 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

what's a paywall?

:-)

 
At 9/07/2012 7:28 AM, Blogger Moe said...

We will not wait one second longer than necessary for what we want. Newspapers were fine until the same information could be obtained in a fraction of the time online. I don't see politics having anything to do with it. Republicans and Democrats could have been running around hugging each other and farting rainbows and this would have occurred.

 
At 9/07/2012 8:02 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

The monopoly of the gatekeepers is over. The anarchists have won the day in the media business and consumers are better for it. Now if we can only make the same advances in other areas of the regulated economy.

 
At 9/07/2012 8:13 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Just last year I read that small suburban papers and small town papers are still thriving. I can't find any statistics to back that up.

In my suburb, it appears that the free local print newspaper has displaced direct mail advertising for small businesses.

 
At 9/07/2012 8:20 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

moe: "Newspapers were fine until the same information could be obtained in a fraction of the time online."

Perhaps. But I stopped my subscription to the Dallas Morning News not because of the availability of online news. I simply got sick of the collectivist propaganda I had to wade through to get to the real news.

I still subscribe to the print edition of WSJ, even though the online version would be cheaper. I may be a dinosaur, but I'm a dinosaur with money. My guess is that we dinosaurs tend to be more conservative than the population in general. Dallas Morning News doesn't seem to have a clue about how to cater to us.

 
At 9/07/2012 8:27 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

Our local paper - 15K circulation has had 3 layoffs and is not 1/3 their original size and more cuts are rumored to be on the way.

their main source of revenue - advertising - has shrunk dramatically.

but it's true - in terms of local news - they almost have a monopoly.

I say almost because one of the new guys in town is called PATCH and it appears to be a Yahoo endeavor.

http://www.patch.com/

and they specialize in local news but have no print - only online.

I'm not going to be surprised if print news survives at the local level but barely.

in terms of "gate-keepers",the whole conundrum of vetting information, looking for objective information vice trying to confirm one's own biases is a challenge to everyone.

you tend to be able to find any version you wish to believe, on the internet, eh?

 
At 9/07/2012 9:07 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Perhaps. But I stopped my subscription to the Dallas Morning News not because of the availability of online news. I simply got sick of the collectivist propaganda I had to wade through to get to the real news.

I had a similar experience. Although I had subscribed to Canada's only right wing paper I found it full of collectivist drivel AND the typical pro-war neconon garbage that comes with right wing publications. In the end I could not justify spending $10 a month for the Sudoku and the odd anti-AGW story.

 
At 9/07/2012 9:13 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

What "major metro newspaper" was the first to switch to totally digital?

The seattlepi.com, or the old Seattle Post Intellingener in 2009.

The seattlepi.com is run by Hearst Seattle Media which is part of The Hearst Corp.

So, the old advertising model of classifieds and panel displays are replaced with a

"a full-service digital advertising agency, reaching over 80% of the online adults in the Seattle DMA, delivering customized digital media solutions for small and large businesses, and featuring a broad digital portfolio that includes: targeted display campaigns..."

in other media such as Facebook and Google.

Interesting to note that the seattlepi.com has 1,000,000 Seattle "readers" per month but 3,000,000 in other locales.



 
At 9/07/2012 9:23 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

People still read news. And it still takes real people to gather news and report it.

but many folks no longer read just one paper to get their news.

Good, objective, news reporting can (so far) merit a paywall of sorts but I'm starting to run into paywalls for small local papers who want you to buy a full subscription to read one article.

Same deal with NYT and WSJ.

they want you to sign up for full subscriptions ...

I think they need to change the business model to a pay per article basis using something like paypal or bitcoin ... working off a pre-paid account like toll transponders that draw down on your balance and then replenish either automatically or per approval.

Of course many - including the NYT and WSJ provide "free" news and depending on other factors, you can even get to articles behind the paywall.

 
At 9/07/2012 10:22 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

I dunno. I still like the feeling of a newspaper in my hand. Nothing better then spending all Sunday afternoon on my patio thumbing though the newspaper with an ice cold drink in my hands.

 
At 9/07/2012 10:27 AM, Blogger Methinks said...

thumbing though the newspaper with an ice cold drink in my hands.

also makes a satisfying crunching sound when you jab your finger at some annoying piece you're sharing with your spouse and gives you something to roll up and swat at flies. But digital is so much more portable in an on the go world.

 
At 9/07/2012 10:30 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

I haul newspapers to the dump (er, the "transfer" box) and I take care to put it in the paper recycle container....

but a lot of it.. is ...unread... just delivered to the house then taken to the dump...

 
At 9/07/2012 11:13 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

"I think they need to change the business model to a pay per article basis using something like paypal or bitcoin ... working off a pre-paid account like toll transponders that draw down on your balance and then replenish either automatically or per approval."

Larry, you just described micropayments. Congratulations, all the dunderheads in the media business and all the techies have no clue about this, yet you, a random internet commenter, knows exactly what the solution is. This was the solution 20 years ago, it's the solution today. The fact that micropayments haven't been implemented to this day just shows how stupid those in the media/tech businesses are, proving yet again that "Nobody knows anything."

 
At 9/07/2012 11:20 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

re: micro-payments

there is an existing model - it's called EZPass for toll roads.

I'm willing to pay on a per article or even a price for multiple articles.

But I can't have 20 different full price subscriptions for WSJ, NYT, IBT, etc...

They COULD set up subscription plans where you get billed per month but on how many articles you consumed or something like that but I just don't know too many folks who can or will buy 10-20 different new subscriptions much less read them all to get their money's worth.

Someone is going to do this... eventually...

 
At 9/07/2012 11:26 AM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

I agree that it is a good (probably the best) way Larry.

I wonder, though, how costly it is for the newspaper company.

I mean, you need to pay someone to write and research all these stories, not to mention editors, photographers, etc. I fear that a pay-per-view system would lead to a crowding out of less popular articles, things like human interest stories.

What if, and I am just throwing this out there, rather than pay per article, you can buy blocks? For $X, you can see 10 articles per day. For $Y, you can see 20. Thoughts?

 
At 9/07/2012 11:29 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

re: " you can buy blocks?"

yes.. that would work also and if it was done right - the blocks could all draw from one paypal type account...

re: crowding out

well.. probably.. the news organizations would certainly know who among their writers were "selling" articles, eh?

supply and demand?

 
At 9/07/2012 11:46 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"you tend to be able to find any version you wish to believe, on the internet, eh?"

Yes, and that's a good thing. If someone is uncomfortable being exposed to opposing views they can keep reading a major newspaper.

 
At 9/07/2012 12:10 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"What if, and I am just throwing this out there, rather than pay per article, you can buy blocks? For $X, you can see 10 articles per day. For $Y, you can see 20. Thoughts?"

Netflix for newspapers?

I have a feeling that paying per article or per block would lead to crowding out of less popular - and therefore less lucrative articles.

Perhaps a customized model more like cable TV where you buy a basic subscription and add other types of news based on your personal interests.

I know Jon wouldn't need any sports news. :)

 
At 9/07/2012 12:12 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I have a feeling that paying per article or per block would lead to crowding out of less popular - and therefore less lucrative articles. "

Oh. You already said that. Sorry.

 
At 9/07/2012 12:17 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Methinks

"...and gives you something to roll up and swat at flies."

I see you chose the more accurate description of the activity, rather than using the term "swat flies". I personally have a low hit rate.

 
At 9/07/2012 12:22 PM, Blogger Methinks said...

You are very astute, Ron H. My wording was not accidental.

 
At 9/07/2012 12:51 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Having worked in media and advertising forever, I don't think the shock here is that newspapers are on pace to bill as low as they did in 1950.
I find it absolutely mind-boggling that they are billing as MUCH as they did in 1950....when there were 3 TV networks, fewer in-market radio stations, multiple papers in many cities...no net, cell phones or sat. radio.

Electronic broadcasters used the 18-34 (and younger) demos to separate themselves from the older demos of newspapers and advertising grew in all directions. But the ultimate in youth and early-adaption (the web) finally killed the paper.

Incredible when you think about it: the addition of HUNDREDS of channels didn't kill the big networks. Ipods, streaming audio and Siri/XM haven't done much but make a slight dent in terrestrial radio ratings...but give people a choice in reading the news and you'll see what an absolutely terrible job the local papers have done in serving their audience (typically).

 
At 9/07/2012 1:03 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

I think that WSJ, NYT, IBD and other are GOOD papers with legitimate news but I think they are over priced and I won't buy a full-up subscription from each of them so I can read just a few articles that interest me.

they have a viable product but they are tying to force a square peg pricing into a round hole business model - as if the world has not changed and they refuse to acknowledge it.

They have to change, to adapt because fundamentally well written articles are still in demand... if the price is right.

 
At 9/07/2012 1:12 PM, Blogger juandos said...

jet b says: "But I stopped my subscription to the Dallas Morning News not because of the availability of online news. I simply got sick of the collectivist propaganda I had to wade through to get to the real news"...

Yep! Nail meet hammer...

 
At 9/07/2012 3:35 PM, Blogger Jon Murphy said...

I think that WSJ, NYT, IBD and other are GOOD papers with legitimate news but I think they are over priced and I won't buy a full-up subscription from each of them so I can read just a few articles that interest me.

they have a viable product but they are tying to force a square peg pricing into a round hole business model - as if the world has not changed and they refuse to acknowledge it.

They have to change, to adapt because fundamentally well written articles are still in demand... if the price is right.


I think everything you said here, Larry, is spot on.

Many of the major dailies are expensive. I mean, $300 a year for the WSJ!

I have to admit, the only newspaper I get is the local paper. $17/mo ($200/yr). It's cheaper, and I think the news in it is more relevant to me anyhow (I mean, to be perfectly honest, I care far more about what the Mayor of Concord is doing for public policy than the Primer of China).

I think we are starting to see the newspaper industry adapt to changing conditions. But the major ones (NewsCorp, NYT, etc), are much slower and thus getting nailed by deserting subscribers.

 
At 9/07/2012 7:32 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"(I mean, to be perfectly honest, I care far more about what the Mayor of Concord is doing for public policy than the Primer of China)."

I think many people feel that way. What happens near home is more important than what happens elsewhere. Small town print issues may continue to thrive.

 
At 9/07/2012 10:16 PM, Blogger Don Culo said...

My parrots love to read the newspaper and especially enjoy the financial section. But they don't do much shopping.

 
At 9/08/2012 7:15 PM, Blogger Jimmy said...

You are all a bunch of philistines. Newspapers were key to cultivating writers, intellectuals, and artists. This is NOT being replaced on the web. I can assure you the fine folks at the conservative New Criterion are not excited about the direction things are going either. The internet is one big giant mess, loaded to te brim with bullshit. Facebook, Myspace, Groupon, etc...the list is long. This is the death of culture, not the beginning or something more democratic or better for "consumers." BTW, the Huffington Post is the #1 site, it dwarfs everything including any conservative site? How ? Celebrity gossip. Is that a good thing??? Maybe choice isn't always a good thing for a society.

 
At 9/08/2012 9:04 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9/08/2012 9:11 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

0Jimmy:

"BTW, the Huffington Post is the #1 site, it dwarfs everything including any conservative site? How ? Celebrity gossip. Is that a good thing??? Maybe choice isn't always a good thing for a society. "

What are you talking about? Can't you choose NOT to visit sites you don't like?

The Huff Post is absolutely essential to the survival of the Democratic Party. Without it liberals and progressives would have no idea what their opinion should be on anything.

Perhaps we should reinstate the 'fairness" doctrine so conservatives could get equal time at Huff Post.

What would you do to ensure that print issue newspapers continue to be available in the future?

"Newspapers were key to cultivating writers, intellectuals, and artists."

I seriously doubt that many respected writers got their start at newspapers. Intellects? Give me a break.

 
At 9/08/2012 11:35 PM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Larry G:"I think that WSJ, NYT, IBD and other are GOOD papers with legitimate news but I think they are over priced"

jon murphy: "Many of the major dailies are expensive. I mean, $300 a year for the WSJ!"


Larry and Jon,

The Wall Street Journal claims to have a circulation of 2.1 million. For many, many of us, that newspaper is not overpriced.

My guess about WSJ is that they desire to attract a special niche of advertisers. Those would be the advertisers who wish to reach consumers for whom a $300/year subscription is not a big deal.

 
At 9/09/2012 12:37 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Ron H: "I seriously doubt that many respected writers got their start at newspapers."

I was a bookstore owner for 15 years, Ron. I became familiar with the biographies of many authors.

Not sure whether you'd agree that these are respected writers, but they all did write for newspapers early in their careers:

Ernest Hemingway (Kansas City Star)
Jack London (Hearst Newspapers)
Stephen Crane (New York World)
Margaret Mitchell (Atlanta Journal)
Tom Wolfe (New York Herald Tribune)
John Steinbeck (San Francisco News)
Mark Twain (Nevada Terratorial Enterprise)

Contemporary authors who also wrote for newspapers early in their careers:

Michael Connelly
John Sandford
Amy Hill Hearth
Michael Crichton
Nora Ephron

I could find dozens if not hundreds of other best-selling authors who have written for newspapers. From what I've read, aspiring authors had to work at something before they achieved literary success. Many preferred to write anything rather than wait tables.

 
At 9/09/2012 1:21 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Jet

"Not sure whether you'd agree that these are respected writers, but they all did write for newspapers early in their careers:"

No, I've never heard of them. :)

I stand corrected.

 
At 9/10/2012 12:44 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Not sure whether you'd agree that these are respected writers, but they all did write for newspapers early in their careers:

Ernest Hemingway (Kansas City Star)
Jack London (Hearst Newspapers)
Stephen Crane (New York World)
Margaret Mitchell (Atlanta Journal)
Tom Wolfe (New York Herald Tribune)
John Steinbeck (San Francisco News)
Mark Twain (Nevada Terratorial Enterprise)

Contemporary authors who also wrote for newspapers early in their careers:

Michael Connelly
John Sandford
Amy Hill Hearth
Michael Crichton
Nora Ephron

I could find dozens if not hundreds of other best-selling authors who have written for newspapers. From what I've read, aspiring authors had to work at something before they achieved literary success. Many preferred to write anything rather than wait tables.


With the death of the gatekeeping corporations writers have much greater opportunities. They no longer have to push books past publishers who are simply playing a numbers game and hope that the one success out of one hundred will cover the costs of the money losers and make their profit for them. Places like Amazon allow them to self publish and to keep most of the money that is made by the sales of their works. I do not see how any rational individual can argue that it was much better when a few people had control over what got published and what did not or decided which news was fit to print.

 
At 9/10/2012 12:47 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

No, I've never heard of them. :)

I stand corrected.


I think that you were closer to the truth than our friend was. Our current system provides far more opportunity for creative people than the gate keepers ever could. For evidence take a look at all of the news outlets that have sprung up and all the authors that have self published. My son showed me a story about some young lady who was making several hundred thousand dollars a year by Amazon sales of books and short stories that ranged in price from $0.99 to $2.99. There are many writers who can reach an audience today that would have been denied the opportunity to do so previously.

 
At 9/10/2012 3:29 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I think that you were closer to the truth than our friend was. Our current system provides far more opportunity for creative people than the gate keepers ever could."

While that may be true now, my original comment was with respect to respected writers getting their start at newspapers. Jet Beagle listed several very well respected writers who DID get their start at newspapers, so in that context he is correct and I am enjoying the taste of my foot. :)

 
At 9/10/2012 3:31 PM, Blogger Larry G said...

re: " I am enjoying the taste of my foot. :) "

if that before or after the ankles have been chewed?

 
At 9/10/2012 5:49 PM, Blogger David said...

Happy to hear that my boycott is having such a profound, industry-wide effect.

 
At 9/10/2012 5:49 PM, Blogger David said...

Happy to hear that my boycott is having such a profound, industry-wide effect.

 
At 9/10/2012 7:13 PM, Blogger Koblog said...

I canceled my local newspaper subscription years ago, a few months after I understood what the Internet was.

I was oh so tired of being insulted, ignored and preached to by (as other commenters have said) The Gatekeepers.

And I second the "they're just mouthpieces for AP, the NY Times and ultimately the liberal establishment" meme too.

They didn't want me as a customer. I simply obliged.

 
At 9/10/2012 9:03 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

"With the death of the gatekeeping corporations writers have much greater opportunities. They no longer have to push books past publishers who are simply playing a numbers game and hope that the one success out of one hundred will cover the costs of the money losers and make their profit for them. Places like Amazon allow them to self publish and to keep most of the money that is made by the sales of their works. I do not see how any rational individual can argue that it was much better when a few people had control over what got published and what did not or decided which news was fit to print."

Bezos spent 5-7 minutes talking about this at the Kindle HD press conference, was pretty interesting.

 
At 9/10/2012 9:53 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Bezos spent 5-7 minutes talking about this at the Kindle HD press conference, was pretty interesting.

I like the idea of the Kindle singles authors using feedback from readers to change their plans and the come up with a new line of action. That process certainly made Dickens a much better writer and could produce much better books during this time.

 
At 9/10/2012 10:22 PM, Blogger Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

"Jimmy" said:

You are all a bunch of philistines. Newspapers were key to cultivating writers, intellectuals, and artists.

Jimmy, is a crank. (You can tell this because he likes calling people he doesn't know "Philistines." Of course, the same could be said of me... I called Jimmy a "crank." Whatever.)

The difference is, I am not a condescending, paternalistic, elitist know-it-all, like Jimmy. I have faith in my fellow commenter. And I see the destruction of newspapers as a good thing (and I see the old order as a very bad, bad thing).

"Jimmy" also says:

"The internet is one big giant mess, loaded to te brim with bullshit. Facebook, Myspace, Groupon, etc...the list is long."

Jimmy hates "messes." He likes things neat and orderly. He likes to look out over the landscape which is neatly divided between Philistines and... well... Jimmy after Jimmy after Jimmy-- And if there's one thing a Jimmy knows, it's what's best for the Philistines.

"Jimmy" says:

"This is the death of culture, not the beginning or something more democratic or better for 'consumers.'"

And he cites the bogus stat that HuffPo is "the #1 site" (whatever that means).

"Maybe choice isn't always a good thing for a society," says Jimmy, Of course not. But this change is good. For one thing, it's not fostering any of the "intellectuals" and "artists," knowledge of which makes Jimmy think he's King Shit.

Sorry, Jimbo, it's not coming-- it's here. And the writers and artists that truly matter are already dealing with the new model and kicking ass. And they are not anointed by newspaper publishers, book publishers and editors, agents and managers. And I, for one, welcome the new landscape.

Brian McKim, BA Journalism, Temple University, Class of 1981, Author, Internet Publisher, Writer, Performer

 
At 9/11/2012 6:54 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Jimmy, is a crank. (You can tell this because he likes calling people he doesn't know "Philistines." Of course, the same could be said of me... I called Jimmy a "crank." Whatever.)

The difference is, I am not a condescending, paternalistic, elitist know-it-all, like Jimmy. I have faith in my fellow commenter. And I see the destruction of newspapers as a good thing (and I see the old order as a very bad, bad thing).


Jimmy does not understand that in the old days good authors had to settle writing for papers because there were few opportunities for authors because of the structure of the book publishing business. Amazon and the internet have eliminated that problem because good authors can self publish and do not have to depend on the gatekeepers.

Jimmy hates "messes." He likes things neat and orderly. He likes to look out over the landscape which is neatly divided between Philistines and... well... Jimmy after Jimmy after Jimmy-- And if there's one thing a Jimmy knows, it's what's best for the Philistines.

Jimmy does not seem to like voluntary associations because they do not depend on some elite to control them. On that front he has many likeminded posters on this site.

 
At 9/11/2012 6:58 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

"This is the death of culture, not the beginning or something more democratic or better for 'consumers.'"

The death of culture? Do you mean to say that culture has to be controlled by the educated and highbrow rather than by popular demand? That would be a disaster. After all trying to please the masses provided us with Shakespeare, a playwright who seemed to be all about crude jokes, sex and violence, and Dickens, who used to make changes to his novels depending on how well serialized instalments sold and were received.

 
At 9/11/2012 1:01 PM, Blogger kotetu said...

I'd bet that google absorbed much of this revenue:
http://articles.businessinsider.com/2010-02-24/tech/29964449_1

 
At 9/11/2012 4:47 PM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Newspaper publishers were "gatekeepers"?

Well, my perspective is a little different.

Long before the Internet - before cable television - before the broadcast networks - newspapers competed fiercely for readers. They desired larger and larger circulations for one reason only: to maximize advertising revenue.

So, back in the day, who really determined what content found its way into each day's newspaper? Readers did, of course. When a story increased newspaper sales, publishers learned. When political scandal sold papers, publishers hired reporters to dig up new scandals. When crime sold papers, publishers hired crime reporters. When natural disasters sold papers, publishers dispatched reporters to cover every tornado and flood.

By contrast, those stories which readers didn't care about were ignored.

In the long run, those publishers who figured out what readers wanted were the publishers who survived.

Publishers didn't decide what stories were published. Consumers decided, by voting with their dollars. Publishers were not gatekeepers but rather just simple businessmen. Free markets functioned very well back in the day.

 
At 9/11/2012 10:02 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

So, back in the day, who really determined what content found its way into each day's newspaper? Readers did, of course. When a story increased newspaper sales, publishers learned. When political scandal sold papers, publishers hired reporters to dig up new scandals. When crime sold papers, publishers hired crime reporters. When natural disasters sold papers, publishers dispatched reporters to cover every tornado and flood.

Try reading your history. Newspaper owners were notorious promoters of their own views and very selective about the message they allowed their editors to publish. A few very rich men controlled most of the media. The internet has helped change all that and now we have a much better decentralised system where unpopular views still have a way to be voiced.

 
At 9/12/2012 5:18 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Vangei, I have read the history of American newspapers. Newspapers competed fiercely with each other for readers. Only by offering what readers wanted to read did publishers drive up circulation.

That newspaper publishers were selective in what they published is not evidence that those publishers were not catering to the desires of their customers. Quite the contrary, such selectivity in pursuit of readership is exactly the behavior one would expect to see in a consumer-targeted industry.

That a few publishing magnates, as a result of that competition, ended up owning many newspapers is also not evidence that the industry ignored the desires of readers. Those few magnates still had to compete with each other for readers. Later, those publishers competed with radio broadcasters in the same way.

Again, it was the tastes of readers which determined what was published. If publishers' selectivity had not been driven by the desires of readers, those publishes would have lost the competition for circulation (as many, in fact, did lose).

 
At 9/12/2012 6:22 AM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Jet, while the tastes of readers no doubt play a role, the point is that once many cities became one-newspaper towns, the competition from other newspapers wasn't there anymore and the publishers could pursue their own ends. For example, Walter Annenberg was famous for this, (I see that the author of the Annenberg biography in that review just died a couple weeks ago, too bad, seemed like a sharp guy) so much so that it even made his Wikipedia entry. Yes, that's the same Annenberg who has a ton of stuff named after him now, that's what "giving" away billions will get you. ;)

Another big issue is that the newspaper and most pre-existing media, whether books, radio, TV, are broadcast technology, ie you print or broadcast the exact same thing to most users. That's why the gatekeepers were there, to make sure some threshold was passed before that kind of broadcast investment would be made. Well, the internet is not broadcast tech and that kind of filtering is not necessary anymore: it costs very little to distribute one ebook or 50,000. You still need some arbiters of taste, say the way Mark links to or mentions some ebooks and not others on this blog, but the point is that these new arbiters won't be able to keep the work from being distributed anymore, only whether to recommend it to others or not.

I suggest you watch the 5-7 minutes I linked from Bezos's talk above, it's instructive in how we all gain from this, particularly considering the blatantly stupid filters many of those gatekeepers were using. None of the media companies get how big a change this is, which is why I think all the media companies are doomed, everyone from the newspaper companies to the book publishers to the TV networks to the movie studios. Even the ones who still make money because they're not dumb enough to give the product away for free, like the Economist, the WSJ, or Disney, will go bankrupt in the coming years. It's that big a shift.

 
At 9/12/2012 7:13 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

Vangei, I have read the history of American newspapers. Newspapers competed fiercely with each other for readers. Only by offering what readers wanted to read did publishers drive up circulation.

I think that you are mixing up making up stories and the use of yellow journalism to sell papers with the political views that the publishers were pushing. The two are very different issues.

That newspaper publishers were selective in what they published is not evidence that those publishers were not catering to the desires of their customers. Quite the contrary, such selectivity in pursuit of readership is exactly the behavior one would expect to see in a consumer-targeted industry.

Some newspapers got customers by making up stories, reporting gossip, and playing up to sentiment. But it is very clear that if you look at the history of American papers you will see a very strong affiliation by papers to one political party or another based on the politics of the publishers. Certain papers supported the Whigs/Republicans while others were Democratic and published stories that supported their views. While many had the occasional wonderful essay and some sophisticated argument about a particular issue what they published on the editorial side was very slanted by the publisher much as modern papers are.

That a few publishing magnates, as a result of that competition, ended up owning many newspapers is also not evidence that the industry ignored the desires of readers. Those few magnates still had to compete with each other for readers. Later, those publishers competed with radio broadcasters in the same way.

I have no problem with concentration of ownership in a competitive market place. My point is that the internet has changed the marketplace and made things much better as it has opened up opportunities for more voices to be heard. We no longer have publishers making a concentrated push for war limiting debate on the issue by cutting off access and few local monopolies that control the market in small towns and cities.

Again, it was the tastes of readers which determined what was published. If publishers' selectivity had not been driven by the desires of readers, those publishes would have lost the competition for circulation (as many, in fact, did lose).

I agree to a point but still note that publishers were able to shape opinion far more than they can today. When you control many papers it is easy to put forth a coherent view in a number of areas and decide what sentiment your readers will be exposed to. A handful of men could control the flow of information and profit by it in ways that are not possible when there are thousands of dissenting voices giving other views.

 
At 9/12/2012 8:16 AM, Blogger Larry G said...

there's a big problem with internet publishing and that is the validity of the information being supplied.

It's become a virtual cesspool of revisionist history and just flat out false information.

the biggest problem that people have now days is knowing how to vett information - and some folks actually don't want to vett it. They just want to find something that affirms their own beliefs.

 
At 9/12/2012 4:33 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

there's a big problem with internet publishing and that is the validity of the information being supplied.


That is not a new problem. Look at most textbooks and you see a huge volume of information that is not correct. But in the case of the internet the consumer has a choice to look around and evaluate the information. Students who are told what is the 'official' version of the truth are not given such choices.

 
At 9/12/2012 6:50 PM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Vange, I am not arguing the merits of the Internet of today vs the merits of the printed world before radio. I am also not asserting that publishers were free of bias. Where I disagree with you is with your assertion that big corporations were gatekeepers. Before radio and television, the free market determined what news and what literature was made available to the public. In those days, competing newspapers, competing magazines, and numerous competing book publishers ensured that different viewpoints and alternative literature was available.

It was the broadcast media, not large corporate publishers, which limited the healthy competition of ideas. Radio and television were free and more convenient than printed media. But broadcast media was controlled by the FCC.

IMO, government control of broadcast media - not corporate control of the print media industries - is what constrained the dissemination of ideas.

What the Internet has mainly done is free us from government gatekeepers.

 
At 9/12/2012 9:13 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Vange, I am not arguing the merits of the Internet of today vs the merits of the printed world before radio. I am also not asserting that publishers were free of bias. Where I disagree with you is with your assertion that big corporations were gatekeepers. Before radio and television, the free market determined what news and what literature was made available to the public. In those days, competing newspapers, competing magazines, and numerous competing book publishers ensured that different viewpoints and alternative literature was available.

All publishers are gate keepers. They decide what is published and what isn't published. I have never said that there was only one person making the decision. I am saying that there were very few gatekeepers compared to what we have today where you can have your own blog without asking anyone for permission.

What is important to remember is that minority views had much fewer opportunities to be heard. While there was an active ethnic press, communists, anarchists, etc., those publications could only reach a very small number of people because the big publishers were pushing their own editorial policies on the public. Today we have many more outlets and voices that would never have been given the time of day in the past are having large numbers of readers and huge influence. The best example is to look at the LVMI in Auburn. Although it has been ignored by the mainstream press, most academia, and the statist think tanks it gets thousands of visitors from around the world each year, has millions of regular readers and has dozens of affiliated institutions abroad. Each time the mainstream press attacks one of its scholars thousands of kids and tens of thousands of regular readers look up what they are trying to say and buy more of their books. A hundred years ago the institute would have had a much harder time getting the message out.

 
At 9/12/2012 9:17 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

It was the broadcast media, not large corporate publishers, which limited the healthy competition of ideas. Radio and television were free and more convenient than printed media. But broadcast media was controlled by the FCC.

Very true. The government created artificial scarcity and a broadcast cartel that had to play by the rules or risk not getting a license renewed. The internet has done a lot to weaken that cartel.

IMO, government control of broadcast media - not corporate control of the print media industries - is what constrained the dissemination of ideas.

I agree that broadcast was far more limiting than the publishing media. But as I pointed out, the concentration of print media still left much fewer outlets than the internet.

What the Internet has mainly done is free us from government gatekeepers.

Sadly, government is still far more involved than it needs to be and is abusing the IP regulations to destroy dissent and legitimate commerce.


 
At 10/26/2012 11:57 AM, Blogger KathrynC said...

I am curious what index did you use for normalizing to 2012 dollars? the PPI for Newspapers?

 
At 10/26/2012 12:49 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

I used the Consumer Price Index: All Items, to adjust for inflation.

 

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