For the past few years, I've been including a picture of a sinking ship when I write about the newspaper industry. Today I'm showing you what the sea looks like after the ship has gone down.
That's because there is stunning news...
Editor and Publisher has published a list of Web traffic for the major newspapers and there is one shocking statistic in the group.
Visitors to AZCentral (part of the online arm of the Arizona Republic) dropped off 36.6%.
It's official: The business model has collapsed.
I have pointed out that web advertising pays much less than comparable print advertising. The average newspaper subscriber is worth a little over $500 a year, and that number has been dropping. Compare that to the loyal web reader who is worth less than $10 annually.
The web was never going to be able to support the cost structure that was supported by print advertising. But there was at least a credible argument that the newspapers were going to be able to transfer their market dominance to the web. Now that's gone as well.
If you need proof that the business model isn't sustainable, let's examine a microcosm of the Mainstream Media--the columnist.
Word on the street is that the Star's Ernesto Portillo has lost his column. That's inevitable. If you add up a columnist's salary, benefits and overhead, it has to approach $100,000. Dude, that's for 1,500 words a week. Bloggers provide more content and generate more buzz for free.
The Republic's Bob Robb is smarter than me and I think he's right on the issues, but give me a break, I have to leave his columns in the bathroom in order to get through one. The days of a paper paying a senior guy six figures to pontificate three days a week are over. Columnists are going the way of evening papers and foreign bureaus.
Don't get me wrong--newspapers make a lot of money. The problem is that they make a lot less money than they used to make, and the plan to make the same amount of money off the web has failed. Now it's time to allign the cost structure with the revenue structure.
The newspaper of the future is going to have a lean and mean crew of college kids who write content all day long for $11 an hour. I may be biased, but my guess is that the quality of the final product will be somewhat better than it is now.