THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING! BUT ONE DAY YOU MAY ONLY BE ABLE TO READ ABOUT IT ONLINE
Gone are the days when owning the local newspaper was essentially a license to print money. The Internet and shifting readership habits saw to that.
Not to worry, the 1,450 daily newspapers in the U.S. are not on the fast track to extinction -- yet. With more than half of us reading some 58 million copies daily, there's still plenty of paper to recycle.
Still, those numbers keep slipping despite many papers' yeoman efforts to keep themselves compelling and relevant. Of course, that hasn't meant diddly to shareholders still feasting on the spoils from the glory days of earlier decades. Witness the cutbacks at the Los Angeles Times, despite winning seven Pulitzers in the last two years alone.
A lot of hand-wringing has been going on this week in San Francisco, at the annual conference for the Newspaper Association of America, where attendees have gotten used to hearing bad news. Among the latest nuggets: A report that newspapers could lose $4 billion a year to the Internet in classified ads within two years.
One NAA official took a glass-is-half-full approach: "It's not too late to recover, but the door of opportunity is closing quickly."
You can forgive those in attendance if they're not convinced about that. After all, how many of them have cut their newshole, staff and other expenses because the money doesn't just roll up to the door like it used to? Classified ads are virtually pure profit. If they go away, so does the holiday bonus, or worse.