Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

March 25, 2010

Not Comics: It’s The Advertising

* the leviathan that seems to be making itself known to the army officers ringed around the shadow and dust of the print newspaper's near-collapse the last few years is looking more and more like the Great Beast Of Falling Advertising Revenues. The thinking here is that above and beyond any kind of new media development or a shift in consumption habits or loss of readership confidence the most important factor in the struggle of newspapers to make ends meet is that they used to have a monopoly on a certain kind of advertising, or at least to a certain percentage of it: they don't have that anymore. Editor & Publisher reports that 2009 advertising revenues fell to mid-1980s levels last year, falling under $25 billion and representing a 28.6 percent drop. Moreover, the losses are accelerating after a 2007 when they were 9.4 percent down and a 2008 in which they fell 17.7 percent. While there are certainly industries that can operate with $25 billion in one of their revenue streams, the severity of the drops will continue to wreak havoc on an infrastructure designed to function at a certain size unless it bottoms out at some point. This is one of the reasons I think you could see some newspapers culling their comics sections in severe fashion: for many publication, the money is simply not there.

* so what about on-line models, as perhaps exemplified by the conversion of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer into an on-line publication? This profile puts a cheery face on what seems to me some pretty dire analysis: the paper didn't come close to meeting its revenue goals during the honeymoon period, those revenue goals seem super-modest and not indicative of the paper's full operation (that's a hunch on my part, reading between the lines), and the paper in moving on-line hasn't come close to matching the print newspaper's devotion to hard news and is in fact favored the kind of first-person blogging and lifestyle stunts you can get in a lot of places. I've been as hard as anyone on the failure of traditional newspaper models to match bottom-line production to dollars spent, but this doesn't sound like an alternative way of news-gathering; it sounds like an alternative to news-gathering.
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