The Incredible Shrinking Newspaper
Newspapers are dying, but the news is thriving.
Like the ailing—but much alive—character prematurely tossed onto the meat wagon in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, newspapers are right to shout, "I'm not dead!" In their dying, the best newspapers are plotting—and experiencing—rebirths as multiplatform news companies. They're building out their Web sites, investing in free daily tabloids, partnering more extensively with radio and TV, sending advertiser-supported news to cell phones, and frantically devising business models to make the new equation work.
As much as people may have given up the newspaper habit, their appetite for news has become insatiable, news companies are learning. The 1.1 million-circulation New York Times served 25 million unique readers in April via its NYTimes.com Web site, according to its own logs. Washingtonpost.com, which serves 80 percent of its audience outside the D.C. area, has made the Washington Post a national newspaper.
To bring the story back to home, the Washington Post Co.'s washingtonpost.com now employs an editorial staff of 65, and the editorial masthead of its free Express tabloid numbers at least a dozen. These jobs didn't exist 10 years ago, and they just about equal the head count lost in the recent Post buyouts. The changing landscape puts new media in the position of the mortician who said to the corpse, "Sorry, pal, but your dying is my living."
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A version of this piece appears in the Washington Post Outlook section.
Correction, June 25, 2006: The original version of this story stated that the New York Times was contemplating a switch to lighter-weight paper stock. In fact, the switch has already been made. ( Return to the corrected sentence.)