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The Oakland Tribune closed down in 2016. It remains to be seen if the San Jose Mercury or the San Francisco Chronicle follows. There are lots of plausible stories as to why this happened. I think two of the most significant are Craigslist, and the internet making news available from many sources that cover the whole US. All of this is enabled by the internet, laptops, and smartphones, so is enabled by semiconductors. So Moore's Law killed the Oakland Tribune (and many other newspapers).
Another aspect is that newspapers thought that they were in some sort of noble calling of journalism. It turned out that most of them actually had an effective local monopoly on how to print a lot of paper and distribute it all over town each night. That's not easy. But once that ceased to be a useful differentiator, local newspapers were doomed.
The way newspapers evolved in the US and Britain is very different. As a result, the ethics of journalism are very different. It's worth going into a little detail, because I think that going forward, US journalism is going to be much more like British journalism. Online, it already is.
A key difference between the US and Britain, especially England, is that it is small. It also had a railway system from the mid-19th century. The East Coast Mainline from London to Edinburgh was completed in 1850. This meant that it was possible to print newspapers in London and distribute them all over the country during the night. Maybe not as far as Scotland, which had its own culture and newspapers, but all over England and Wales. As a result, from early on, Britain had national newspapers.
The US is a big country with, in most place, large gaps between major cities. Although the biggest cities had more than one newspaper, most towns and cities in the US ended up with a single monopoly newspaper. Even cities like San Francisco that had two (the Chronicle and the Examiner) have gone down to a single paper since the turn of the millennium (a sort of pseudo-Examiner lived on). As a result of this, and perhaps some government regulation, newspapers had to be fairly impartial. If they didn't broadly reflect the community in which they published, they would be reducing their available market. Journalism had a code of ethics and impartiality, and the journalist never inserting him or herself into the story. TV news, in the era of just three channels, adopted the same code, backed up by laws from the 1920s and 1930s that they had to provide equal time to opposing views.
When I first came to the US, I found this very annoying. A politician could say something totally false, and the journalist would not be able to say that. Instead, it was necessary to find another politician who could point out the falsehood. But then it just seemed like a difference of political opinion. For example, there is a big difference between saying that the poverty rate has doubled (a fact that is or is not true, that a journalist could quote official statistics about) versus saying that the federal government spends too much on poverty (an opinion that you may or may not agree with, and on which you probably don't want to hear what the journalist's own opinion is). This was not what I was used in the British press, and British TV seemed to inherit some of that attitude, with much more challenging interviewers.
Since the British press was national, they would all be blandly similar if every newspaper tried to be impartial in the same way as the American press. Instead, the newspapers all had a viewpoint. The Daily Telegraph was the most conservative of the "quality" papers, and The Guardian the most left-wing. The tabloids were all scrappy in their own way, especially the Daily Mirror and The Sun. The Mirror, in particular, had an almost unbelievably large circulation, and in the 1960s sold over 5M copies (in a country that had a population of under 50 million at the time). Today The Sun has the largest circulation in Britain of any newspaper, but it is just 1.5M copies, in comparison (in a country with a population 30% higher at 65M).
When, in the US, talk radio arrived, and then cable, a similar explosion of viewpoints happened, for a similar reason I think: there is not a big market for lots of channels all expressing the same balanced viewpoint. Since the mainstream press is somewhat left of center, this opened up business opportunities on the right, first for right-wing talk radio, and then for Fox News, which became the most profitable news channel.
When the internet arrived, nothing much changed at first. People who had been getting a newspaper all their lives continued to do so. But young people were different. Just as they had never had a landline at home and never would, they had never subscribed to a newspaper and never would. Every year the average age of newspaper readers goes up a year. The same for the audience for broadcast network news (not least because it is on TV when most of us are still at work, so you almost have to be retired to see it).
The first reaction of newspapers was to put their content online, and try and charge for it. After all, their differentiation was journalism. But it turned out most journalism wasn't differentiated at all once you took that distribution of dead-trees aspect away.
There is no future for most newspapers in anything except the biggest cities, and probably even there. The New York Times loses a lot of money, but its billionaire owner can afford it as a vanity project. Who knows what Bezos really plans for the Washington Post? I believe the Wall Street Journal is profitable. They are already using the British model: nationwide audience, the NYT left-of-center, the WSJ right-of-center. It's not clear how many other national titles can fit in the gaps. If you were the editor of the LA Times, what could you do to gain a national footprint?
Going forward, I think that only a few titles will manage to find a niche. For many, it is probably too late. For example, to take the Mercury News online content national, the obvious thing to focus on is technology. It's in Silicon Valley, after all. But Wired (and others) already filled that niche. Also, it has probably got rid of so many reporters it would struggle to do that anyway. It would need a bureau in China, and Bangalore, to do a good job, and I doubt it can afford that. But at some point in the past, there was probably an opportunity to be to technology what the WSJ is to finance, or The Economist (a magazine that bizarrely calls itself a newspaper) is to whatever a good word is for what it covers (not really economics, although that's in the mix).
Online news sites are opinionated, not trying to be balanced. If you want balance, read Mother Jones and Breitbart. If you want something closer to the center, read NYT and WSJ. But there just isn't a market for a single title that tries to pre-digest the news for you and feeds you a nice, balanced version of it, making the assumption that you never see any other website. That's how news used to work when you might only see one local newspaper as the source of all your news.
What about British newspapers online? They all have a big challenge, which is the BBC. The Beeb produces a huge amount of online content since it is subsidized by a license fee of £147 (just over $200) per household with a TV (or that watches streamed BBC content). Neither its TV channels nor its website has advertising. Mark Twain said to never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Well, buying ink by the barrel is for losers these days. But it is hard to compete with someone who has revenue of £5B ($7B) before they write a word. It has other revenue too, from sales of shows like Dr Who. Nonetheless, The Daily Mail is reputedly the most read online newspaper in the world, The Guardian is widely read internationally (not least because it seems to have neither a paywall nor a business model, but is owned by a trust of gradually decreasing valuation).
But to put it all in perspective, newspapers just aren't that influential any more. In November, the New York Times announced that it had 4 million subscribers. That's about what Netflix adds each month. People regard Twitter as somewhat underperforming since its subscriber count is nowhere near Facebook's. But it is 260 million, of which 70 million are in the US.
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