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On Newsprint (As Quickly And Painlessly As Possible)

Posted by: Jon Fine on October 12, 2005

Some day-after coverage of the Wall Street Journal’s decision to shrink its physical dimensions by about 20% focuses, smartly, on newsprint costs.

(No. Wait. Don’t go away yet.)

The dynamic is this: Newsprint is—surprise—a newspaper’s second biggest expense after labor. In the Nineties and well into this decade, an unconsolidated paper industry made it easy for newspapers to play one supplier off another. It’s harder to do this now, so newsprint prices are finally rising from artificially low levels—and this happens as newspaper companies almost universally report persistently lousy revenue and earnings.

Each medium takes a turn at being the media’s whipping boy, and now it’s newspapers’ turn. Some of what’s been written is likely overstated, but I’m struck by the pessimism I’ve heard in recent private conversations with media and newspaper executives. And newspapers’ revenue picture was bad enough to begin with without skyrocketing costs.

Reader Comments

steve baker

October 13, 2005 6:56 AM

Well, at least their labor costs aren't skyrocketing... Any 20-something journalists out there who are pursuing a career in journalism? I'd like to hear how they see things.

steve baker

October 13, 2005 11:23 AM

I got a partial answer to my question. Looks like lots of 20-somethings prefer PR:

Jon Fine

October 13, 2005 11:42 AM

Steve, I'm struck by what you said on the below-linked post: the way things are going, the journalist of the future is an entrepreneur/independent contractor.

David Martin

October 18, 2005 6:40 PM

Jon, the dead tree gang have significant labor issues ahead. Check out Steve Twomey's excellent article in CJR - The Case of the Vanishing Columnist.

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