Circulation in Europe and the United States is tanking.
And online is coming on hard, witness this:
U.S. paper ends print edition to live online
By Noam Cohen
Published: April 28, 2008
With print revenue down and online revenue growing, newspaper executives are anticipating the day when big city dailies and national papers will abandon their print versions.
That day has arrived in Madison, Wisconsin.
Last Saturday, The Capital Times, a fabled 90-year-old daily newspaper founded in response to the jingoist fervor of World War I, stopped printing to devote itself to publishing its daily report on the Web.
(The staff will also produce two print products: a free weekly entertainment guide inserted in the crosstown paper, The Wisconsin State Journal, and a news weekly that will be distributed with the paper.)
An avowedly progressive paper that carried the banner of its founder, William Evjue, The Capital Times is wrapped up with the history of two larger-than-life Wisconsin senators, the elder Robert La Follette (whom it favored) and Joseph McCarthy (whom it opposed). But in recent years, the paper's circulation dropped to about 18,000 from a high in the 1960s of more than 40,000.
"We felt our audience was shrinking so that we were not relevant," Clayton Frink, the publisher of The Capital Times, said in an interview two days before the final daily press run. "We are going a little farther, a little faster, but the general trend is happening everywhere."
The transition in Madison, while long foretold - The Capital Times was doubly part of a dying breed in the United States, being the afternoon paper in a two-newspaper town - has hardly been neat, clean and cathartic.
More than 20 members of the newsroom staff lost their jobs, mainly through buyouts, but also through layoffs. Each departing journalist was profiled in the final paper, and lives on at the Web site Madison.com under the headline "A Fond Farewell to Talented Colleagues," with a "class photo" taken next to the presses.
The new staff total will be in the 40s. This includes seven new hires in areas like Web producing and arts coverage. Copy editors, by contrast, are "exiting at a higher rate than reporters," said Paul Fanlund, the editor who arrived from The State Journal in 2006.
The Web strategy, while seen as a long-term solution, is still a work in progress, Fanlund said. It revolves around a portal, Madison.com, which is owned under the same joint arrangement mandating that both Madison papers share revenues, though they are editorially independent.
The Capital Times will operate a nearly continuous Web newsroom and focus on repurposing online the cultural and entertainment material the staff will begin to produce in the supplement, 77 Square, to be inserted in The State Journal.
"If there is a window of opportunity for newspapers on the Web, it is locally," said James Baughman, director of the University of Wisconsin journalism school in Madison. "The reason the online version of the Cap Times may have life is that opportunity."
Once upon a time in the United States and elsewhere, the afternoon newspaper was the Internet of its day, Baughman said, giving afternoon baseball scores and stock market reports in a quick turnaround. It was the more lucrative slot as a result.
The liberal afternoon newspaper still has a sympathetic audience in Madison, but the changing pace of news is more important. "The political activism is there, you can't deny it," he said of Madison's newspaper readers, "but they want the morning box scores."
And while Fanlund takes pain to stress the need to continue the progressive editorials and watchdog role of the reinvented Capital Times, it is sports that serves as a perfect example of the changes he said have been long overdue.
As an afternoon paper that did not publish Sundays, his sportswriters would be covering a college football game and "it would be 48 hours until the articles would be read," he said.
But the decision to migrate online, and in free weeklies, necessarily involves reinventing the core mission at the newspaper and the core audience.
In its account of The Capital Times's last daily press run, The State Journal reported that it had "succeeded in garnering most of The Capital Times's former subscribers and will see its average daily circulation rise from 89,000 to at least 104,000 starting Monday."
The final editorial of the print daily pledged itself to its founder's purpose as "an independent voice for peace and economic and social justice that speaks truth to power each and every day."
The editorial evoked him to give his endorsement of the steps the newspaper is taking: "He would caution us not to worry about the form The Capital Times takes, but rather to be concerned with the content and character of our message."