Michael Massing on the many troubles of the news media

class=img_thumbleft> The just-posted December 1 issue of the New York Review of Books features the first half of a two-part Michael Massing essay on the woes of the American news media, beset from one side by shrinking circulation/viewership and rising profit pressures and from the other by a burgeoning right-wing chattering class that dominates talk radio, cable news, and the political blog bestiary. He writes:

All eyes are now on the Internet. Even as paid circulation has dwindled at many papers, the number of visits to their Web sites has soared. Both nytimes.com and washingtonpost.com rank among the top twenty on-line global news sites; in September, the Times site received visits from more than 21 million different users. Because these sites are mostly free, however, many readers have switched to them from print editions, which can cost several hundred dollars for an annual subscription. But there is no clear indication that young people are more likely to read news on the Internet than in print. According to Mindich, only 11 percent of young adults in a recent survey cited the Internet as a major source of news....

For the Web to become profitable, it will need to be supported by advertising. To date, the returns here have been modest, but they are growing. This year, for instance, latimes.com expects to take in $50 million, with ad revenues doubling in each of the next few years. In the long term, most observers agree, the future of newspapers lies with the Web, where transmitting the news requires no expensive newsprint, delivery trucks, or union drivers. The question is, can the Internet generate revenue--and readers--fast enough to make up for the shortfalls from print?

Read it here.

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