The newspaper industry's attempt to put lipstick on a pig is sad. The pig is till a pig and the industry is collapsing before our eyes.
Perhaps you've read the recent Editor & Publisher article entitled "NAA Reveals Biggest Ad Revenue Plunge in More Than 50 Years." Since its release March 28, the news has been spread by some websites with the same demeanor with which the Giants' Super Bowl victory over New England spread across the five boroughs.
In case you missed the news, here's the Cliff Notes version:
"The newspaper industry has experienced the worst drop in advertising revenue in more than 50 years."
This comes from the Newspaper Association of American (NAA). Technically, since this represents "the most severe percent decline since the association started measuring advertising expenditures in 1950," the lead might have more accurately read: "...the worse drop in advertising revenue on record."
Let's leave it to others to dance outside the hospital room where paper news lays in distress, and, instead, focus on the statement issued by John Sturm, president and CEO of the NAA.
"Even with the near-term challenges posed to print media by a more fragmented information environment and the economic headwinds facing all advertising media, newspapers publishers are continuing to drive strong revenue growth from their increasingly robust Web platforms." (emphasis added)
Mr. Sturm seems to think a "fragmented" -- "diverse" might have been a better word since fragmented implies broken -- information environment is a near-term condition. Not likely. My middle granddaughter is four years old; she's already using the web, appropriately. I'm thinking that many fewer in her generation will subscribe to a paper news source, just like I don't know anyone who has a milkman deliver dairy products to their house, though I'm sure some do.
"Strong revenue growth" from the web versions of paper news? Hold on. The E&P piece stated,
"There are signs that online revenue is beginning to slow as well."
That sound like "strong revenue growth" to you? Sounds like an alarm bell to me.
"Economic headwinds?" The numbers reflected in the announcement are from 2007. Ah, what economic headwinds? Might this be a case of BTE - blame-the-economy when other factors are too painful to confront?
Then, finally, there's that word "robust." A word for which, I confess, I feel some personal sympathy. The word has been repeatedly assaulted by fraudulent language merchants. When a government official uses the word "robust" my Specious Language Antenna (SLA) vibrates sending the lines on my Who's-Zooming-Whom screen oscillating wildly. For example, when a U.N. Peacekeeping force was being assembled to be dispatched to the Lebanese-Israeli border to assure peace after the last big conflagration there, both President Bush and Secretary of State Rice described the planned U.N. force as "robust." Oh-oh. The next news photo we saw was two zodiac boats of French soldiers landing in Lebanon.
Over time, "robust" has, sadly, come to mean anemic.
So, all things considered, does it not seem that the NAA has a CEO in denial?