In the first decade of the commercial Internet–the 1990s and early 2000s–there were frequent murmurings that newspapers were screwed.
The digital audience didn’t read newspapers, people pointed out. They visited web sites. They read articles here and there. But they didn’t put the stack of articles, photos, and ads known as a “newspaper” on their breakfast table and flip through the whole thing.
What’s more, the digital audience stopped using newspapers as a reference and source for commerce. They browsed on eBay and Craigslist instead of reading classifieds. They got their movie news from movie sites. They got real-estate listings from real-estate sites. They learned about “sales” and other events from email and coupon sites. And so on.
In other words, the user behavior that had supported newspaper companies for a century began to change.
But for almost a whole decade, the newspaper industry barely noticed.
Subscriptions kept going up.
Ads kept going up.
Stocks kept going up.
Those who said that newspapers were screwed were dismissed as clueless doom-mongers, at least by newspaper executives.
Then this happened:
And lots of newspaper companies went broke or almost went broke. And the stock of The New York Times Company, the country’s premiere newspaper, fell from $50 to $6. (See: “The Incredible Shrinking New York Times“)
In other words, newspapers were screwed. It just took a while for changing user behavior to really hammer the business.
The same is almost certainly true for television.
In our household, as in many households, television consumption has changed massively over the past decade, especially over the past 5 years.