End Times

Not if, but when.

The collapse of daily print journalism will mean many things. For
those of us old enough to still care about going out on a Sunday
morning for our doorstop edition of The Times, it will
mean the end of a certain kind of civilized ritual that has defined
most of our adult lives. It will also mean the end of a certain kind of
quasi-bohemian urban existence for the thousands of smart middle-class
writers, journalists, and public intellectuals who have, until now,
lived semi-charmed kinds of lives of the mind. And it will seriously
damage the press’s ability to serve as a bulwark of democracy. Internet
purists may maintain that the Web will throw up a new pro-am class of
citizen journalists to fill the void, but for now, at least, there’s no
online substitute for institutions that can marshal years of
well-developed sourcing and reporting experience–not to mention the
resources to, say, send journalists leapfrogging between Mumbai and
Islamabad to decode the complexities of the India-Pakistan conflict.

Most likely, the interim step for The Times and other
newspapers will be to move to digital-only distribution (perhaps
preserving the more profitable Sunday editions). Already, most readers
of The Times are consuming it online. The Web site, nytimes.com,
boasted an impressive 20 million unique users for the month of October,
making it the fifth-ranked news site on the Internet in terms of total
visitors. (The October numbers were boosted by interest in the
election, but still …) The print product, meanwhile, is sold to a mere
million readers a day and dropping, and the Sunday print edition to 1.4
million (and also dropping). Print and Web metrics are not
apples-to-apples, but it’s intuitively the case that the Web has
extended The Times‘ reach many times over.– Michael Hirschorn, The Atlantic