The slow decline of the content container
Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, blogged recently about some of the things his firm is doing to help shore up the economics of news.
In his post, Varian does a credible job of establishing the long-term decline of news in print. Newspaper circulation per U.S. household peaked in 1947 (yes, six decades ago). Ad revenue in real dollars has been flat over most of that time. Varian points out that ad revenue by any measure has been declining since 2005.
Varian appears fond of newspapers, perhaps too much so. For example, he attributes the limited amount of time spent with online news content to constraints placed on people reading news at work.
I’ve not done time and motion studies, but it strikes me that as a format, newspapers are efficient for the producer and inefficient for the consumer. In an era of lean consumption, that’s a recipe for failure.
I love news, but I’ve grown less fond of newspapers. I’m sorry that the next business model doesn’t look like the old one, but … it doesn’t. We should start with what readers need and work backwards.