Every time I am stopped at the traffic lights driving to work along Mira Mesa Blvd, I feel sorry for the old guy standing under the sun trying to sell some newspapers. At a dollar a pop (sorry, I don’t know the exact price of the newspaper since that isn’t how I get my news), if you include his hourly wage, and whatever commission for each newspaper he is able to sell, is he really making any money at all? Oh wait, duh, if he isn’t, then he wouldn’t be there. Put another way, is the newspaper company really making any profit off these traffic light salesmen? If they are not at least breaking even on selling newspapers at traffic light corners, how much of a loss are they taking?

To quote a trend from a New York Times article last year,

At its peak in 2000, The Mercury News had a Sunday circulation of 326,839 subscribers, according to the newspaper. Last September, the company counted 278,470 Sunday subscribers, a drop of about 15 percent. Revenue from the company’s help-wanted ads fell to $18 million a year from more than $118 million, according to the paper. The newsroom was whittled to 280 people from 404, a 30 percent decline.

The numbers do not lie, traditional print media will need a strategy to survive. While I wouldn’t outright be so quick to say that newspapers are dead because I do think that they still do play an important role and thus have their place in society, I do think that hey just need to figure out how to embrace (rather than balk and try to fight) this inevitable tectonic shift (a.k.a. the interwebs) while generating revenue, or they will follow the path of IDG’s InfoWorld — giving up their print magazine and go 100% online only.

Read more about this trend here, here, here, and here.

Update 3/26/07: From an NYT article today:

Mark Fratrik, an economist at BIA Financial Network, said the February results were “not a blip on the screen.”

“It’s fundamental, what’s going on with newspapers,” he said. “The younger groups, the most desired demographics, are just not reading them. They aren’t listening to traditional radio either, but I tell radio broadcasters that they’re lucky not to be in newspapers.”

And he would be right. Personally, I like my news relevant, on-demand, portable (easy to carry around, like in my PDA phone), and does not leave my fingers with dirty black ink marks. The newspaper size is also kind of big and cumbersome, all that folding around. Gah, I sound high-maintenance 🙂

And on an unrelated random note, other news for this week:

  • The balancing act between pursuing your lifelong dreams and financial security. I agree with the author in that money does not equal happiness; however, I don’t think pursuing your lifelong dreams and financial security has to be mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, this is still an interesting writeup which makes you ponder about your risk tolerance, and if you are taking as much (or little) risk as you should be.
  • GMail delete shortcut discovered! Hit shift+3 (for the ‘#’ pound symbol). I wonder why this shortcut is so well hidden.
  • HIGHLY ADDICTIVE FLASH GAME!! Proceed with caution, this is a major time waster!