Google Economist Hal Varian on Newspaper Economics
It’s nearly impossible to talk about the future of news without someone predicting the extinction of two species at once: investigative journalists and working democracies. You can’t argue that wouldn’t be bleak. But Google’s chief economist Hal Varian points out that the biggest cost center at newspapers isn’t the journalists.
“There are huge cost savings associated with online news. Roughly 50% of the cost of producing a physical newspaper is in printing and distribution, with only about 15% of total costs being editorial. Newspapers could save a lot of money if the primary access to news was via the internet.”
He also points out that newspaper circulation declines can’t entirely be pinned on the Internet: “Circulation has been falling since 1985 and circulation per household has been falling since 1947!”
Perhaps the Internet isn’t killing news, it’s just making what one New York Times writer calls a new kind of news junkie — one that doesn’t demand we spend enormous amounts of money putting that news on paper and tossing it to her doorstep.