Right Column Redux: Edwin Diamond
Time Travel Problem

The Death Of Newspapers

It is a business school cliché (one I was taught at MIT) that American railroads died because they thought they were in the railroad business. Wrong. They were in the transportation business.

Similarly, American newspapers thought they were in the business of applying ink to dead trees to deliver advertising to homes. In fact, they were in the advertising business. A less sclerotic newspaper business saw this truth and invested heavily in broadcast stations from 1920-1970. Then the Federal Communications Commission pulled in that lifeline, prohibiting cross-ownership and killing dozens of newspapers in the process. But as the Internet rose, newspapers lost the plot. They could have controlled the news side of the Internet by diverting some of their profitable cash flow to the new medium. They did not.

I agree with the late, great Texas journalist Molly Ivins: “I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying-it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off.”

Check out my entire essay on the subject: Railroads Redux: The Impending Death of Newspapers


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