Thursday’s column by Jon Carroll in the San Francisco Chronicle (which I read online at the excellent SFGate.com, since these days I’m usually not local and can’t pick up the Chron on the street) was all about newspapers. About how newspapers, which everyone says are dying, aren’t dying at all – although, he suggests, they might be signing up for a mutual suicide pact. As Jon Carroll points out, newspapers do make money – in fact, as Roger Black has pointed out, they make profit margins that would cause some other large businesses to break out in great big smiley faces all day long. (Check out the profit margin in supermarkets sometime.) It’s just that someone upstairs thinks they’re not making money – or not enough money.
As an editor/designer who has put together a book about the design of newspapers, not about their business, I’m no expert on the profit-and-loss sheets of our nation’s daily papers (not to mention those of other nations around the globe). But it’s perfectly obvious that newspapers are still a profitable business, overall; and also that they are a fundamental part of our information system – in other words, in how we think. The good ones are worth their weight in, well, paper (not such a cheap commodity these days), and even the mediocre ones offer an astonishing value for a pittance every day. Plus, they’re good for wrapping fish.
Newspapers: still not dead. Changing, yes; that’s usually a sign of what we call life.