One thing in particular to note from the news earlier today that Warren Buffett’s World Media Enterprises is closing one of its newspapers:
“Terry Kroeger, chairman of World Media, said the newspaper is in direct competition with many other publications and, being part of a large metropolitan area, had a tough time finding the sense of community that a community newspaper needs to prosper. He said the paper had been losing money for years.”
That’s not entirely true. If you check on Facebook for the page of insidenova.com, the website of the News & Messenger, which is the Virginia paper Buffett’s company is closing, you’ll see it has more than 24,000 likes, and if you dig down you’ll find that the Facebook community that had formed around insidenova.com is an active one. There is a community there. The problem is that WME, like other print publishers, doesn’t know how to make a profit from that. That’s the entire crux of the crisis in print publications. There is not necessarily the lack of an audience for news about any particular community, there is just (so far) a lack of ways to make enough money from those folks to keep the lights on.
UPDATE: Don’t take my word for it. From the Washington Post:
“This is horrendous news for everyone in Prince William County and those who care about Prince William news. The News & Messenger and InsideNoVA are the definitive source of news in Prince William.”
And note this quote: “They put a lot of emphasis on their digital products,” Kroeger said, “so their print circulation fell even further.”
So [Edited to clarify] If that view is correct throughout the industry, then the question is whether the closing of the News & Messenger is an aberration or a sign of things to come.