Ed Driscoll

Media Economics Versus Macro Economics

Ed Morrissey explores the gloomy numbers for traditional (i.e. hard copy) newspapers:

How badly have newspapers declined? The Dallas Morning News suffered a catastrophic collapse, losing more than 14% of its subscribers during the reporting period. The Miami Herald lost 10% of its Sunday subscribers and 5.5% of its daily readers. Its competitor, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Ft. Lauderdale, didn’t fare any better, losing 8.6% of its subscribers. Many newspapers found themselves in the 4-5% loss range, including the LA Times and its chief competitor, the Orange County Register; the Minneapolis Star-Tribune; the San Jose Mercury News; and the Washington Post lost 3.4%.

As he notes:

In a growing economy, entire industries should not show such consistent decline. In the case of newspapers, though, they have never benefitted from the economic boom that started in 2003 and continues to this day. Perhaps that might account for the coverage, or lack thereof, that the expansion has received.

Indeed it could–back in December of 2002, Virginia Postrel noted the disconnect between a remarkably mild (considering what had just happened in September of 2001) recession and how it was being reported by the legacy media:

In today’s NYT, Dan Akst puts the current economic gloominess in perspective, reminding us that even in the current slump the economy looks more like an earlier era’s dream than the nightmare too often portrayed in media account. By historical standards, things are looking awfully good: “low interest rates, affordable energy, full employment without inflation and broad access to home ownership.” We’ve even learned to compete with the Japanese. Why the disconnect? One reason “may be the sharp advertising downturn that started in early 2001. The resulting media recession, including layoffs and other cutbacks, has produced a grimmer-than-usual attitude in the perennially gloomy fourth estate. The industry’s concentration in New York and Washington, both of which were struck by terrorists last year, has further darkened the industry’s outlook.” Dan is no outsider taking cheap shots at reporters. He’s a long-time journalist acknowledging a psychological truth: We all grant more salience to facts we experience directly. And journalists know lots and lots of people who’ve lost jobs in this recession.

That also helps to explain why journalists were so eager to nod their heads and report as a fact when their candidate in 1992 described what was also a mild recession by historical standards as “The worst economy in 50 years”.