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Are Newspapers Headed for Extinction?

The above video features Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer telling the Washington Post that the print media as we know it today will be archaic in a decade.

Hyberbole or not, he may be on to something.

Boston Phoenix writer and Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy blogged today about the pending eruption of GateHouse Media, attributing several sources that the corporate stock fell 80 percent in the past year and current speculation has the company entering bankruptcy by the end of the year.

GateHouse Media is the parent of the Newburyport Current, one of about 100 weekly and daily newspapers dotting the eastern Massachusetts media landscape.

Judging from recent vents and rages, such as this one by Gillian Swart about the events and emotions leading to her resignation from the Current, Kennedy’s description of poor management and pending turnover seems on target.

Which brings me back to Ballmer and his prediction that newspapers will be kaput in 10 years.

I don’t know if his words will be accurate or not, but if you agree that the future of newspaper sales are based in part on consumption by the general public then consider, as John Ivanko suggests at Sustainablog, that we are consumers because of our lust for wealth and greed.

He may as well be referring to newspaper publishers.

In the April/May 2008 issue of American Journalism Review, Joe Morton writes of the corporate greed of newspaper editors, citing U.S. newspapers saw an average profit margin of 17 percent last year. How many businesses can claim that high a figure?

I’m sure GateHouse Media’s wealth of newspapers are in that mold. I’ve never understood how the Current can afford to distribute I don’t know how many hundreds of copies for free every week.

If newspaper folks agree, as Morton writes, that the automobile and real estate markets are in flux, what does that flux say about the dominance of such newspaper advertising? No wonder sales are plummeting and reporters are resigning.

What do you think?