Sick media just the symptom

You often hear editorial types describe the current problem of newspapers and TV as “it’s not an audience problem; it’s a revenue problem.”

Maybe, maybe not. That sort of short-circuits the question of whether news, particlarly local news, is economically viable, and if not, how to make it profitable.

It also possible the woes of traditional media are just the sympton and not the disease.

At least some think it’s advertising that’s dying not newspapers or TV or magazines. They’re just caught in the death throes of advertising. (Little solace to those in the media business, perhaps.)

A reader wrote The Atlantic’s James Fallows

The real problem is, advertising is dying. It’s just pulling down newspapers along the way. Next up: TV, radio, and Google.

Another reader of Fallows’ said:

The problem with newspapers is that they were a bundle of hard news, classifieds, sports, weather, financial information, comics, lifestyle, etc. People were willing to pay the cover price for the whole package, but were mostly interested in the non-news items.

All of those non-news categories have fled to the net, where they are done significantly better. Craigslist really is better in every way than the newspaper classifieds. Other categories are also covered in much greater depth out on the net.

The newspapers themselves thought of their reporters as the core, and the other sections as just fluff to fill out the paper. With the “fluff” gone, they are discovering there’s not enough taste for hard news alone to pay the bills.

This is why micropayments or paywalls for online papers are not going to save the business. Hard news just doesn’t pay for itself, not in advertising revenues or in subscriptions.

And Jay Small riffs off a Jeff Jarvis post on “advertising as failure.”

Either of these would not bode for content providers relying on an advertising supported model.