Last year, after 50+ years as a subscriber, I stopped taking the Indianapolis Star. My reasons were the same as those of the large numbers of other people who have decided to forgo the morning ritual–there is very little “there” there anymore.
The Star and other daily newspapers are in a death spiral, partially due to circumstances beyond their control, and partly due to really poor decisions about how to cope with those circumstances. By now, we can all recite the litany of change: the Internet brought other news sources to our fingertips, mostly for free; Craig’s List cost newspapers a billion dollars a year in classified advertising revenue. The existing business model simply disappeared.
Meanwhile, big chains like Gannett had gobbled up the dailies, paying inflated prices with borrowed money. Between the competitive changes and the massive debt, bottom lines suffered. So the new owners did what businesspeople do in such situations–they cut employees. Newsrooms have been decimated over the past decade. And the result was–duh!–less news. And with less news came less reason to buy the paper in the first place.
I stopped subscribing when I realized I could read the paper in less than five minutes. I do scan the (very poorly designed and proofed) website from time to time, in case there is actually local news reported. I don’t miss the diet tips, the pictures of someone’s kitchen, or the celebrity “news” and similar items reprinted verbatim from national sources. Such material is widely available. What I keep hoping I’ll find is actual reporting about Indianapolis and Indiana–especially informed reporting about state and local government. There hasn’t been much of that, unfortunately–and we are seeing what happens when a community loses its “watchdog.”
The Star is now instituting a paywall. The question is whether there is enough content left to merit a 12./month charge. At my house, we willingly pay for the New York Times, because the content justifies the charge. We’ve decided to see if the electronic version of the sad remnants of what used to be a real newspaper is worth even twelve bucks a month.