A column by John G. Miller, managing editor of the Exponent Telegram
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — In 1981, Ted Turner, who had recently launched Cable News Network (CNN), told a gathering of newspaper publishers that the industry was doomed.
“… newspapers as we know them today will be gone within the next 10 years, or certainly … serving a very reduced role,” Turner said. “You’re becoming very rapidly technologically obsolete.”
Oddly enough, a recent report by Politico shows that cable news networks may be in far greater danger of becoming obsolete.
Politico’s Dylan Byers reported this past week that Fox News remains the leader among the three cable news outlets, but even its ratings have dropped 5 percent in prime-time and 14 percent per day.
The news network’s drop in viewers in the 25-54 age demographic was even worse, falling 30 percent overall, according to the report.
Still, Fox’s 1.76 million viewers per day were significantly more than CNN’s and MSNBC’s, which were in the hundreds of thousands. And CNN slid to a 20-year low for its prime-time shows.
When you consider that these networks are available across the country and in many parts of the world, their reach seems rather small. And with CNN’s significant and ongoing loss of audience, Turner’s prophecy regarding newspapers may in fact more aptly apply to CNN itself.
But the fragmentation of the television audience is nothing new. As a cable subscriber, I have hundreds of channels available for the limited time I have to watch. And with the addition of Netflix and Hulu, there are additional ways for viewers to get programming.
As for Turner’s prediction about newspapers, well, 33 years later, we’re still here. And during the time period of his doomsday statement to today, The Exponent Telegram has changed — for the better — and enjoyed many prosperous years.
Granted, some papers have faded, mostly in larger metropolitan areas.
But local newspapers remain viable because they stay connected to the community…