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Online Competition is Putting Newspapers at Risk—Should we Care?
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Asked to lead a university seminar on careers in the media, a journalist friend spoke about his life in newspapers and the role of the press in a functioning democracy. He invited comments. Silence. To provoke discussion, he put a question. How many of you take a daily paper? No hands went up. Weekly? No hands went up. Now and then? A few, a very few hands were lifted. It dawned on my friend that instead of talking about the future of his industry he had instead given a history lesson.

That newspapers are in trouble no one can doubt. On both sides of the Atlantic they are either shutting down or cutting back on costs to a point where the value of the product risks being fatally undermined. We all know why this is happening. Online competition is taking away readers and advertisers, each accelerating the decline of the other. The question is, does it matter?

There are those who argue that newspapers, their owners and the journalists they employ, had it coming to them; that in their...

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