Mr. Shafer, since we're all time challenged here, can you please connect the dots between the Times-Picayune and Detroit Free Press print cutbacks, the fire sale price of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, subscription price increases in New York, Chicago, and L.A, Warren Buffett's purchase of $142 million purchase of 63 mid-market newspapers, and a summer book recommendation to top it all off?
In his 2004 book The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age, Philip Meyer imagined "the final stages" of a "squeeze scenario" by a newspaper owner who wanted to exit the business but didn't want to actually sell the title: He would start charging more for his newspaper and delivering less, commencing the "slow liquidation" of his property. This slow liquidation would not be immediately apparent to observers, Meyer wrote, because the asset "being converted to cash" would be "goodwill" – the newspaper's standing in the community and the habit of advertisers and subscribers of giving it money ...
Selling goodwill is a dangerous strategy because once sold, it's difficult to reacquire. But a newspaper owner who feels trapped by losses and can't find a new owner at what he considers a fair price may feel he has no alternative but to cheapen his newspaper bit-by-bit, month-by-month.
And finally, we cast our eyes abroad for innovative ideas on the future of news. Turkmenistan's autocratic government has successfully boosted newspaper circulation with a creative concept: By forcing government workers to buy subscriptions.