The decline in circulation and the decline in public trust are problems that the newspaper industry has been struggling with for years. In some ways, the good news is two-sided. The financial durability of newspapers offers them the resources to diversify the product and seek out new audiences.
Yet the long-term profitability of newspapers, and the clear advantages in content that print offers over some other media, can also be a crutch. Newspaper publishers can justify not investing more in new product, in new content, in diversifying their target audiences, because they can argue that they are already the strongest newsgathering operation in their community. More quality, they may think, will not pay for itself. And the financial markets have come to expect, with a few exceptions like The New York Times, a mature industry that must justify itself to investors by producing high profits, not by investing them back into the product for a potentially risky return.
At the same time, if the newspaper industry falters because of its failure invest for the long term to attract new readers and advertisers, the insistence on continuing those high profits will become even more self-defeating.
The challenge is that the continuing loss of audience and the aging demographics suggest that, in time, something must give. It is possible that newspapers will have to change a great deal more than they have or their financial health will not be sustained.