Converging curves

The newspaper industry’s death spiral is accelerating. The “increasingly rapid and broad decline in the newspaper business in recent months has surprised even the most pessimistic financial analysts.” In related news, the average age of TV viewers has reached 50 and is still rising. The networks are losing their audience.

The long-term trends hurting the newspaper and TV industry are fairly well understood at this point. At the bottom of most of them is displacement of newspaper-reading and TV-viewing time by Internet browsing. But this, and its consequences (a big one is the collapse of classified-ad revenues; Craigslist and eBay have hit the newspapers where they hurt) has long since been factored into analyst projections. The puzzle is that recently, within the last six to nine months, old-media channels are hemhoraging subscribers even faster than the long-term trend models can explain.

This worse-than-expected performance is happening as the mainstream media is becoming increasingly unable to obscure a fact that Americans following on-the-spot bloggers in Iraq already know; the surge worked, and we’re winning the second phase of the war in Iraq. Political and military conditions are steadily improving, Al Qaeda in Iraq is on the ropes, control of Basra has been wrested from Iranian-backed militias, and security in the former terrorist haven of Anbar province has been handed off to Iraqi forces who are handling it competently.

The recent acceleration in the decline of old media mirrors the recently accelerating success of the Iraqi counterinsurgency. I do not think this is coincidence; in fact, I believe these trends are feeding each other.

Success in Iraq, relayed home through blogs and new media, damages the reputation of an industry that has routinely made itself a willing conduit for anti-Iraq-war and anti-U.S. propaganda (long-term trend discussed here; egregious recent example here). But as the obvious disconnect between reality and the media’s preferred narrative of incompetence, defeat, and disaster has become wider, circulation has dropped proportionately.

The newspaper circulation crash, in turn, damages the ability of the Islamists and their apologists in the U.S. to influence the political framing of both the Iraq war and the larger effort to smash the Islamist terror network and its allies. The best evidence of their decline in influence is how rapidly “bringing the troops home” has receded from its early importance as an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign, replaced by gas prices and the subprime-mortgage mess.

We can be certain that an easing of domestic pressure to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq is not the outcome the Islamists or their domestic allies desired. That easing stiffens the resolve of our allies on the ground in Iraq — the national government, the Kurds, the “awakened” Sunni sheiks, and plain ordinary Iraqis who can see the improvement around them.

The hypothesis that these trends are driving each other leads to a prediction about observables. Newspapers that take a pro-Iraq-war position, and Fox News among the networks, should be faring better than competitors in similar markets, and the divergence should have increased markedly in the last six to nine months.

I don’t know whether this is actually true. If it’s not, and that can be documented, I’m certain an angry left-winger will trumpet the facts in the comment thread on this post. Let’s see, shall we?


  1. Implied but not stated in this article is this:

    Cancel Newsweek and Time
    Cancel your newspaper if it is feeding you news
    torn from the AP or NYT fax machine.
    This is very common.

    This information is catchy but intellectual poison.
    There are other sources online and
    you will not be supporting these terrorist enablers
    with your dollars.

    Its a big world out there and these tired dinosaurs
    live in a liberal bubble and dont get it.

    Just say NO

    The Wall Street Journal will be attempting to fill
    this vacuum. Check out the Economist too for a
    different viewpoint.

    You could donate a little of the money saved
    to Michael Yon or some of the other courageous bloggers
    who have been bringing us real news of the war on terror

  2. I’m not so sure about the correllation between the Surge and the decline of the MSM. As you’ve noted the failure is accellerating faster than past projections that were supposed to factor in the internet etc. My pet theory is we are well past the tipping point and that newspapers are not sliding but are in actual freefall.

    Liberal ideology is undoubtedly responsible for part of the fall. Insulting the values of roughly half of the country can’t possibly be a good general marketing plan. But as much as we on the right like to gloat, that is not the whole reason. Hard copy news media is too expensive to produce and too slow off the mark for the emerging demographic audience to effectively compete. That it is happening to an overwhelming liberal industry is icing on the cake, yet what will emerge from the ashes? I don’t know, but it is obvious that the infrastructure created by old time media players will not have to financial resources to survive without a different mechanism to fund it.

  3. I almost wish I still had subscriptions to Time, Newsweek, and my local newspaper so I could cancel them now. They are so full of inaccuracies and dominated by liberal bias that they are no longer of any use to me. I am going to call up and cancel Dish Network today and be done with the whole lot of them.

  4. I do not know whether your last speculation is true or not. I do know that the news from Iraq has been good and getting steadily better since March 2003. The news from OIF has never been any other than good and, God willing, never will be.

    Every war involves a learning experience because every deranged personality or oligarchy of such personalities who essays to overwhelm representatives of humanity and the love of God presents their target(s) with an unprecedented and mostly unforeseeable set of conditions and resources to be met, solved or defeated. It is a blessing of non-statist nations that their resources for coping with attacks are limitless because their citizens and social structures are free and independent and thereby capable of learning, responsibility and leadership.

    OIF, importantly, is not a war. It is one of several operations inside a war. Both OIF and the war of which it is a part — usually termed GWOT and sometimes termed, justifiably, WWIII — are being successfully prosecuted by our country and others and particularly by the professional competence of our men and women and those of other countries who are under arms, guarding humanity and expressing therein the love of God for all creatures.

  5. There is another reason, perhaps more important. The big media actively insult a large percentage of the population. Own a gun? Serve in the military? Serve in Viet Nam? Possess a pair of testicals? Vote for Reagan? For that matter, vote for Dubya? If one has done any of those things then be ready for the stream of insults.
    I’m a married man, I can get insulted without buying a newspaper or turning on the TV. It’s more comfortable sitting around in the recliner getting insulted. And I don’t have to put on shoes. So I read some books, I fool around on the internet and I only turn on the TV to watch old western movies and NASCAR races. The last time I watched Network TV was during the invasion of Iraq. I do not buy or read newspapers and the only print media I read are Rifle Magazine and Handloader Magazine.

  6. I confess, in this area I’m a dinosaur. I’ve subscribed to a newspaper for 22 year, and I expect to continue for quite a while.

    On the other hand, the only part I regularly read (and the only reason we still subscribe) is so my wife and I can read the comics together.

  7. Peter, I made that same comment 49 years ago during the Vietnam police action. In addition to giving up all newspapers, and magazines except Weekly Standard which I do not intend to renew
    and almost all movies. (I watch John Wayne DVDs and Jane Austen videos) and my lack of participation in the old LSM is only because of the liberal lies and the cacoon these people live. I also have a library of first edition conservative books, a 2 tour vietnam vet spouse, a disabled “Veitnam vet son, a Marine Grandson. Who needs the New York times

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