Warren Buffett foresees an America without Newspapers I remain convinced that newspapers have a place, but they must adapt.

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May 9, 2018 No Comments ›› admin

By Lynn Woolley

If Buffett is right, only three papers will survive long-term – and that’s because they have shown the ability to make a profit from their digital products. If he’s right – and he often is – the day the newspapers die will be a sad day.

Newspapers, when they are fair and balanced, provide the best local coverage, analysis of big stories, local and national opinion columns, sports coverage – and comics. I grew up reading them and have never stopped.

A famous newspaper headline in the NY Post.

I remain convinced that newspapers have a place, but they must adapt.

Buffett says the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post just might make it. But how does that help me in my hometown? It doesn’t. Instead of promoting digital, local newspapers should be improving their core product and aggressively advertising it. Provide a better product and tell us why we need it.

Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 28 newspapers.

Buffett has never shied away from heritage industries—likes railroads and newspapers. Circulation for his newspapers has fallen along with the rest of the industry. Buffett knows that. So if he wants to keep them going, he’s in a position to lead a newspaper revolution.

Video: Buffett tells the B-H annual meeting that newspapers are not long for this world.

What would that look like? I know what I’d do.

I’d make the papers more colorful, keep the cost as low as possible, employ a fair and balanced reporting staff, promote heavily, be involved in my community to the Nth degree, and make my advertising rate card easier for merchants and ad agencies to use.

Warren Buffett

I might consider offering a dedicated printer to each subscriber – so that the paper could be quickly and cheaply printed at home. Failing that, I’d go to the Texas Tribune model and do an entire newspaper – online – each day.

I don’t know what Buffett might do.

He’s the billionaire, successful visionary. I’d like to see what his plan is. He should have some ideas. But what smaller papers usually do is cut back on coverage, make the size of the paper smaller, and go up on the price. I’d do everything the opposite.

If Newspapers are whittled down to three – what does that mean for radio and TV?

If the WSJ, NTY, and WaPo become the last print survivors, they won’t be print anymore. Remember, Buffett says it’s their digital offerings that will sustain them. So they will have video pre-rolls, and apps, and they’ll start looking more like radio and TV stations that are all doing the same thing.

Twenty years from now, I doubt that we’ll have over-the-air broadcasting. I think mobile devices will eat up all that bandwidth. Cable TV is barely still here now. The old media will not last that long if they keep cutting back – and if they provide a left-wing bias as so many do now.

Video: 2017 interview with Warren Buffett

In the future, we may not see much difference in any of the media – except that we can choose what to read or listen to, based on our preferred content. Or whatever the inevitable chip you’ll have in your head by then will receive.

Sincerely, I hope that newspapers, as printed media, can survive. But they cannot unless they get busy and become far more user-friendly. This is survival of the fittest. Adapt or die.


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