The future of print media looks grim. A new PwC report forecasts print revenue will continue to decline through 2022, which doesn't bode well for newspapers that have fought through layoffs and cost cuts in recent years.
The media industry on the whole has suffered as digital-native competitors like Facebook and Google consume increasing shares of advertising revenue. Print publications have been hit especially hard, as digital media becomes the choice medium for news consumption. In the meantime, opportunistic hedge funds and private equity firms have swooped in, buying up ailing newspapers and provoking accusations their profit-focused management styles accelerate the demise of print.
The Denver Post has become the face of this struggle, due to an editorial published in its own pages lashing out against owners, New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
Coordinated by editor Chuck Plunkett, the editorial labeled Alden "vulture capitalists" and protested a strategy the staff said reduced "the amount and quality of its offerings, while steadily increasing its subscription rates." It accused Alden of hiding behind the "narrative that adequately staffed newsrooms and newspapers can no longer survive in the digital marketplace."
The editorial followed a particularly brutal round of layoffs in April that cut the staff by one third, down 30 from about 100. The Post has cut its staff about 70 percent since Alden and its founder Randall Smith took control in 2011, according to data from the Denver Newspaper Guild.
"Everybody has to do more for less and there are some things we've just had to let go," said Noelle Phillips, law enforcement and public safety reporter for the Denver Post. "There is no room to be innovative with digital or online. You are so busy staying afloat you can't do something like that."
The Denver Post is "not shrinking because of a bad business model – I'm sure that's part of it, but the reason you are getting less paper every year is because of our ownership," said Joe Rubino, a Denver Post business reporter who has worked with the paper for three years.