Charles Steindel: What Killed The Newspapers?:
While everyone loves fancy technological explanations...
...around 2000 airline, bank, and department store mergers drastically reduced major sources of print advertising. The technology comes in partly because it wiped out classified, and partly because it prevented the growth of alternatives.
I recall that years ago a local appliance store took out a daily full-page ad in the Newark Star-Ledger (which at the time had a circulation approaching 500,000). That must have been a major ongoing revenue source for the paper. As happens to such outfits (it was a classic high-inventory, quick delivery, high-pressure place--good prices if you could put up with it), it succumbed to a recession. People still buy lots of appliances in New Jersey, but nobody places ads like that anymore.
An interesting thing on the chart is that real ad revenue is still about where it was in 1950. I know that was a long time ago, and real wages for reporters, etc., are a lot higher than back then. But there were many more newspapers. Why is the quality of the remaining ones going down so much (they are better than 1950, but why aren't they on a par with or better than, say, papers in the late 1960s? Of course, this is all personal opinion).