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It’s the Internet, Dad!

My Michigan son tells me that the Detroit Free Press will be doing home delivery only three days a week as a cost-cutting measure.

I asked him what the source of the difficulty is, and he responded succinctly, “The internet, Dad!”

Of course he’s right; internet advertising at least partly displaces print advertising, shifting the demand curve for newspapers leftward; and with ad revenues forming a major source of newspaper revenues and profits, it’s unsurprising that this once-leading paper has fallen on hard times.

This kind of problem occurs with every major technological innovation. This was discussed in the case of home weavers/spinners and industrialized textile manufacturing in George Eliot‘s Silas Marner. My favorite line on this was by my former teacher, colleague, and co-author, the late Albert Rees, who once asked the leader of the International Whiskmakers Union (they made brooms) what his biggest problem was; the guy replied, “The vacuum cleaner.”