Jack Shafer of Slate explains how newspapers hit hard times before the popularity of the internet, despite the general impression that it was the internet that began the decline of print news.
The newspaper industry began worrying about losing its hold on readers as early as the 1960s, assigning task force after task force to the problem. So acute was the perceived crisis that in 1976, Los Angeles Times media reporter David Shaw asked in his multipart series, “Are you now holding an endangered species in your hands?”
The bad news began to mount in the pre-pre-Internet days of the 1980s, when the number of dailies published in the United States began a slide that continues. By 1990, total newspaper circulation began to dip, and most ominously, the percentage of adults who read newspapers commenced cratering in 1970. About 78 percent partook of dailies then, and by 2003, only about 54 percent did.