Turning inner space into outer space

March 1, 2014

People don't pay for news because they can't afford it

Much has been written about the decline in fortunes of newspapers, and of the news industry in general. One important point that has been lost in the shuffle is the decline of the middle class.

There was a time when it was normal for a family to subscribe to the local daily newspaper. It was cheap and chock full of a variety of content sure to please everyone. Even the kids could fight over who got first dibs on the comics.

But prices have gone up and a Canadian government report finds that incomes have stagnated. Worse, the middle class is actually shrinking — as MoneySense columnist Gail Vaz-Oxlade points out.

As someone who was recently booted out of the middle class when my place of employment, the Kamloops Daily News, shut down, I can tell you that one of the first things I did was look at my budget — how much I was spending and where I could make savings.

Suddenly, newspapers became a luxury. With tax, the Saturday edition of The Vancouver Sun costs $4 in “outlying” areas. When it becomes a choice between the paper and milk for my family, there is no contest.

Not surprisingly, the Globe and Mail no longer even bothers trying to sell to people who make less than $100,000.

The other thing that got cut was cable TV, which in this area pretty much means all TV since over-the-air is almost non-existent. If I want to watch local news, I have to find it on the Internet. An increasing number of people trying to get by in today’s economy have cut cable and gone with Netflix or other alternatives. That trend can’t be encouraging for local news shows.

Unfortunately, with many companies seeing their employees as little more than line items on a spreadsheet, we will continue to see fewer people willing or able to spend money on news.