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Fortune: If Washington Post can’t make it online, who can?

In a story that seems like it was written for LostRemote commenter Hart, Fortune’s Mark Gunther gives us “Can the Washington Post survive?” Gunther lays it all out: the declining revenues in print, the increased focus in multimedia journalism, the hyperlocal strategies. Having earned a slew of industry awards in every category from design to advertising to journalism, is arguably the best of the breed without even taking into account the 131-year-old ink-and-paper giant that bred it. CEO Don Graham poured millions into the online operation while other publishers were doubling down in print and would later pay the price.

But even the most successful online newspaper doesn’t pull down enough cash to compare to advertisers’ perceived value of print: “Advertisers paid about $573 million last year to reach readers of the company’s newspapers, predominantly the 673,900 daily and 937,700 Sunday subscribers to the Post. Advertisers paid only about $103 million to reach the eight million unique visitors to the Post’s Web sites each month.” And later in the article, Mark gives us this warming chestnut:

Getting a bigger share of national spending will be even harder, because advertisers who want to reach news readers have so many other places to spend their money – other newspapers, TV news sites, Yahoo and MSN, news aggregators like the Drudge Report and Huffington Post, even blogs. “You’re almost always going to be able to find inventory,” says Jordan Bitterman, director of media for Digitas, which buys Internet advertising for American Express, AT&T and General Motors. “So the buyer has more leverage than in the print category.”

Anyway you look at this, it isn’t a pretty picture for anyone in the news business. Print is bleeding, but our customers, the guys like Jordan Bitterman who buy our advertising space, go to bed happy at night knowing they don’t need to pay us a lot to reach our online audiences.

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