When free web readership is more valuable than paid print readership

Weak quarterly results at major newspaper publishers, says Reuters, are partly due to declines in circulation because consumers have moved to do-not-call lists, seriously impairing newspapers’ efforts to sell. Then there was all that fraud about how many papers were actually distributed.
As a former magazine circulation manager who spent a few happy years building a major metro daily’s website, I’m not surprised. A lot of newspaper “readers” wouldn’t be getting the paper if they hadn’t been called. And a big share of the paid circulation of most newspapers is simply given away and is unlikely ever to have been opened.
The laws of physics dictate that in print, the components of the paper are irrevocably yoked. If craigslist kills classifieds and big boxes kill run-of-paper ads, what becomes of news?
The opportunity of networked media is that quality editorial can find its own market and generate quality ad inventory. The challenge is figuring out which of the rest of your content is desirable “long-tail” inventory and which is dross.