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The Great Shrinking Papers (Cont.)

Coming on the heels of the Detroit newspapers' decision to curtail publication and delivery of their weekday papers, a few other dailies have followed suit with great reduction of printed papers.

The Tallahassee Democrat announced Monday that it's taking measures to reduce its paper production, eliminating the "TV Book" from the Sunday paper and shrinking the Monday and Tuesday editions. The paper cited dramatic losses in ad revenue as the primary reason for the reduction, after having trimmed 25 jobs in December.

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Enquirer is eliminating classified ads from its Monday and Tuesday papers, also after cutting jobs and getting about 60 employees to take voluntary buyouts. And as with the Tallahassee Democrat, the TV listings will be either reduced or purged.

Declining ad revenue, in the face of a recession, has forced a number of papers to take dramatic measures to cut cost. In the newspaper business, the top two expense items are payroll (and a good chunk of which goes to non-newsroom employees) and newsprint. So far, most papers have sought to reduce cost by slashing staff and reducing the size of the paper in order to cut cost.

But how long can newspapers continue to shrink its product without massive loss of their customers? The year 2009 is shaping up to be a watershed moment for the industry. Without a sudden improvement in the economy, it's but a certainty that a significant number of papers will be printing their final editions next year.

A large-scale migration to the web, however, appears all but inevitable. And there is some good news in this department: Almost each of the top 30 newspaper websites saw huge gains in recent months. The Los Angeles Times' web site, for example, in November made a 143% gain in unique visitors compared to the same period last year. The historic presidential election helped, sure, but there's little doubt that many people today are still reading their newspapers - they're just doing it online.