CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A grim statistic for the nation's newspaper industry is buried in the Census Bureau's latest volume of the Statistical Abstract of the United States, which is being released today. It predicts that for the first time in history, Americans will spend more time using the Internet than reading newspapers.
This is a sign that the migration away from printed information to digital sources has accelerated -- and if it is in the Statistical Abstract -- it makes the trend official.
An interesting report about the quick shift to the Internet was written for The Associated Press by Stephen Ohlemacher, who now is based in Washington with the wire service. (FULL DISCLOSURE: He is a former colleague from The Plain Dealer who worked in the Columbus Bureau.)
Americans are expected to spend 195 hours using the Internet in the year ahead, and 175 hours with newspapers. Last year, people gave the Internet 104 hours. Newspapers got nearly twice as much of their time -- 201 hours -- which equals a full, 40-hour workweek of poring over the pages, working crosswords etc. Those days look to be over, and probably forever.
''Many of the media numbers are from the Communications Industry Forecast & Report by Veronis Subler Stevenson, a private equity firm serving the media industry,'' Ohlemacher wrote in his AP dispatch. ''The Census Bureau assembles the statistics from government and private sources so researchers, academics and businesses can find them in one place."
Ohlemacher's report indicates that reading the printed word is in decline across the board: seven hours a year less for magazines; an hour less for books.