When the Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed its last newspaper and went online, my wife and I resolved to actually go and see where the Baltimore Sun where she works is printed.
You can see why printing a paper is an expensive undertaking.
Huge rolls of paper.
Actually there is a warehouse of paper, brought in by train on tracks that run right into the building.
The presses are decades old, but impressive. Paper flies through at what seems like a hundred miles an hour and suddenly neatly folded papers appear overhead, dangling from what look like roller coaster tracks. The workers grab the first ones, and flip through with that practiced motion you've seen folks do when they're eager to find a sports score, though these workers are checking for color problems and print defects.
Sometimes things get really snarled up.
It's hard to see one of these operations and not think that the newspapers are spending a lot of money to basically print out their Web pages and deliver them to people's doorsteps.
It doesn't make sense to stop the presses right now though. The big money still comes from print ads. Here's a chart with data from the Newspaper Association of America comparing print advertising spending to online.
Right now print advertising is down. Circulation is down. So layoffs are up.