NEW YORK—According to a report published this week in American Journalism Review, 93 percent of all newspaper sales can now be attributed to kidnappers seeking to prove the day's date in filmed ransom demands.
"Although the vast majority of Americans now get their news from the Internet or television, a small but loyal criminal element still purchases newspapers at a steady rate," study author and Columbia journalism professor Linus Ridell said. "The sober authority of the printed word continues to hold value for those attempting to extort large sums of money from wealthy people who wish to see their loved ones alive again, and not chopped into pieces and left in steamer trunks on their doorsteps."
"These are sick, sick individuals," Ridell added. "God bless them for saving our industry."
According to a source who wished to remain anonymous, there is an ineffable quality to the printed page that kidnappers cannot get from its digital counterpart. Though there are other methods for proving the date of grainy, home-made videos, the source said that newspapers add a certain gravitas to abductions that news websites do not.
"Holding a laptop next to a kid's head while blood is streaming from his nose just isn't the same," said the source, adding that printed materials remove any uncertainty about dates being altered with Photoshop or other digital manipulation software. "There's just something about the feel of newsprint and the smell of ink coupled with the mildew odor of a windowless basement that can't be replaced. Ultimately, I think newspapers make the whole thing more tangible and concrete for everyone involved."
"They're also great for wrapping up a severed ear and mailing it to the family when they don't come through with the cash fast enough," the source continued. "And I always enjoy reading For Better Or For Worse."
In an effort to cater to their sole remaining customer base, many newspapers have started to run features and advertising targeted at the ruthless abductors. The Washington Post recently sold a two-page advertorial to a popular ski-mask manufacturer, while The New York Times now offers a real estate section dedicated primarily to abandoned warehouses, remote wooden sheds, and converted industrial meat freezers hidden from prying eyes.
In addition to buoying the failing newspapers, criminals are also providing a revenue stream to struggling magazines and other weekly periodicals, the report said. While most Americans have cut back on specialty publications, kidnappers still find them useful for making cut-and-paste ransom letters and death threats.
Although newsstand sales remain steady, neither newspapers nor magazines have seen much growth in terms of subscriptions, as their last existing consumers are extremely reluctant to provide permanent addresses.
"In order to reflect the purchasing habits of our most loyal customers, we will work with our distributors to ensure that these people can get newspapers at all hours of the night in inconspicuous, security-camera-free venues," said billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who later offhandedly mentioned that his wife often takes late-evening walks all by herself. "As long as violent sociopaths continue to abduct those closest to affluent people for huge cash ransoms, the long and storied tradition of the American newspaper will be preserved."
The newspaper industry joins several other sectors that are supported solely by kidnappers, including, most notably, voice-modulator manufacturing and sales.