All this is not to say that I don’t think there can be viable ad-only news organizations online. Clearly there are and will be more in the future. I just don’t see how it works on the scale of a metro newspaper. If newspapers go out of business, something else will spring up to take their place. Maybe whatever it is will provide better coverage.

Or maybe it won’t come close. That’s one long ball I don’t want to throw.

* corrected from 42.8 million to include evening-paper circulation

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.