Still, the online numbers aren’t as bad as they seem. Not all online newspaper readers are made equal. The top, say 10 percent of readers, who visit the home page twice a day are worth exponentially more than the bottom 10 percent, junk traffic that bounces in off Digg or some blog and which sees a page or two and spends maybe 10 seconds on the site. I wish I could quantify how much the top 10 percent are worth, but I’ve never been able to find data on that. Still, remove the junk traffic, and the online revenue per reader would rise.

Spin that how you want. Either newspapers have done a poor job of addicting more online readers to their offerings or their hardcore readers are still predominantly reading the print paper.

It’s clearly a mix of both.

So, which way to go? Attempt to protect your print franchise and hope you last long enough for an e-reader or some such thing to replace your print fixed costs? Or push your audience to the Web, cut your staff some more and pray that somehow ad CPM’s start skyrocketing?

You tell me.

ADDING: To be clear on that last paragraph: I’m not endorsing Paul Farhi’s suggestion that newspapers abandon the Web en masse. But they have to strike a better balance between their profitable and unprofitable products, while trying to build non-advertising revenue from their Web sites.

And none of this matters if print ad declines don’t stop plunging by 20 percent to 30 percent a year.

* I used the word “subscribers” several times when I actually meant subscriptions and newsstand sales. I’ve corrected that in the copy.

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.