Yesterday's New York Times reports on the growing trend in newspapers to cut back on the number of comic strips they run. (Ironically, the Times doesn't have a comics section...) (link via Thought Balloons.)
It's a shortsighted move for all of the reasons listed in the article, mainly alienating either current or potential readers in a time of shrinking readership. But it's even worse than that. I think that newspapers need comic strips more than comic strips need newspapers. In these days of the Internet (hah, Wired, I'm still capitalizing it!) a creator can self-publish online, grow a following, then put together a print collection (e.g. Joy of Tech, or the many strips on KeenSpot.) Sure, the chances of emerging as the next Jim Davis or Scott Adams is almost non-existant, but is that so bad? It's more important that the medium survive, not that a handful of people get rich.
Given the sorry state of most newspaper comics pages, many people already read their comics online, since you can't rely on your local paper to have many (if any) strips worth reading in the first place. It's not that far away from the time when readers no longer associate comic strips with newspapers. That's ultimately a loss for the papers.