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For a few years now, the big talk among newspaper biz types boiled down to a speculative question: When will your lines cross?

That, of course, is industry jargon, so let me explain. One of those lines represents the revenue that your paper gets from its print activities—that is, display ads, classified ads, and so on. The other line represents revenue that you get from online activities—that is, ads on your Web site.

Both of those lines, in previous years, have been headed in opposite directions, with the print line headed downward at a steady and troubling rate, and the online line headed upward.

All the talk about the lines crossing was hopeful talk about that magical moment when online revenues would essentially replace all the losses from the print model.

And then the second quarter of 2008 happened. That’s when newspapers around the country recorded their first drop in online revenues. As reporting in the New York Times, this basket of cash was down 2.4 percent compared with the same period last year, to $777 million.

Meaning that if the trend continues, these lines may never cross.

If this happens for another quarter or two, look for people in the industry to stop talking about the Internet as the future of the industry. Maybe some other platform will be invented in the next couple of years. May be a job for Al Gore.