Out Of The Ashes Of Newspapers...

from the looking-forward dept

Lots of folks have been writing in asking about the news that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has finally admitted what many people knew was going to happen for a while: the newspaper is shutting down, while the website will live on with a much smaller staff. Of course, rather than focusing on the "death" of the paper, it's a lot more interesting to look at the opportunities the new site will embrace. The kickoff discussion seems to be full of excitement about a chance to do something different than to simply mimic what everyone has been saying a newspaper needs to be:
We're going to break a lot of rules that newspaper Web sites stick to, and we are looking everywhere for efficiencies.... We don't have reporters, editors or producers--everyone will do and be everything. Everyone will write, edit, take photos and shoot video, produce multimedia and curate the home page.
We definitely need more experiments and flexibility, so it will be worth watching what happens here. I'm not sure it's the best idea to make everyone do everything (splitting jobs up so that there's more streamlined efficiency does have value), but it's great to see that the new folks are at least open to experimenting -- with a focus on delivering more value (finally!) to the reader:
We're going to focus on what readers are telling us they want and on what makes SeattlePI.com essential and unique--within the context of our local news mission, of course. We know what we do best, and we are going to build on the things that we know our readers love, and look to find new ways to inform and entertain them.
Meanwhile, with the Rocky Mountain News shutting down a few weeks back, some of the reporters there have gathered together to try to startup a brand new online-only publication called In Denver Times. They're making an interesting play, however: saying they'll only start it if they get 50,000 people to agree to pay $5/month by April 23rd. That seems like a tall order, given that people aren't really being told what they're getting. The reporters say that plenty of the news will be available for free on their site, but subscribers will get access to bonus materials, such as opinion pieces and special chat rooms. But, for that to work, there needs to be a clear benefit to those, and since they don't yet exist, there may be something of an "empty room" problem.

Either way, it'll be worth watching both experiments play out. They may not be successful (and, if I had to bet, I'd probably bet against both), but it's great to see new experiments and ideas being tested directly out of the ashes of these two newspapers. It makes it pretty clear that the death of a newspaper certainly doesn't mean the death of journalism.


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    Dale Andersen, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    Out Of The Ashes Of Newspapers...

    Actually, you're wrong. It does mean the death of journalism. No one takes online news reporting seriously. In any event, let's hope, over at the P-I, they don't sell off the equipment for scrap or gut the building for condos. They may need to go back to newsprint after the revolution when the last IT Manager is strangled by the entrails of the last blogger...

     

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      Mike (profile), Mar 16th, 2009 @ 4:55pm

      Re: Out Of The Ashes Of Newspapers...

      No one takes online news reporting seriously.

      Really? That's quite a claim, considering some of the stories that have been broken by online-only sites.

      Besides, these are the same reporters who used to be working for a newspaper. How have they suddenly become different?

       

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    Carol Jenkins, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 6:54pm

    "the death of journalism"

    American newspapers were born as paid mouthpieces for political groups and so they die. There may have been a brief shining moment some decades ago when they just reported news in accordance with some sainted philosophy of journalism, but that moment was fleeting.

     

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    Eludium-Q36, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 9:26pm

    About that Business Model

    Hmm, a little concerned. The hardcopy print subscriptions/advertising basically subsidizes online operations. Are online-only sites going to want subscriptions ? If they do, will they want them from non-locals ? For instance, I live in the Wash DC area but from time to time I like to check in on LA Times, Seattle PI, and Denver Post. This is casual, infrequent use. I don't want to be forced to subscribe just for casual browsing. Heck, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't even subscribe to the Wash Post or Times online which are local to me, since they're such a small part of my total news intake.

    No, the new business model better be ad-based and/or paid for by service-offerers. But then again, maybe if the subscription cost was on the order of $1 or $2/month that's not too bad. Or maybe bump up our ISP cost (hiss) by $5/month to cover all online subscriptions, like we do for cable tv. We're all already paying $45/month for broadband which should be including lots of subscription costs as it is.

     

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    Dale Andersen, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 10:22pm

    Out Of The Ashes Of Newspapers...

    Memo to Eludium-Q36:

     

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    Dale Andersen, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 10:26pm

    Out Of The Ashes Of Newspapers...

    Memo to Eludium-Q36: It all comes crashing down because no one will pay for it. Lazy online readers who cavalierly refer to a reporter's hard work as "content" won't pay for news. And where are the ads gonna come from when Craig's List is free (except for ads for prostitution)....

     

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    identicon
    Dale Andersen, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 10:26pm

    Out Of The Ashes Of Newspapers...

    Memo to Eludium-Q36: It all comes crashing down because no one will pay for it. Lazy online readers who cavalierly refer to a reporter's hard work as "content" won't pay for news. And where are the ads gonna come from when Craig's List is free (except for ads for prostitution)....

     

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    yogi, Mar 16th, 2009 @ 11:11pm

    The value of news

    News just does not have much value for most people. Try going without for a month and you'll realize that.Most news is just stupid filler: PR releases and propaganda - political and economic- of every kind. Who needs this shit?

    People did live for millenia without newspapers. I imagine we'll manage to continue without them again.

    News that people value will still prosper, especially, I imagine, professional journals.

    And for those daily, meaningless conversation we'll still have ESPN and CNN and so on. No biggie.

     

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    Kirk, Mar 17th, 2009 @ 7:45am

    Backwards

    The Denver Post guy on public radio this morning said that they're not going to make the mistake of pinning their business model on advertising since that's just not going to work. Uh Oh. Someone should help them understand that subscriptions aren't going to work.

    And to this dude:
    "Lazy online readers who cavalierly refer to a reporter's hard work as "content" won't pay for news."

    It's not the readers' job to think of reasons why they should pay. And lazy? Really?! Perhaps you're lazy for not putting my kids through college. Or maybe you just have better things to do with your time and money.

     

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    Kirk, Mar 17th, 2009 @ 12:24pm

    Apologies

    I can be quite dense at times. I see now that you were joking.

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh, Mar 17th, 2009 @ 12:27pm

    Obsolescence, in newspapers and generally

    I agree, but it is hard not to have sympathy.
    GM had too many good years, and they ended up with uneducated workers who, I am told, may make as much as 150K to 200K per year.
    They can no longer be competitive, though they can limp along for a while with high-profit margin Hummers, etc.
    Eventually that all goes away - but while we could argue they were stupid not to realize they were painting themselves into a corner, remember - for years the only thing that mattered was the next QUARTER earnings! It was even a common joke!
    Same with the newspapers; dumb, yes, malicious, no.

     

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    Noah Smith, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 10:03pm

    Thank you

    ...made my day.

     

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