Friday, July 11, 2008

The Future Is Here

The future of newspapers has arrived in Wisconsin. Editor and Publisher reported this week that the Daily Telegram in Superior is spiking its daily print edition in favor of a Web-based paper. It will print only two days a week. The Daily Telegram is following in the footsteps of another paper, the Capital Times in Madison, which announced a similar move earlier this year.

These two papers are small, but they are headed in the direction that the rest of the industry must go in. The only difference is that the Wisconsin papers are getting there first. The current newspaper business model is unsustainable. No new news there. Everything is cheaper on the Web. You don't need newsprint, ink, printing presses and therefore not much brick and mortar. Contrary to popular opinion, though, you do need reporters (but fewer editors). And so Zell and others are in fact killing the golden goose instead of feeding it.

Still, a Web-based paper is a very economical way to publish. (And that's why newspapers are losing their franchises. Anybody can be a publisher now. Newspapers will never have the last word ever again. Hallelujah, baby!)

If you're saddled with all of the newsprint, ink and presses, you can't there from here in one step. You could if somebody had the fortitude to just do it (and I'm sure Zell, et al, have thought about it). But the upheaval probably would be too great. Perhaps the community would wake up from its slumber and be outraged - outraged! That's why print newspapers will die from a thousand cuts.

But I think it will be all over but the shouting in about 3 years. The combination of profit/ revenue that's not going to be generated because circulation and ad revenue is tanking and the crushing debt that has to be paid is going to push everything and everybody over the cliff much sooner than insiders think.


papercuts hurt said...

My dad was telling about some papers that were making the electronic switchover. It doesn't seem like a bad idea, especially if they are offered in PDF form so the people who just "can't" read articles on screens can get in on it too. With electronic possibly being the way to go it makes you wonder why the Sentinel's online page looks so awful. I mean a website doesn't equal a cluttered mess.

Maria Padilla said...

I agree. The Sentinel home page is a cluttered mess, which is probably a good sign of cluttered thinking.