(News)paper Chase: From downsizing to digitizing

The ongoing saga of how to sell the story — resuscitate the ad revenue lifeline for print media — is more often than not becoming the story itself.

While the newsprint and newsroom personnel downsize …

“In 2009 and 2010, all the two-newspaper markets will become one-newspaper markets, and you will start to see one-newspaper markets become no-newspaper markets,” said Mike Simonton, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, who analyzes the industry.


Nearly every large paper in the country prints fewer pages and fewer articles, and many have eliminated entire sections. Bureaus in foreign capitals and even Washington have closed, and papers have jettisoned film criticism, book reviews and coverage of local news outside their home markets.


The steady trickle of downsizing that sapped American papers for almost a decade has become a flood in the last few years. The Los Angeles Times still has one of the largest news staffs in the country, about 600 people, but it was twice as big in the late 1990s. The Washington Post had a newsroom of more than 900 six years ago, and has fewer than 700 now. The Gannett Company, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, eliminated more than 8,300 jobs in 2007 and 2008, or 22 percent of the total.

online expansion is a window of opportunity for companies looking to transition in the technological age – to adjust and adapt to, instead of avoid, the digital domain …


The death of a newspaper should result in an explosion of much smaller news sources online, producing at least as much coverage as the paper did, says Jeff Jarvis, director of interactive journalism at the City University of New York’s graduate journalism school. Those sources might be less polished, Mr. Jarvis said, but they would be competitive, ending the monopolies many newspapers have long enjoyed.

though it may not be greeted with the warmest welcome …

Many critics and competitors of newspapers — including online start-ups that have been hailed as the future of journalism — say that no one should welcome their demise.

“It would be a terrible thing for any city for the dominant paper to go under, because that’s who does the bulk of the serious reporting,” said Joel Kramer, former editor and publisher of The Star Tribune and now the editor and chief executive of MinnPost .com, an online news organization in Minneapolis.

“Places like us would spring up,” he said, “but they wouldn’t be nearly as big. We can tweak the papers and compete with them, but we can’t replace them.”


the transition is seen as an inevitability

A number of money-losing papers should “have the guts to shut down print and go online,” he said. “It will have to be a much smaller product, but that’s where we’re headed anyway.”

Industry executives who once scoffed at the idea of an Internet-only product now concede that they are probably headed in that direction, but the consensus is that newspapers going all digital would become drastically smaller news sources for the foreseeable future.

Again, the print media needs to break down the barriers between itself and online news media. Print needs to start from the ground up in the digital sphere, and that begins with interacting with online journalists — and yes, bloggers — to get acclimated to the new world of online news journalism.

Even Howard Zinn can attest to early Pilgrims’ alliance with Natives in the U.S. That collaboration was integral to the settlers survival — much like an alliance on behalf of the print media with the online news media community is integral to the newspaper’s survival.

Naturally, as the settlers gained manpower, capital, a manifesto, and regained enough sanity to remember why they ventured here in the first place, they went from friends to forefathers of a new nation built on the backs of Nativ– I mean morals and ideals of true Patriots. I see print doing the same; I see print’s future relying on a collaboration with bloggers, online journalists, etc., to gain the basic grasp of this new medium. More importantly, I see that as the “cut losses” in time and revenue before rebranding and rebuilding the corporate print news empire online.

Print media needs to start from the ground up. Many companies — obviously the increasingly paranoid, but rightfully so, New York Times — take the fear-of-the-unknown route and choose to valiantly play on the sinking ship. There’s nothing wrong with humbling yourself and starting from square one; for the print media, they’ve got nothing — and so nothing to lose.

Watch this space: especially you advertisers, it’s for sale — still

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