Monday, March 16, 2009

Print is Dead

Everywhere I've lived, I've been harassed by unsolicited calls asking me to subscribe to a newspaper, I've even been conned once or twice by less than scrupulous salespeople.  I've had paid subscriptions to dailies, the Tacoma News Tribune and Los Angeles Times.  I've delivered a free weekly.  And now I live in a town with two newspapers - one that comes once a week in the mail and one that comes twice a week delivered to the edge of our driveway.  I've had letters to the Editor in more newspapers than I can remember, and been featured in the everything from our local twice-weekly to The New York Times.  In Jr. High, High School and College I worked on the school paper, as a reporter and copy editor.

But I've also been known to say "Print is dead."  But now, to see it happen, I'm a little saddened.  A few months ago The Hearst Corporation announced to The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newsroom that it was putting the newspaper up for sale and giving the process 60-days.  A few days ago I was talking about it with friends and I was thinking "Yeah, the time limit must be nearing the end."

Tomorrow, it turns out, is the end.  The last issue has been printed and will be delivered to subscribers tomorrow.  And on Wednesday, 117,000 people will start receiving The Seattle Times instead.

According to Wikipedia, The Seattle PI was founded before The Seattle Times, on December 10, 1863.  It had lost money every year since 2000.  E.B. White was an employee at one time.

Can an online only newspaper survive?  Time will tell, but I'm not sure.  It'll really have to rely on distribution/syndication partners like Google News, CNN or MSNBC.  And while being able to publish a news story at any time on their website, I think without needing to fill a certain number of pages on a deadline that focus will be lost.  And competition online will be fierce - all the other local newspapers, radio stations, televison stations - all of whom have another media source to help cross-promote.  Not to mention bloggers and national media and other online news sources like Crosscut.  If it's got anything going for it, it is supposedly one of the most visited newspaper websites in the country.

The article also noted a bunch of new initiatives the new online-only newspaper was planning.  My only questions is - what had stopped them from launching those initiatives online and in print years ago.

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