Newspapers: The Titanic Already Hit The Iceberg – How Long Till It Sinks?

Seattle Post-Intelligencer website – the only part of the newspaper to survive?

Well, I haven’t posted on this blog for a few months – been busy trying to get up to speed on Web-standards HTML and CSS, and trying to see just how far you could push readability on the Web.

It’s been fascinating to watch how the inexorable decline of traditional media has accelerated, in part fueled by the global recession. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, for instance, announced it was up for sale, and if no buyer emerged within 60 days, it would cease printing. The only part of the organization likely to survive is its Web presence.
News organizations all over the world are going through the same agonies, watching circulations drop, print advertising revenues decline, and are keenly aware that Web advertising revenues are not growing to fill the revenue gap.
I’m an ex-newspaperman myself. But you have to leave sentiment behind; no use trying to preserve a past that no longer makes any sense. Printing of newspapers is an anachronism. Plant trees, pulp paper, print, cut and fold, then ship physical objects to your customers. Can anyone really believe we’ll still be doing that 50 years from now, when you can ship digital news 24/7, virtually instantly? It’s an astonishing waste of energy and biomass.
In the past, the major assets of any news organization were:

1. A news-gathering organization
2. An advertising sales organization
3. A high-speed printing operation
4. A distribution system able to get their product to customers quickly
The first two of these four assets are still worth money. The third and fourth are rapidly decreasing in value. The Titanic already hit the iceberg – it’s just a question of how long it will take for the “watertight compartments” to fill, and sink the ship. And there aren’t nearly enough lifeboats for everyone.
I read last week that a major UK newspaper (I think it was the Daily Telegraph) just installed a new set of printing presses, with the comment that it would probably be the last time its presses were ever upgraded.
To be brutal, I think they’d have been better just sticking with what they had (assuming the presses still worked).
There are worrying questions, though. I’d like to see news organizations which are capable of making the digital shift survive, along with the tried-and-trusted process of fact-checking and verification they have to use.
We’re in a time of revolution. Revolutions always cause chaos. A lot of the good often ends up disappearing along with the bad. If I was running a newspaper today, I’d be building a lifeboat like crazy, setting up a separate financial structure so that the newsgathering and advertising organizations didn’t get sucked down to the bottom when the ship went down, and I’d have my Lifeboat List of staff already drawn up.
We still haven’t seen the real potential of the growth of the digital newspaper. The Seattle P-I, for instance, has something a lot more readable than its website. The P-I is one of the newspapers which has used the Windows Presentation Foundation-based newsreader technology to build an adaptive layout version of the paper. You can download it for free at:
IMO, they’re wasting the potential by failing to sell advertising in the Reader. Instead, they use ad space for puff pieces about their own staff.
It’s not easy to do. It will take a radically different approach. But the end result is online advertising that’s much better than banner ads or other Web ads of today.
Advertising doesn’t have to be intrusive. People buy the print version of Vogue as much for the high-quality ads as the other content. Online ads can be just as beautiful, and just as readable – not something so intrusive you feel you have to scroll quickly past them.


2 thoughts on “Newspapers: The Titanic Already Hit The Iceberg – How Long Till It Sinks?

  1. randy

    The content you have provided is pretty interesting and useful and I will surely take note of the point you have made in the blog.I was surfing the Internet a few days back to find out what would be the best strategy to get mass exposure and traffic to my website. I found that newspaper and magazine advertising can be very helpful. If you are looking to boost your website traffic at affordable rates and get an audience of millions to view your website, then try advertising in broadsheet newspapers that offer national exposure. I did this with web windows which is a UK based company and found amazing results with my newspaper ads. It’s also got the added advantage of reaching out to those potential customers who do not use the Internet.I thought this information might be useful for anyone looking for solutions to get more traffic to their website at affordable rates.

  2. Richard Fink

    When it all falls apart, it falls apart very fast.I spent the first fourteen of my money-earning years in the apparel industry of New York.Within a thirty-six month period, every customer, every competitor, and some suppliers, too, had to close their doors as the entire industry – in search of cheap labor – moved to China, the Carribean, and elsewhere. A tsunami. Gone With The Wind.No point getting tearful about it – that just delays the process of finding something else to do for a living!There’s a great Stephen Sondheim song called “Move On” from the show “Sunday In The Park With George” that comes to mind.”I chose, and my world was shaken–so what?The choice may have been mistakenbut choosing was not.You have to move on.”


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