Seattle Post Intelligencer shuts down: the sign of things to come?

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Before you go any further, read this excellent post on the future of the newspaper industry. Done? OK, good. A business that has been running for 146 years will shut down for good tomorrow. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will produce it’s last printed edition and move to a web-only news source. Interestingly, it won’t be a newspaper version online – it will  ‘feature new columns from prominent Seattle residents; more than 150 reader blogs, community databases and photo galleries. We’ll also be linking to the great work of other Web sites and blogs in the community’. This comes close on the heels of the closure of Rocky Mountain News (Established: 1859!).

What is happening with newspapers abroad? As the demand for news increases, paradoxically, it is sounding the proverbial death knell for several newspapers. The smarter, nimbler ones are experimenting with new avatars to keep the business afloat. It is clear that the traditional model of circulation=readership=advertising isn’t working anymore. Online news sources, television, blogs are all competition for the printed daily.

While the threat from the internet is minimal for mainline English dailies in India, they are all mostly following the same pattern and doing the same things. The content available on their online versions is mostly stuff from the offline version, wire stories and some commentary. There is a little bit of interactivity – if you can call commenting on stories interactive. Some of them like LiveMint and Hindustan Times do have blogs from staffers. Among the online versions of newspapers from this region, I found the effort from Pakistan’s Dawn interesting. It has a blog like feel and the content is a mix of the offline stuff and commentary.

I am a big fan of newspapers and magazines – my collection includes LIFE magazine titles from the late ‘60s, old National Geographics and assorted newspaper titles from abroad. It is quite sad to see venerable titles shutting down their print version – a sign of things to come. Some are adapting – Newsweek, for example. According to this NYT article, when the US Airways flight landed in the Hudson River last month, Newsweek sent reporters and photographers to the scene. Considerable effort yielded a modest article on Newsweek’s Web site, and nothing in the printed magazine. All that they would have printed was already available on the web. Newsweek hopes to now attract a much smaller, but affluent audience. Newsweek’s editor says: ‘If we don’t have something original to say, we won’t.’ Will our Indian newspaper editions online move towards that soon?

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  1. The newspapers have always been late to react and are still not waking up to the online media and trying to monetise with the help of the rising virtual media consumer. But the television news channels are banking on the online visitors. Live streaming of news along with journo blogs and consumer interactivity is giving news channels the edge in the virtual world as well. Indian Newspapers can learn a thing or two. Though newspapers like DNA and HT have come up with ideas like giving the newspaper at a yearly cost which is equal to selling it to the ‘raddiwala’, can’t say how long that can help.

  2. Prajakta, totally agree on the TV news channels thing. I think IBN Live has taken the lead on that front with blogs and interactive stuff on their website. Another related issue with newspapers is the declining reading habit of those born after 1990 – they don’t have a reading habit and prefer the online medium. How will the traditional newspapers build a ‘brand’ among them? Newspaper titles like The Hindu and TOI are revered among the old timers. Do they command a similar respect among the younger lot? Doubt it. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I totally agree that the lot born after 1990 does not have a newspaper reading habit but then the dailies are to be blamed for that. How many of the national dailies have made an effort to suit the product to their needs. Just adding a city supplement with lots of gossip is not the solution nor is introducing papers like JLT and Yuva which make them feel like immature kids. The need of the hour of the hour to create a fluid layout for the newspapers with global content that the youth today demand and not just a daily which looks like every other and has only PR (read paid) articles without any true journalism.

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