I won’t pretend that it will be painless. Between the buyouts earlier this summer and the demands placed on us by the IHT and the Website — not to mention the heroic commitment we’ve made to covering the aftermath of Katrina – we don’t have a lot of slack. Like the rest of you, I found the recent spate of retirement parties more saddening than celebratory, both for the obvious personal reasons and because they represented a sapping of our collective wisdom and experience. Throughout these lean years you have worked your hearts out to perform our daily miracle, and I wish I could tell you relief was in sight.
Bob Cauthorn comments on Rebuilding Media about newspapers on the precipice:
The pro-industry spin will talk about combining web-site and print readers, which is disingenuous in exactly 1,465 ways. For example, does someone from Islamabad dipping in for one story on your web site have equal value as a seven-day-a- week local print subscriber?…
…The notion of platform shift — people moving from print to web just, you know, because — is a comfort to the media establishment as it suggests people still really, really, really love their product, they’re just selecting a different distribution mechanism.
Nonsense. The platform shift doctrine is a dangerous — and for some media companies, ultimately fatal — illusion that blinds the industry to necessary changes in the core product. Platform shift is the argument for the status quo: We don’t have to do anything different.
Speaking of not doing anything different, the Wall Street Journal ran this story about magazines experimenting with “digital editions”: “electronic versions of their publications that replicate every page of the print edition down to the table of contents and the ads.”
Cauthorn goes on about possibly breathing new life into print:
If newspapers fix their print products circulation will grow — change format, revive local coverage, alter the hierarchical approach to the news, open the ears of the newsrooms and get reporters back on the street where they belong. If you want to get really daring, re-imagine print newspapers as a three-day a week product rather than as a seven-day a week product.
As a practical matter, print newspapers only make money three days a week anyway. Imagine the interplay between a seven day a week digital product and a densely focused (and wildly profitable) three-day a week print product. Each doing different things. Each serving readers and advertisers in different ways.
The Guardian has just totally revamped its print identity, abandoning the broadsheet for the more petite Berliner format and adopting a slicker style. It’ll be worth watching whether this catches on. New packaging might make newspapers cuter, but not necessarily better.