Newspaper Death Watch: Seattle P-I Expires

Newspapers to the Web: You dropped a bomb on me, baby.

Newspapers to the Web: "You dropped a bomb on me, baby."

More than 117,000 subscribers will no longer be digging the Seattle Post-Intelligencer out of their shrubs. As of today, the 146-year-old newspaper ceased publishing as a newspaper, according to Hearst Corporation, the newspaper’s owner. Hearst CEO Frank Bennack Jr. said: “Our goal now is to turn into the leading news and information portal in the region.”

It’s another blow to an industry that can’t – and won’t – survive in the next few years. The P-I now joins the ranks of other print publications wiped out in the ongoing Great Media Collapse of 2009. Expect the P-I to have company soon – probably the Miami Herald, Detroit News, San Francisco Chronicle or the Boston Globe. Unfortunately, there’s no escaping the inevitable.

The slow-reaction to the Web explosion and the newspaper industry’s inability to embrace new technologies and delivery systems have doomed it. They simply spent too much time and effort trying to preserve the physical product: the printed newspaper. Instead they should have been exploiting the Web and driving how Web content would be consumed. Why didn’t the big newspaper companies buy up Craig’s List or eBay when they could? Why aren’t they buying Twitter and Qik and other social media properties now?

Kudos, however, to the P-I for trying to make a go at it online. It’s unlikely at this point that the P-I will succeed. The revenue model for online advertising just hasn’t matured to the point where a single portal can collected enough money to fund an operation as expensive as a news room. But it will be interesting to see if they can find a model that will work.

Media observer Clay Shirky has an excellent post on his blog about the demise of newspapers and the lack of a replacement for news distribution that makes economic sense. Clay sees decades of transformation and experimentation for journalism before a viable new model emerges. It’s worth a read even if you don’t agree with his entire assessment.

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