newspaperHappy St. Patrick’s Day. 

On the cover of today’s NYT comes a story of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (The P-I) becoming an internet only newspaper.  Important reading for PR and communications professionals.

Last Sunday, in a special (and unusual) column, the Cincinnati Enquirer publisher proclaimed it was, “not a dying newspaper” as she explained the diversity of the organization’s products (online and offline) and its impressive reach within the Cincinnati-area. (NOTE: somewhat surprisingly, I could not find the publisher’s column online to provide a link. Disappointing.)

Last fall, at an IPREX conference in Boston, the dean of the Boston University College of Communications, Tom Fiedler, a former executive editor, investigative reporter and political columnist for the Miami Herald, shared some interesting insights from his elevated post.  As I recall his comments ….

Dean Fiedler marveled at the pervasiveness of the internet.  He referred to it as the “new Florence” in a reference to Florence as the center of the universe in the Renaissance.  “Where everything gravitated,” Fiedler explained.  The difference?  We don’t know where it’s headed or what it means: how is it changing us?, what is it doing to society?, what is it doing to global interactions?

Fiedler suggested that the internet is dramatically changing people’s ability to reinterpret events in our world.  Information sharing is no longer filtered primarly through professional journalists, but is pushed out from nearly countless sources with countless perspectives and, in some cases, undisclosed but distinct intentions.

Most people who follow what’s happening to print news understand that print advertising revenue is dropping like mercury on a cold day and, while online advertising might be increasing, it cannot cover the overhead of printing a newspaper (newsprint, ink, production, distribution, etc.).  The economy in crisis will only speed-up many marketer’s pull away from print advertising.

Some claim the online revenue stream may cover the print news-gathering process but not the print news-sharing process.  Support for this claim may be evident in the NYT article about The P-I (the online version) having a news staff of 20 compared to its print edition staff of 165.

What does all this mean for the future of print journalism.  When the Cincinanti Enquirer’s publisher feels compelled to write a column proclaiming they’re “not dying,” and The P-I becomes the largest newspaper to close and continue as an online edition, the future looks clear and rather bleak.

Will print die?  Will print scale back to just weekends and rely on online editions for weekly readers?  Will just local print newspapers die or scale back while those with national circulations continue to publish?  Will surviving print outlets simply “buy” content from professional journalists who enterprise interesting or investigative stories?  Will something else happen?

Please share your insights.  What do you think is happening/will happen to print journalism?

Post by Nick Vehr – 3.17.09

UPDATE TO POST:  A friend and fellow communicator, Paul Bernish, shared this link to a fascinating post on the NYTimes blog – The Opinionator: “Why Newspapers Can’t be Saved, But the News Can”.  It is right on point, and dramatically more reseqarched and cited, than my post.  For those who choose to go deeper, please read.  Thanks, Paul.