Saturday, April 11, 2009

(News)Print is Dead

Location: Newspaper Graveyard

The Rocky Mountain News is gone, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has quite literally stopped the presses to enter an uncertain future online. The Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer appear to be on the endangered-species list now.

No one has any idea of how many papers will survive the ongoing newsprint-apocalypse. Classifieds are moving to Craig's List. Comics are going online.

Only those whose names will appear soon on the obituary page continue to read daily papers.

A few papers will hold on and devise a new business model, like local bookstores not Barnes-and-Nobled out of business. But for many, the way forward looks more like the "record" stores that have closed nearly everywhere. They are victims of a new technology that offers more convenience and a hard-to-beat price.

Some papers, like the New York Times, provide depth in their archives (only available to subscribers) that will keep some of us on the rolls. I take a Sunday New York Times precisely for this reason, and then I can use the archives in my classes. That is probably not a model for survival at the Times. As to where they will get revenue, the answer remains mysterious.

The Times seems to get thinner every month.

Some news companies are shifting gears, attempting to capture some of the eyeballs that go to free services. Even the venerable Richmond Times-Dispatch went down this road, buying up a local web-portal for local news, events, and human-interest stories. A version of this blog, now featuring selected content from this site, has been at the TD for two years. To be honest, I did not expect a mainstream-media outlet to continue wanting coverage about Second Life, even if it were provided free.

I am happy to be wrong, and my TD editor was hoping I'd make a leap into the future with the paper.

The TD's version of "In a Strange Land" will soon move over to the new portal with other content clearly intended for the types of readers interested in popular culture, technology, and other topics not typically associated with the news Goliaths of decades past.

I will be wistful about this. It was fun, for a while, to be a pro-bono member of the old media. I'll miss their company, as I wonder who will cover the news in the future in enough depth to keep me interested.

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