The newspaper of the future: all news, no paper. Steve Outing of Editor and Publisher writes on what it looks like, and how it works. It is a well thought-through piece, really focussing on some of the transitions of staffing and operations. It also provides a good and heart-felt aspiration for the exercise. “The great hope will be that these digital-only newspaper descendents will learn and grow, and once again provide more jobs for journalists. At least while we wait for that, the communities they serve will continue to have a watchdog with a louder bark than community bloggers and local TV and radio news outlets. It’s the cities and towns that completely lose their newspaper and Web site that I really worry about.” Add to the growing list of good visualisations of the online-only paper. There will be some: the Christian Science Monitor goes online only in April.
Does this make economic sense? Newsosaur, Alan Mutter, thinks not. The comments on this are also interesting. I much prefer this debate (and indeed most of them) when they have some numbers and business logic. “Because newspapers on average derive approximately 90% of their sales from print advertising, the only ink-on-paper newspapers that can afford to attempt digital-only publishing are the ones that are irreversibly losing money… But those web-only franchises would produce far less cash than their print predecessors, reducing the value of those businesses by several magnitudes. “
Another thing the thesis doesn’t really address: why bother? Why would we assemble all these people in a city-focussed entity – the Blowville Times or the Suckville Gazette – if it were online? Why would the people at the (presumably revenue-generating) site that covers local business want to cross-subsidise the investigators, or those that cover City Hall? Where will it get its foreign news from – will it even try?