09 January 2009

Seattle Paper Joins Rocky On Death Row

"Hearst Corp. put Seattle's oldest newspaper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, up for sale Friday, saying that if it can't find a buyer in the next 60 days, the paper will close or continue to exist only on the Internet."

From here.

FWIW, the notion that an Internet paper would be more profitable than a print one surprises me. Generally, the business model of newspapers is that subscription and news stand charges cover the costs of printing and delivery, while advertising covers the newsroom costs. Meanwhile, advertising prices are driven mostly by print copies sold. It would be suprising if a paper could make as much money from internet only ads as it does from ads in its print edition.

Bottom line: the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, like the Rocky Mountain News, is dead if it isn't purchased by investors willing to take short term losses for a while.

6 comments:

Michael Malak said...

The missing part of your calculus is that advertising on the web is 10x more cost effective than advertising in print, based upon my personal experience in advertising my school Bergamo Academy. This is the reason Internet advertising has been steadily climbing and print advertising has been steadily declining. We have a ways to go to reach equilibrium. In the process, we can expect more print to die and Internet sites to increase and improve.

Pam Bennett said...

Office pools for which day the Rocky folds?
It is sad to have the corporation do what appears to be a purposeful end to newspapers with significant histories.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Michael, the trouble is, that newspapers already receive money for internet advertising. I doubt that increased internet hits with the end of a paper edition would make up for lost ad revenue from the demise of a print edition.

The bigger savings of online news outlets, like the Colorado Independent and HuffPo, is that they don't have significant outlays on the content side for things like offices for reporters and editors.

meredith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Malak said...

There are a number of problems with newspaper websites:

1. They are regional in focus. In the virtual world, geographic boundaries are highly arbitrary and not that important except for limited topics, such as wildfires and I-70 transportation alternatives. Websites that are popular tend toward the extremes of geographical coverage: either international or "hyperlocal" (to use that Internet buzzword).

2. Their visual presentation is poor. They mimic their print layouts rather than thinking fresh with the web. 9news.com is much more visual and web-oriented, and a better place to get regional news.

3. They haven't discovered the hyperlink the way bloggers have. Bloggers link directly to original source material, such as pending legislative bills, court decisions, scholarly papers, etc. Newspaper websites would be a lot more useful if they hyperlinked to the sources they quoted so intelligent people could evaluate the original source material on their own.

4. Newspapers only within the past 3 years or so have finally started allowing comments. But their mechanisms are too technologically crude that the "signal to noise" ratio is down in the dumps (I believe you've blogged on this issue). Some have advanced to the point of allowing users to rate other users' comments, but none yet hide lower-ranked comments the way Slashcode (powering Slashdot) does. It makes all the difference in the world. Comments on Slashdot are worth 10 times the value of the original story, due to the way the user-moderation system attracts intelligent and knowledgeable users to comment.

5. They don't allow user-submitted stories. Even CNN.com has started to allow it.

Newspapers will never "get it" on how to make a website work.

Dave Barnes said...

@MichaelMalak who wrote: "Newspapers will never "get it" on how to make a website work."

Bingo!