It has been a rough week for the newspaper business. First, the San Antonio Express News announced layoffs. Then, the San Francisco Chronicle put its staff on notice of pending layoffs and its possible closing. And on Friday, the Rocky Mountain News issued it’s last daily.
All this is very depressing and further evidence that our new digital world has had harmful effects on the established news institutions – much like the chaos created once pythons were introduced into the Everglades.
So, all this got me thinking – and you know what happens when that starts. I would have thought the San Francisco Chronicle would have been the first paper to stop circulation. Not by market pressures, but by their own choosing.
Nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley and in the midst of all the game changing Web 2.0 companies, it would have made all the sense in the world for The Chronicle to go all digital a long time ago…would have made more sense for The Merc do go first. The decision would have been seen as highly innovative and something that would have catapulted them above other newspapers in thought leadership.
So, here’s my thinking:
If I were a newspaper man, I’d cancel six days of printed newspaper. I’d move Monday-Saturday editions to online only and print a Sunday paper.
Have you seen newspapers lately? They are mostly filled with AP and Reuters stories. What’s the difference in doing that in print (costly) or online? See Huffington Post as a good example.
The Sunday edition would take all the best content from the week and compile it into one huge paper. Personally, I buy one newspaper a week and it’s the Sunday edition for two reasons: The ads and expanded business and sports sections. Okay, three reasons. The third being the comics.
Advertising would be a mix between print and online. Advertisers that print Sunday ads would be given premium position online. In fact, advertisers could sponsor the paper’s Facebook and MySpace pages and Twitter feeds. Maybe even build out a newspaper’s Ning space.
“This Tweet sponsored by Ford. “
I could also see newspapers open up WikiReporting, where papers would get its readership to collaborate with reporters and editors on news stories. Newspapers are already asking for video and photos, why not ask for first hand accounts? Editorial control would still be there. I’d buy a paper or register online if content I contributed to became news – advertisers love site registrations.
What is going to end up happening to local newspapers is they will start buying syndicated content from larger papers in different cities more and more. In fact, newspapers like the NY Times or USA Today could start opening up local editions using local bloggers (thanks @LMReeves for that factoid).
Newspapers are part of the fabric of the community. They get people to walk to the curb, share at coffee shops, extend the value of silly putty and keep the cities they serve honest and educated.
I don’t want to see the papers go away or the talented journalists that produce them to not have jobs. Hopefully, the business of newspapers can be innovated and enhanced. Our sense of community depends on it.