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The Paper of 2018

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by FreddiePatek, Jan 17, 2008.

  1. FreddiePatek

    FreddiePatek Active Member

    With all the layoffs/buyouts and other assorted reductions happening at papers across the country, what is everyone's take on what this business will look like in 10 years?

    My first thought is that the daily will be an online entity (like today's e-editions or something close to that) with twice-weekly print versions, likely Wednesdays and Sundays with perhaps some other niche pubs (weekly sports mags, etc.).

    What say y'all?

    It's interesting ... in 1998 we were having conversations akin to this but thinking the "big switch" would happen about 30 years down the road).
  2. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    If -- very big if -- in 10 years newspaper companies can make enough advertising revenue online to support a newsroom and make a profit, there will be no print editions at all. Not only is newsprint the second-largest expense on paid-circulation dailies, but without a print edition, they can whack the production and circulation departments, not have to lease fleets of trucks or have to gas them up or insure them, can sell their valuable real estate and lease normal office space.

    But I don't think that will be possible in 10 years, if ever.

    I believe the industry will begin by then to realize it's been wrong about a few things.

    1.) They can't give away the product in one medium and expect people to pay for it in another.

    2.) Dummies won't read no matter what you do, so chase the high end.

    3.) Viewing Internet news sites as primarily writing-driven is not very futuristic. The future is in Webcasts, with writing as a secondary element. The news sites won't be like newspapers, they'll be like TV, except they'll be interactive and viewers will be able to call up supplemental material (live or archived) as they watch.

    4.) Newspapers will realize that no one has the resources to do hard news and investigative work as well as they do and they will greatly reduce or eliminate the space given to opinion, soft features and any lifestyle sections that don't pull in enough advertising to make it worthwhile.

    5.) You ruin the product(s) by letting (or forcing) reporters work in more than one medium. Whether the writer is moonlighting for a national Web site, appearing on TV or is doing multimedia only for your company, it detracts from the quality of work that requires undivided attention. Each medium requires specialists in order to be any good; the natural inclination of any journalist is to put most of the effort in one medium and produce mediocre work in the others.
  3. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    The question is ... will newspapers have the resources to do it, too, after all the slashing and burning is done?
  4. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Of course I am guessing, BW, but I believe at some point the industry has to snap out of its denial that it is killing the golden goose.
  5. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    The continued lack of foresight by newspaper ownership never ceases to amaze.

    But I hope you're right.
  6. FreddiePatek

    FreddiePatek Active Member

    I would guess the loss of such things as circulation departments and (gads) the entire press operation would be liberating enough for a newspaper entity to really dive into cyberspace with a vengeance.

    I've always sort of harbored the thought that if a newspaper threw itself into that medium fully, it could pulverize ALL of its local competition, internet, TV, radio or otherwise.

    I guess there's another outlier to this issue, too ... is it possible we could see the bubble burst again on the Internet hiring craze? That last one right at the turn of the century was brutal.

    ADD: One think I like about ESPN's approach (ACK PFFT!) is that it seems to be preparing itself to take on the local competition by adding so many geographically positioned reporters.
  7. STLIrish

    STLIrish Active Member

    Frank raises some good points. And a "not bad" vision of our future. A web-only, high-end hard news/investigative model? We could do a lot worse.
    But how do you do that high-end/investigative work, and be webcast-based (as opposed to written-word-based)? TV has rarely been able to make it work at the local level. A passive and visual medium like video just has a hard time doing complex issues as well as an active, written medium like traditional print stories can.
    Still, I'm a little surprised no major paper yet has tried to unshackle itself from print and go fully online. Seems like it would cut a lot of costs. I'd bet it'll happen within 3-5 years, probably first at the smaller paper in a tech-savvy market. Boston Herald, maybe, or the loser of the Seattle JOA fight.
  8. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    Will Mitch Albom be running 32-year-old columns?
  9. DanOregon

    DanOregon Well-Known Member

    Most local newspapers will be more like databases with most of its content generated from people beyond the building. Weekly features and columns written by freelancers, perhaps 2 to 10 writers and photographers to handle day to day stuff but the number of editors won't change. They will continue to shape the daily flow of user generated content into stories and other news-like product.
  10. Beach_Bum

    Beach_Bum Member

    Agree with some of Frank's points but not the Webcast. People don't like watching those on the Internet, and they especially don't like them from newspapers because we don't do them very well. That is unlikely to change. We'll do more of them, of course, because we don't have a clue what we're doing or why. And our management will jump up and down when 300 people watch them while neglecting the print product that 300,000 people look at every day. :)
  11. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Agreed. That's why all but a very few of the best papers of 2018 will be set up on a free distribution model, both in dead-tree and speed-of-light versions.
  12. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    In other words ... for job security ... Get thee to a copy desk!
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