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What happens then?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Ira_Schoffel, Mar 5, 2008.

  1. Ira_Schoffel

    Ira_Schoffel Member

    Remember when the first Internet revolution took place back in the mid-90s? When newspaper executives started flittering about, trying to figure out how to make money on the Web?

    They launched scores of new Web sites, bought up all these snappy URLs and hired Web producers by the handfuls. Then when the Dot Com Bubble burst circa 2001 and people realized they had no idea how to make money on the Internet, the newspapers came back to reality. They let many of their nifty, little niche Web sites drift off into the ether. They dialed back their online staffs, and for a brief time, actually started caring for their core newspaper products again.

    Well here we are again. For the last two or three years, newspapers have been splashing around in the Internet's deep end, hiring digital reporters, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into video cameras, newsroom studios, laptops, etc. ... not to mention rehiring many of the Web producers that got laid off a few years earlier.

    But despite all of these great new toys, it doesn't appear that newspapers are any closer to figuring out how to make money off the Web. The subscription model clearly doesn't work for general interest newspapers. That much we know. So where will the money come from?

    Not classifieds. We've already decided to give those away for free to compete with Craig's List, et al. So that leaves advertising as the primary -- and only real -- way to make substantial money off the Web. Now go ask your publisher how much revenue you make in Web advertising vs. print advertising.

    That's what scares the hell out of me.

    Yes, Web advertising has grown. But it's still a drop in the bucket when considering the amount of money it takes to keep many of our news-gathering organizations afloat. And I can't see any scenario where it will ever replace (or come close to replacing) what newspapers traditionally have earned for print advertising. There's too much competition and not enough inventory.

    So in many ways, we're back where we were five years ago. The economy's sliding again, revenues are down, and it's time for some more belt-tightening. But instead of cutting back on the online initiatives (the way they did in the early 2000s), now most newspaper execs seem determined to cut back on the core print product while running full-steam ahead with the Web projects.

    So here's my question. What happens if the newspaper industry continues on its current path, slicing and dicing the print product to protect their online interests, but those online interests never become profitable? What happens then?

    I'm not suggesting that newspaper execs should bury their heads in the sand and pretend that the Internet doesn't exist. But if they let their print publications wither away -- which will happen if they continue shrinking the news hole and eliminating staff -- and the Web sites never realize true profits, then what?

    I think the consensus among many journalists I know is that when newspapers die, we're all just going to migrate over to the Web and live happily ever after. But what if those Web sites never make it financially?

    What if the Internet kills traditional newspapers ... AND ... journalism never becomes profitable on the Web? What happens then?
  2. BRoth

    BRoth Member

    I think the solution would be in BLOGS(!!!!), if I've read correctly.
  3. captzulu

    captzulu Member

    The thing is, journalism on the Web definitely can be profitable, especially more so if traditional newspapers disappear. The demand for information is greater than ever, and there will definitely be a need for people who provide that information, especially intensive, daily local news. And given that demand, someone will find a way to make money from it; it's just not the current model. But online journalism will probably never be as profitable as print journalism has been, given how fragmented online advertising is. That means companies that do primarily online journalism will be smaller than present-day newspapers. However, the lower start-up cost makes it a lot easier to start such companies than a newspaper, and that increases the likelihood for competing companies in a market, which I think would be a welcomed departure from the current one-paper markets. You still might have the same number or close to the same number of reporters covering local government in a market, but it might be that they work for different companies rather than a single one. You might also see more niche journalism companies rather than general-interest publications (sites that only covers local politics, just regional businesses, or just local sports).
  4. mdpoppy

    mdpoppy Member

    Plenty of money to be made on-line ... if you know what you're doing. Problem is, most newspapers think they can figure it out themselves when they could easily go to a third-party to set up their Web sites and worry about everything for them, while raking in the dough as well.
  5. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    There will be a morning paper for some time in the future. Until you can read a computer in the crapper or on the kitchen table, there will be a place for the paper. Also, printing Sunday insert ads from a computer is just not easy.

    Plus, I can scan 8-10 stories in 15-20 seconds in a paper or glance through box scores. I cannot do that on a computer.

    The stories created for the paper/web need to be managed better, but ask Detroit or Pittsburgh what happens when a newspaper goes away for a time period.

    You don't really understand the importance of something until it goes away.
  6. MacDaddy

    MacDaddy Active Member

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2014
  7. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I do bring it in, but it is not the same.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2014
  8. captzulu

    captzulu Member

    This is an often-cited argument for newspapers' future, but I'm not sure if I subscribe to it. People's reading habits change. Young people who don't have the newspaper-reading habit now aren't going to buy one just so they have something to read in the bathroom. They'll just read something else while they're on the crapper -- magazines, books, etc, and they'll get their news while they're sitting at their computers instead.
  9. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    One thing that worries me is, if the online revenue is significantly lower than print revenue the only way to make it up is to start charging subscription fees. And we're slowly closing in on a generation of folks who haven't had to pay for anything on the internet except porn. If they reject a subscription fee en masse, what happens then?
    I believe, as the saying goes, that we be fucked.
  10. goalmouth

    goalmouth Well-Known Member

    I see little historic evidence in the experience of other industries to suggest that newspaper jobs will ever be able to return to their previous levels, even if publishers figure out a way to realize substantial profits from the web. Jobs may be added during times of economic growth, but the new, smaller industry is here to stay.
  11. beardpuller

    beardpuller Active Member

    But if so, wouldn't we then qualify as porn?
  12. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    No one has yet figured out how to make Internet journalism profitable enough to support anything but a very small, low-paid organization of advocates. Internet advertising revenue goes to the middle man, i.e. Google.
    In "Advertising Age" today, there was an article about magazines, who have also spent a bundle on their Web sites. The average U.S. magazine gets fewer viewers to its Web site per week, month, quarter, whatever its publishing schedule, than it has paid print edition sales.
    Now THAT'S how to lose money big-time!
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