Yet Another Tipping Point for Newspapers


By George

Has the tipping point for newspapers finally arrived — again?

Trees in Wisconsin are breathing a sigh of relief and the newspaper industry is holding its collective breathe as the Madison, Wisconsin daily paper – The Capital Times – abandons its print edition and goes completely digital.

Readers in the Madison region will no longer hear the thump of a hard-copy land on their porches, driveways, and flower gardens. From now on, the only way to get the local news from the 90-year-old Capital Times will be with a Web connection.

This is from the Capital Times editorial that explains the all-digital move:

“Instead of printing on paper for distribution each afternoon, we will produce a Web-based daily newspaper that will be accessed for free on the Internet at www.captimes.com. Additionally, we will produce a weekly journal of news and opinion that will be available free of charge and more broadly than the current paper.”

The newspaper concludes: “We will keep on giving the people the truth and the freedom to discuss it, and all will be well.”

The opinion from readers on the switch seems to be mixed.

The newspaper industry continues to be one of no growth and losses. Lay-offs have been ripping through the industry. In fact, the Capital Times fired 20 employees as part of the move online. Closer to home, the Boston Globe recently let about 25 reporters go (avoiding lay-offs with buy-outs). The big newspaper chains have been reporting revenue losses so far this year.

Newspapers need to embrace their online identities more aggressively if they hope to succeed. The industry continues to mourn the loss of readers, wring its hands at the fate of their print editions, and pine for the good-old days. This isn’t a recipe for winning.

Newspapers need to deal with a startling fact: the print edition isn’t the product. It’s a channel for news delivery. Once they realize that the product is the news – and start delivering it the way people want it (online, mobile, video, audio, text, RSS, etc.) the better off newspapers will be. They can win the news delivery wars – but only if they stop with the defeatist attitudes.

In the past, RaceTalk has offered some suggestions on how newspapers can start becoming more aggressive and more relevant online.

And, of course, we wish the Capital Times the best of luck as it truly enters the Internet age.

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