BusinessWeek has an article that focuses on the plight of newspapers, and specifically suggests that a wave of newspapers could/should consider quitting the paper business altogether and publish exclusively on the web. It’s an interesting perspective, but one I would argue is flawed.
Shutting down a diminishing or losing print business will save a media company plenty of dough on the expense side, but the paper business also represents (currently anyways) a much larger piece of the revenue pie than the internet side of the mainstream publishing business – and therein lies the rub. It’s not so simple to say, ‘stop the presses’, because doing so to a large degree also equates to ‘stop the cash flow’. In author Jon Fine’s point of view – it’s the San Francisco Chronicle that should be first in line to ditch paper, a notion that seems credible on the surface given that the Chronicle is currently losing approx. $1 million per week. Ouch, yes you read that correctly.
Vin Crosbie over at Corante has a good rebuttal to Jon’s ‘web-only’ newspaper fix. If newspapers ever do seriously consider making a web-only leap, they had better have a major strategy in place for brand extension on the web. As the web market continues to mature and saturate, you are going to want to have more than one brand-ball in play.
Historically speaking, broadcast mediums don’t die. Newspapers will be around for a long time yet, but the evolution process won’t come without its bumps, bruises, and inevitably, some casualties.