Monday, 16 March 2009

A good question

With small Sun Media weeklies being closed, a TSF reader poses a question no doubt being asked throughout the shrinking chain:

"Every day in this company we are told the Internet is the future, and now some 'newspapers' are no longer viable so they are being shut down. So why hasn't the company shown any initiative to do something futuristic?

"Rather than abandon a newspaper and a community, why not convert it to online only? I mean really, somewhere out there among the gravy train of Quebecor papers, there has to be really good test markets, with tons of young eager web savvy journalists and some seasoned vets too already on the payroll, who would be excited to try this model instead of what appears to be a massive closing spree and layoffs.

"Every time another paper is shut, we'll continue to ask this question: Could an online version, with at least some jobs saved (how many people does it take to run a website?), remain alive to serve the community?"


  1. The company has to care about newspapers to try something new. There's no proven method of making big money with online journalism, so PKP wouldn't consider it.

  2. Seasoned vets at Sun Media weeklies? Only if you count delivery drivers.

  3. With a little more money spent on actual reporters, both and could be viable models for the online local newspaper of the future. They have plenty of public contributions in terms of both "civilian reporting" and comments. Unfortunately, with their resources, they're often forced to link to, um, newspapers - which of course is the essence of the "online sources" an earlier poster said would be just dandy replacements for CP.

  4. The Internet *is* the future, but not this week's future. :-)

    No newspaper in the world knows how to do a web site, period. Possible exceptions are the BBC and the Guardian. But both of those have unique funding sources and unique mandates behind them. The CBC has potential but is hampered by useless politicians.

    There is no shortage of online opportunities for news companies, no shortage of advertising concepts to attract advertising dollars, and no shortage of people who could do the job. This is not the complex brain surgery that the media moguls make it out to be (although for them, it apparently is).

    Sadly, there is a total vacuum at the top. Media owners can't, and won't, look outside of their little newspaper box on the corner. They refuse to recognize that their century-old little fiefdoms are collapsing.

    Newspapers' first mistake, and of course it was also the fatal mistake, was putting their print paper online. Creating a web site in the paper's own image was always the wrong thing to do. Read the original ideas for Canoe. Heck, remember the original intent for the Toronto Sun. The very basic concept was there, just never initiated. Why?

    Look at the one fundamental raison d'etre of the web, (hint: learn from the guy who invented the web), and you'll see that a "newspaper web site" is wrong and will always fail.

    And yet media owners don't get it, never have and never will. They will try to bend the round web to fit their square hole.

    Newspapers are in trouble. So for help, they look to other newspapers for ideas!!?? (sigh)

    For decades, newspapers were cash cows and money poured in no matter how badly they were managed. You had to be utterly stupid not to make money from a paper.

    But now, the music has slowed and there might not be enough chairs for everyone. What to do?

    Point is, it's a great time to own a newspaper:

    • news readership is going nowhere but up;
    • newspapers are the number one darling of search engines;
    • newspapers have the number one type of content on the web;
    • newspapers have the number one brand to attract advertisers;
    • newspapers are the best way for advertisers to get their message out;
    • newspapers have the perfectly trained staff to do the job;
    • demand is up, costs are down, supply is up.

    So what's the problem?

    Certainly the problem can't be content. Newspapers are busy shoveling the content onto their sites. (Throw it online right away, correct it later, maybe).

    But here's the inconvenient truth about web: the www is not (directly) about the content, never was, never will be.

    Why do people go to a restaurant rather than eating at home (other than to avoid dirty dishes)?


  5. If the www is not about the content, what is it about? Please expand on this, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous from 4:08 p.m..

  6. Call PKP many things, but you can never, never, call him a visionary.

  7. PKP and Co. already have a great vision for news on our newspaper websites, it's called 'dump everything from print online'. Yah, that is a formula that is visionary, eh

  8. It's not only "dump everything from print online," it's utilizing the exact same content from one paper to another. You get Greg Weston's column in the Sun, just as you get it in the Hicktown Gazette, and in every other Sun Media/Quebecor product. Just as the gentleman from the Vermilion Voice noted in another posting, Sun Media papers are hurting because they've lost their connection to the communities they supposedly serve through centralization and layoffs. They don't generate the content - or don't make an effort to generate the content - that those communities crave, and therefore they lose subscribers. In response to the above poster who noted why people go to a restaurant rather than cook at home, it's about the experience. And if you're can't deliver a different experience online than you do in your print edition, and you're losing print edition subscribers, then your online versions are going to suffer as well. And therefore, you're ripe for getting your ass kicked, both in the print edition, and online.