Monday, April 28, 2008

Death, or a resurrection?

Today, began a new series called "The Newspaper Death Watch," a "look at the thought leaders in the industry, their attempts to leave the past--and even formats--behind and their strategies for finding new business models." The first post is full of bad news for newspaper execs, most of which points to the fact that the good old days are gone for good--unless the industry is ready to reinvent itself.

And while it may sound like newspapers are dying a slow death, today also brought some news about where things might be headed. The New York Times reports on the future of The Capital Times, a Madison, WI, daily that's moving to an online format in response to a declining subscriber base:

[I]n recent years, the paper’s circulation dropped to about 18,000 from a high in the 1960s of more than 40,000.


The Web strategy, while seen as a long-term solution, is still a work in progress, [editor Paul] Fanlund says. It revolves around a portal,, which is owned under the same joint arrangement mandating that both Madison papers share revenues, though they are editorially independent.

The Capital Times will operate a nearly continuous Web newsroom...

“If there is a window of opportunity for newspapers on the Web, it is locally,” said James L. Baughman, director of the University of Wisconsin journalism school in Madison. “The reason the online version of the Cap Times may have life is that opportunity.”

As I've discussed previously, I think this format makes a ton of sense. In fact, given The Capital Times' position in Madison--the afternoon paper in a two-newspaper town--it would seem that a certain local paper might want to think about making a similar move. In fact, they already may have considered the idea, if that's the "alma mater" Nancy Nall mentions here.

And while
The Capital Times may indeed have a "very, very murky" future, as Nall suggests, one thing's certain: any change is better than standing still, hoping things will get better. Because unless the newspaper industry makes some serious changes, AdAge's "Newspaper Death Watch" may outlast the medium itself.

Hat tip on the Capital Times story: Brian "Stimpy" Engelhart

1 comment:

Erik Deckers said...

I was growing up in Muncie when the Muncie Star (mornings) and Muncie Press (evenings) merged into one paper and became the Star-Press. Clever, huh?

I know the N-S and JG are owned by separate companies, but I think they should take Ben Franklin's advice to "hang together or we will surely hang separately." If they merged, the one paper will continue to exist.

Of course, if the JG can wait long enough, they can swoop in and fill in the gaping hole left by the N-S' demise.