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The Continuing Decline Of Print Newspapers

by @ 12:20 pm on June 13, 2006. Filed under Internet, Media

Jeff Jarvis is writing about this announcement from the Guardian, a London-based newspaper:

The Guardian will become the first British national newspaper to offer a “web first” service that will see major news by foreign correspondents and business journalists put online before it appears in the paper.

The shift in strategy marks a significant departure from the established routine of newspaper publishing where stories are held for “once-a-day” publishing.

(…)

The system will give reporters and writers on the paper the opportunity to produce more copy of greater scope outside of the limitations of the daily paper.

Some exclusive stories will continue to be held back for the newspaper to maintain the quality levels of the print version. The object is to not remain beholden to a 24-hour printing cycle and be beaten to important news by print and new media rivals. (emphasis mine)

Jarvis thinks this is a big deal for several reasons:

First, this aggressively drives readers from print to online. It is one matter to put content online after it is in print, to allow people to find it there eventually, or to give them the bulletins everyone else has so you can remain competitive. It is quite another matter to give advantage to online, to let the public know that stories will appear there first.

(…)

Second, I think this will radically change the culture and operation of newsrooms ? and even the very essence of the news story

(…)

think this can change what a news story is. Imagine a reporter putting an edited story online in the afternoon and then hearing more questions and facts from online readers. So the reporter updates for print; putting it online improves the story. And after it is in print, more information comes from readers, so the online version is improved again, perhaps even by trusted readers. This needn?t be the never-ending story, the bottomless edition. But neither does it need to be news on a stone tablet.

Of course, many of these things already happen on some newspaper websites. The Washington Post, for example, routinely updates for the web stories that appeared earlier that day in the print edition, as well as adding content that broke too late to be included in the print edition. The Guardian’s announcement makes that practice more explicit, though, and lets readers know that there will be more up-to-date information available on the web. It is not hard to imagine that, before long, many readers will choose to get their newspaper content exclusively from the web.

That is certainly the case for me. Largely because the subscription price is dirt cheap, we continue to get The Washington Post on a daily basis, but, except for Sunday mornings, I almost never read it. And, Kellie and I have talked about cancelling weekday delivery of the newspaper altogether; I imagine we will end up doing that sooner rather than later.

Andrew Sullivan agrees with Jarvis, but says he thinks the conclusions may go too far. I’m not quite sure how that’s true, except maybe it will be the case that the change from print to electronic delivery will take longer than it should because old habits die hard.

It will take time, but the day is slowly approaching when print newspapers will be a thing of the past, or at least radically different from what have been for most of the past 200 years or more. Its inevitable, and, as James Joyner points out, it makes sense:

The Web is the dominant media at the office now and number two at home behind television. The Internet has essentially obviated paperbound encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference books. Why not newspapers?

If nothing else, at least we wouldn’t have as much recycling to deal with.

3 Responses to “The Continuing Decline Of Print Newspapers”

  1. UK Guardian will run stories online before print

    via The Moderate Voice (such a calming name even if the site is about politics) news that the Guardian plans to publish entire sections – Foreign and City on its Web site first, before the print edition. Some celebrate this…

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