The Friendly Face of the Newspaper Apocalypse

By , 8 May, 2008, 3 Comments

Pundits have been predicting the downfall of the newspaper for a long time. And while I agree that the news market is changing rapidly, I’m not convinced that the printed press is a thing of a past. Instead, an announcement by the Washington Post today suggests the direction other news media outlets might take.

The Post has essentially outsourced a chunk of its technology reporting to the bloggers at TechCrunch. All the blog posts from TechCrunch.com will appear on the Post’s technology page and according to TechCrunch, the next step is a comment feature that will allow reader discussion to take place simultaneously on both websites.

Imagine, for a moment, that the Post were to turn over all its breaking tech news to TechCrunch, all its breaking political tidbits to Politico, and all its entertainment research to the folks at PerezHilton. Each section of their website would become a mini-blog, which is effectively what the New York Times has done. Except the Times model requires a full staff of bloggers for every subject; for most print newspapers, the key now is to streamline staff and save cash.

The genius of the Post deal is that it gives readers the insider news of the experts at TechCrunch with the brand credibility of the Washington Post. For the Post, it’s a way to get around the fact that little guys in the blogosphere often know more about their small niches than big news outlet reporters. For TechCrunch, it’s a way to monetize and attract ad dollars, something internet news sites still struggle with.

See, the brand of The Washington Post still means a lot, even if according to some pessimists, the daily paper is a goner. Instead, I predict more deals like this, where blog-style news aggregates under the name of a big media brand. Meanwhile, I think a lot of readers still like getting things in print, but will be more likely to pay for print magazines, feature stories and in-depth pieces than daily breaking news. With more blog deals like this, the Post could devote a small in-house staff to the investigative and longer pieces, and put out a bi-weekly print edition, or a weekend ‘zine.

I’m not alone, in seems, in voicing this theory: Businessweek’s media guru Jon Fine was predicting last year that a big paper like the San Francisco Chronicle would do well to go all-online. This week, he writes that daily papers should downsize to publishing 3 times a week. The New York Times already offers a weekend-only subscription. What do you guys think?

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