Regional Newspapers are Doomed

The panel on the future of print media was really rather depressing, and not necessarily because the panelists were downbeat. The panel comprised four late-middle-aged business guys. They’re all reasonably bullish on how newspaper companies can transform themselves into web-era media companies. But equally clearly none of them really get the internet.

They talked about their children or their grandchildren not reading newspapers, they talked about terribly smart web-design kids, they got really excited about multimedia content which genuinely was exciting ten years go. Hell, Brian Greenspun of the Las Vegas Sun gave a long presentation a large part of which was devoted to recounting in excruciating detail how his website can be updated more than once a day as news comes in. Ted Olson talked about (really!) setting up a 15-member commission to look into all of this.

This was a panel of dinosaurs, who are being driven by fear and necessity rather than vision. They will change because they have to change, but they won’t enjoy it. "Blogging isn’t journalism," sniffed Brian Tierney of the Philadelphia Inquirer; he even seemed almost apologetic about coveting the pageviews he gets when Drudge links to him.

About the time that Greenspun was talking optimistically about getting people to pay for information on the internet, I left for my blogging panel. I do think there are newspapers which get the internet – the New York Times does, the Guardian does. But the smaller regional newspapers of the type represented on this panel? They’re doomed, I think.

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