How’s That Online Only Newspaper Thing Working Out?




seattle-pi-globeAs the news continues to be troubling at best for the newspaper industry there is going to be an increased focus on those papers that have ventured into that brave new horizon of online editions only. The biggest paper to make that leap in the very recent past is the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The announcement that ended the print edition’s run is now 2 months old and data is starting to be gathered as to how this once proud newspaper giant is faring in its new online only state at www.seattlepi.com.

Over at All Things D, Peter Kafka takes a look at what the ‘paper’ is doing these days. He is still predicting that this experiment will fail due to lack of advertising revenue to support even the skeleton crew that remains behind. The article states

But while Hearst isn’t ready to declare victory, it does say that the first two months of seattlepi.com’s life have been “encouraging.” Via a press release, Hearst offers up a bevy of traffic stats that show the site has grown even as its staff has shrunk. Hearst doesn’t offer up any info about revenue, but does say that its “sales and marketing team is highly energized.”

The paper is claiming 4.3 million unique visitors a month and Kafka offers up some thoughts as to how that number isn’t enough to support the current staff (which is the 20% remnant of the print edition).

There may be a thriving business for regional/local online ads one day, and we’ve been hearing about the potential for many years. But it’s not there yet, and it’s not close.

Well, Hearst’s press release likes to paint a rosier picture, although it is certainly a bit on the rah-rah side but hey, what else are they supposed to say?

We get a lot of feedback from readers cheering us on and thanking us for continuing to bring them the local news and information they want and need. It’s great to see that not only have we not lost readers, we’ve actually gained new ones.

A new team of more than a dozen sales and marketing representatives and managers has been tasked with building advertising and marketing partnerships and creating a unique Seattle digital advertising agency.

Our sales and marketing team is highly energized to be working with such a vital and dynamic product. We will leverage existing partnerships with Yahoo!, Kaango, Metrix4Media, and others to create what is essentially a local digital advertising agency offering unique opportunities for business in the Seattle area and across the country. Advertisers and other partners understand that seattlepi.com is in an unrivaled, popular destination for news and information, offering tremendous value for exposing their products, services and brands to a large and very desirable audience.

Personally, I hope this works. It would be kinda cool if online papers could get back to being the same respected sources they once were in print. The trouble is, however, that in order to generate enough revenue to survive the journalistic integrity side of this may just be a pipe dream. Take a look at what Maureen Dowd did over at the New York Times and they’re still printing.

I hate that watching the news about the newspaper industry is like watching a slow motion train wreck but it is. One can only imagine what the ‘industry’ will look like 5 years from now.