Newspapers Driving Readers to Web at Expense of Print Editions
Jeff Jarvis is excited by news from London:
The Guardian just announced that it will publish stories online before it publishes them in print. Now on the one hand, that may not seem like a big deal. Quality papers like The New York Times and the Washington Post have long had good continuous news desks that feed the online maw with the latest (and too many other papers do not bother). And some papers, like The Times and the Wall Street Journal, put up their complete papers soon after they close late at night. [See my full disclosures here.]
But I think the Guardian’s move of releasing newspaper stories before they release the newspaper is a very big deal that it will end up transforming the business.
He explicates them in great detail. Most notably, as Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger observed a few days ago, “Can you imagine east coast Americans logging onto Guardian Unlimited this morning and finding nothing on Zarkawi? Why would we want to drive them elsewhere?” Jarvis believes, “That, after all, is the key to online. It lets you serve a much larger but still focused public (once newspapers themselves focus).”
Andrew Sullivan agrees, as do I, with Jarvis’ assessment, although he Jarvis may be going too far in unspecified ways.
Ultimately, this move in inevitable. Even though my “local paper” is the Washington Post, a truly superb paper by any reasonable standard and dirt cheap to boot, I don’t take it except for the Sunday edition–and that only for coupons and sales circulars. Indeed, I consistently refuse offers to get the other six days for free because I found I never read it. I do, however, read several stories in the online edition virtually every single day.
I’m not alone. The latest industry survey shows that most papers are continuing to have declining circulation for their print editions while their online versions are booming.
That’s not surprising. 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?
The principal product of the New York Times, the Guardian, and others is, after all, not paper; it’s news reporting.