No Paper, Digital Only, May Be One Way To Save Newspapers

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As painful as it may be, and with the move comes declining ad revenue, eliminating a print edition may be the long term answer for most newspapers.  

Today, as reported by the New York Times’ Monica Davey and John Eligon, The Chicago Defender, the newspaper, that told the story of black life in America, will print its final edition.

“It took note of births and deaths, of graduations and weddings, of everything in between. Through eras of angst, its reporters dug into painful, dangerous stories, relaying grim details of lynchings, of clashes over school integration and of the shootings of black men by white police officers. Among a long list of distinguished bylines: Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks.”“

The Defender will continue its digital operation. Per Hiram Jackson, chief executive of Real Times Media, which owns The Defender, the move allows the organization to adapt to a “fast-changing, highly challenging media environment that has upended the entire newspaper industry.”

“It is an economic decision,” Mr. Jackson told the Times, “but it’s more an effort to make sure that The Defender has another 100 years.”

Unlike the Defender, the Youngstown, Ohio daily of 150 years, The Vindicator just announced that it is closing its doors after 150 years. No print copy. No digital copy.

Margaret Sullivan, for the Washington Post, shared word of her story on the paper’s closing on Facebook. 

”The Vindicator, is about to shut its doors after 150 years. It’s been family owned for 132 of those years, and the family struggled with the decision, but ultimately felt they had no options. Years of losses and no end in sight — and then not a single interested buyer when the paper was put up for sale. It’s not only sad but something we’re going to see a great deal more of in cities across the country.”

I commented on Facebook that if newspapers like this one accepted disruption early on and moved more rapidly to a business model of digital only, it may give them a fighting chance.

Mark Brown, The Vindicator’s general manager spent $23 million to cover losses and to buy a new press in 2010. Admittedly the press was in hope of bringing in new revenue through outside printing, but by 2010 the handwriting was long on the wall that print was on the steep decline.

Investing in an outstanding digital publishing platform, perhaps a cost effective SaaS solution (WordPress?), and eliminating print may have been a better way to go. 

Ask the generations running the world today where they get their news. It’s on their phone and more often than not, on social media.

Ditching the print, realizing the declining revenue, and getting to digital built for social media may be a possible answer. Newspapers may even need to look to the aggregation of blog coverage and contributions from citizen journalists. 

Heck, I don’t have all the answers and have never worked for a newspaper, except for being a part-time paperboy, but holding onto paper as if it’s the primary means to share news is not working.

Newspapers were invented when we only had paper and ink. If iPhones existed, paper never would have been used.

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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