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The continuing saga of print v. webPosted Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 12:56 PM
On Friday, Jan. 14, Costra Nostra posted this comment on The Marshall Democrat-News website:
Cosa Nostra (and everybody else who's wondering about this issue), I'd like to address this issue, but this is my personal opinion based on my experience as editor. This is a business question and I don't have responsibility for or authority to represent the organization on this issue. So please take what I have to say as just that -- my view -- and not a statement on behalf of the company.
The basic principle is simple: It takes money to produce good content. Businesses have to make enough money to pay for the labor and equipment required to create the product -- in this case news and features.
Finding the right balance between online and print content to generate enough revenue in either medium -- that's more complex and less certain.
In the current configuration, our website and newspaper each have features particular to the medium. Content gets delivered faster and more frequently online, and we can offer video and a much greater quantity of photos. I don't think website readers are getting "short-changed" (especially since the product they get is free!) but they get a somewhat different product.
The paper includes content not posted online because there needs to be a reason for people to subscribe. Otherwise, we lose an important revenue source. And we still have quite a few readers who depend on the print version, either because they don't have or aren't comfortable with computers, or because they simply prefer print. So for the foreseeable future, we'll have to continue offering content in both venues, with each product designed to meet the needs of its readers and contribute to the bottom line.
During the discussion on the website, Smokin' Cheetah mentioned another option: The e-edition, which includes all the content from the print edition but at a reduced cost and with the convenience (fast access, searchability) of the web.
See www.marshallnews.com/forms/subscribe if you'd like to give it a try.
I can tell you that we are open to ideas about how to adapt to the new world created by the internet. That is a continual challenge, and one for which there is no clear roadmap. Nationwide, news organizations large and small have tried a variety of approaches. Some newspapers have tried charging for online content. Some have not. Some have switched entirely from print to web. Some use both. Some businesses have failed. Some are doing well. Most are surviving in difficult circumstances.
If you have suggestions about how we could better provide content and make a living doing it, you'll find us an eager audience!
One thing I'm sure of -- we're acutely aware of the challenges we face in adapting an old business to a new world. A few months ago I posted one of my favorite quotes on my office door:
Even with Lanham's point in mind, the transition is not always smooth or easy. Check out this article about the problems the New York Times has faced: Newspaper Online vs. Print Ad Revenue: The 10% Problem. Readership moves online fast, but revenue comes primarily from print. The article was written in 2007, but I'm not sure things have changed dramatically in that regard.
We're in the news business, not the newspaper business. We'll use paper, electrons and whatever tools are yet to be invented to continue to serve our readers.
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Eric Crump is a former editor of The Marshall Democrat-News. He lives elsewhere now but still loves Marshall and Saline County. He's trying to catch up on all the stories he should have written while he was on staff.
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