Sunday, April 1, 2007

Hearst considering 'paperless' newspaper

Maybe it's time to give up printing newspapers and deliver the news online. That's what the folks in the new Hearst tower in NYC (this is the view from 8th Avenue, photo from Hearst Corp.) are thinking. In Seattle, the city's two dailies (one is owned by Hearst) have been locked in a joint operating agreement, or JOA, since 1981. They're in litigation over the future of the JOA. The weaker of the two dailies is the Hearst-owned Post-Intelligencer or PI. Seattle Times staff reporter Eric Pryne asks readers to "[v]isualize a Seattle Post-Intelligencer that exists only online. A paperless newspaper. The first American daily to make a leap that many observers predict the entire industry probably will make someday. People have been speculating about an all-digital future for the endangered P-I ever since its owner, The Hearst Corp., and The Seattle Times Co. went to war nearly four years ago. That speculation is intensifying as the conflict approaches the beginning of the end."

One big downside to going entirely online -- as Pyrne points out in paragraph 10 of his story -- "financial data indicate the P-I's Web site doesn't generate nearly enough revenue yet to support the paper's current news operation." More to the point, there isn't a daily newspaper in the country that is generating more than 6% of its revenues from its Internet operation. Pyrne writes, "Hearst — or a new P-I owner — probably would face a choice between losing money for at least the first few years or putting out an online product with a significantly smaller staff."

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