The newspaper shutdown has begun

The final issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Tuesday March 17, 2009

The final issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Tuesday March 17, 2009

If you follow media, you probably don’t need me to tell you that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer finally pulled the plug on its money-losing but historic print edition, and will attempt to make a go at producing a news website with a few dozen journalists. It will be a test case for other major newspapers thinking of doing the same. If they succeed in making such a venture profitable, others will surely follow. If not, others might try, or they might decide to close up shop completely.

Meanwhile, in Denver, where another city has become a one-newspaper town, former staff at the Rocky Mountain News are trying to do the same thing, even though their publisher decided not to. So they’ve made a pledge that if they can get 50,000 people to subscribe for $5 a month, they’ll start up an online newspaper.

In Canada, big papers are still here, and for the most part still profitable. But the smaller papers are dying off. Sun Media this week closed two underperforming small newspapers in Alberta, the Jasper Booster and Morinville Redwater Town & Country Examiner (UPDATE: The Edmonton Journal explores some of the lives affected by these shutdowns and other layoffs). They weren’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last small newspapers to throw in the towel in this economy where even journalism students don’t read papers and journalists are thinking of some desperate ideas to keep the business model going. While the number of consumers of information is about the same, the shift of advertising dollars is not, and that’s going to put negative pressure on people like me who would like to make a living off the collection, packaging and redistribution of information.

The trends are encouraging for journalism, but not for journalists. Plz I can haz bizniss modul nao?

3 thoughts on “The newspaper shutdown has begun

  1. Chris Lamothe

    Three million a year to run an online newspaper? That’s enough to support a staff of 30 at $80k/year and still have $600k left over! Please tell me I’m missing something.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      The cost of an employee isn’t limited to salary. Health insurance, disability, expenses, taxes and all sorts of other related costs rise the cost per employee much higher.

      And even if distribution costs might not be high, there’s still the cost of server/bandwidth, development, office rent and computers and gold-plated caviar sofas.


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