Predicting Armaggedon for newspapers

terminator.jpgLucas Grindley gets all ‘Terminator 2′ on predicting a bleak and disastrous worst-case scenario future for newspapers. In his nightmare scenario, the print editions falter, then down goes the AP, and then, perhaps a really bad person or organization is left to pick up the pieces and fill the void.

He writes:

“When newspapers die, there will be an immediate and large unmet demand for news.

So what won’t get covered? That’s the immeasurable cost of all this. Failing financially now means failing the country later.

The founders built the check and balance of the press for a reason. Without it, politicians can spend and legislate with fewer investigative journalists to worry about. Businesses can bully consumers without so much as a phone call because the beat reporter has been cut. I could go on and on.”

Personally, I’m not as pessmistic, even if the numbers are depressing. I’m of the mind that newspapers will continue to be around for some time to come, though I admit, perhaps not in some markets by the time I’m near the age at which most die. If newspapers are to survive, they’re going to have to start thinking like Web sites have been: What can we do to be different from “that other medium.”

I don’t need to remind this audience that, whether we like to hear it or not, much of the reason people pick up a newspaper is for the comics, classifieds, weather report, movie times, tv listings and even that big stack of Sunday inserts. So what can we offer on a printed page that just doesn’t work for the Web? How can we make newspapers absolutely essential again? Hell, if I really had the answer I’d make my billions and retire to the Caribbean.

But some editors say the answer is running more perspective pieces than on the Web and less breaking news, as the Wall Street Journal has done with their redesign. That may be part of the solution, but the answer isn’t necessarily “better journalism” or a nicer design or more of the same kind of content only tweaked. I believe it’s introducing new kinds of important content that can only possibly work in a multi-page, easily flippable paper publication and that will become embedded in the social psyche, much as the weekend store ads have. Let’s start thinking hard-core about “what doesn’t work on the Web” and then do way more of that in the paper.

Remember that in ‘Terminator 2,’ they managed to prevent Armageddon, even if the big save did come from some unlikely people.

About Danny Sanchez

Danny Sanchez is the Audience Development Manager at Tribune's Sun-Sentinel.com and OrlandoSentinel.com. Danny has been with Tribune since 2005 in a variety of editorial, digital and product development roles in Hartford, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. He has also previously worked in the newsrooms of the Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald.
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