Some current thoughts about newspapering, subject to revision, argument, snorts of derision, etc.

What’s happening now is essentially the winding-down of the print edition. No one known how long this phase is going to last — whether it’s two years, five, 10 or more (unlikely) — either on an individual title or industry-wide basis.

During the end game, surviving newspapers are going to continue to shrink as they play in a much larger pool of competitors for advertising and attention. Bottom-line pressure, whether from shareholders, independent owners or basis economics, will not go away. Some of that will be gained back (or held) with a vibrant web presence.

The goal during the end game will be to continually tweak the print product to milk as much revenue/attention from it as possible (note: the attention part of that is as least as important as the revenue), while moving aggressively onto the web.

During the transition, some journalists will lose their jobs because what they’re doing in print doesn’t translate to the web (local automotive journalists, other than in Detroit, for example). Some will lose their jobs as newspapers partner with — or buy out — local, untraditional, web-based competitors (sites that extensively over local real estate, dining, entertainment, etc.). Some will lose their jobs as newspapers continually redefine their coverage.

Finally, given everything that we’ve seen over the past half-decade or so — the emergence of search as the driving force on the net, the more-or-less death of the concept of portal, the rapid development and adoption of new technologies and so on — it is not possible to imagine in great detail what the “newspaper” of the future is going to be. The only thing current newspaper folk (of every rank) can do is be there (the ‘net) and be aware. This is not, I think, a situation where a single business plan/definition is going to serve the whole industry, which is the biggest change of all that newspapers need to face.

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