This excellent blog post, written by Alan Mutter, a former newspaper exec and currently Managing Partner of Tapit Partners, explains why most newspapers can’t just shut down their operations overnight and switch over to online-only.
It’s all about revenue — big surprise, right? — and it ties in nicely with my conclusions in “The Death of the Times-Dispatch,” specifically this part:
So here’s the thing: here’s why they’re even trying to keep the RTD going, despite its inevitable funeral, despite that it’s dead already and they keep kicking the corpse around: because they have to. As bad as the situation is, the paper is still bringing in revenue — just not a profit. Online advertising is nowhere near replacing the revenue that print advertising brings in. Sure, they’ll keep reducing the staff as circulation drops lower and lower; they’ll redesign the look not to make a better product, but to cut page count, and thereby newsprint costs. They’ll save money where they can, but revenue will continue to fall . . . because the core product, the newspaper, has been replaced by news on television and the Internet.
That’s why the purchase of Richmond.com was considered a sound investment: a massive increase of page views and potentially an increase of ad revenue.
And the bow ties know the RTD will eventually be forced to cease publication, probably sooner than later — hence the new commandment from on high, introduced last month to the sales staffs, of Web-First. Starting at that last-minute November meeting, with an imperative to begin in January 2009, all sales efforts are to push online advertising first, and newspaper advertising second.
Online is now priority one. I repeat: sales emphasis is on the Web first, print second.
That has to tell you something.
Make sure you go back to Newsosaur for Part Two.