SEATTLE – So, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is up for sale, and if no one buys it, the paper will turn into an Internet-only newspaper, or so says Hearst.Hearst has owned the paper since 1921, and made a lot of money off of it for years, though they say that recently, it hasn’t. The paper has a circulation of 114,000 with losses for years. According to press reports, it lost around 14 million dollars in 2008 and more last year.
“Our journalists continue to do a spectacular job of serving the people of Seattle, which has been our great privilege for the past 88 years,” said Steven Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers, in an AFP story.
We have an idea. If it comes to this, Steven Swarts, why not make it a weekend-only newspaper? So the newspaper becomes the Sunday Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (Above, the Saturday edition; why not the Weekend Seattle Post-Intelligencer or the Saturday Seattle Post-Intelligencer.)
Yes, vast staff would have to be laid off, but the town could still reasonably keep two printed editions of the newspaper. Certainly there might be issues with the joint operating agreement and the weird joint Sunday edition, but they can be end-rounded, I am sure. City officials and the community want to see something survive.
The reason to do this is to help the future of the brand online. Otherwise, it will be hard for the Internet version to survive. The brand needs something print connected to it. If the P-I disappears, that ad revenue will not necessarily go to the Times. Even one-newspaper-town dailies are struggling.
This move has a precedent:
- A weekend paper has the greatest revenue of all.
- The paper can have a life as an ad distribution vehicle, that is separate from the news value of the paper.
- The print edition once a week will help to promote the Internet site.
- British newspapers have a tradition of separate staffs of the daily newspaper. Some even have different graphic identities. London Weekend Television was a separate network just broadcasting on the weekend. Weird, but it works.
- The P-I then becomes a bit like an alternative weekly. This can provide reasonable competition to the daily, if the reporters are scrappy enough.
- After the daily print operation is shut, then there is a reasonable possibility that the paper could consider a launch of a free daily edition, or some other small-scale niche papers.
Can it survive as just a website? Or is that Hearst bluster?
The equivalent of starting up a weekly paper isn’t in the millions. It’s cheap. And if Hearst seriously wants to keep the website going, it needs some print to back it up.
The JOA requires the P-I to print six days a week, or not at all. The Times is not going to agree to anything other than what is specified in the JOA — it desperately wants/needs the JOA to be dissolved.
So, that leaves the P-I exiting the JOA. After that it has no ad staff, no production department, no circulation department. Do you really think Hearst wants to spend money on any of that? You’re talking about spending millions when what they’re trying to do is cut their losses.
It’s a bad, impractical idea that can never happen. (Which doesn’t even address whether it would even do any good…)
The Sunday edition is supposed to be shared. The JOA can figure this out. PI will be small potatoes compared to Times anyway.
The website can’t make it on its own, without print.
It’s supposed to be a joint Sunday edition, right? Then follow up question. Then keep Saturday. Or Friday. But the point is that if they think the paper can survive on just the web, that will be a challenge unless there is something printed that promotes the site. Print is the identity of a newspaper.
This scenario is, frankly, beyond implausible. The P-I has never had a Sunday paper (just a few pages in what is essentially the Sunday Times); those are the terms of the JOA. Why would the Times, which has wanted out of the JOA for a long time, allow the P-I to do something expressly prohibited by the JOA?
Outside the JOA, the P-I has no advertising sales staff, no productiondepartment, no circulation staff or trucks, no press or production facility.
Other than all that, sure, brilliant idea! Can’t wait to read the rest of your ideas to save newspapers!