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I've been away for awhile.  And, away from blogging.  Back now with updates on some things we've been covering.

The Ongoing Story of Newspapers

This yesterday from the Journal Inquirer (lifted fully from the paper, for reasons you'll understand as you read): 

JI announces changes to Web site

 

By Journal Inquirer Staff
Published: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 10:47 AM EDT
Starting Wednesday, Internet readers of the Journal Inquirer who do not subscribe to the newspaper will be charged a fee for access to most of the material posted at the newspaper’s Internet site.

“As with most newspapers,” JI Publisher Elizabeth S. Ellis said today, “advertising on our Internet site has not yet begun to pay anything close to the expense of providing the news to our readers, even as providing the news on the Internet for free threatens to erode the paid circulation that does support the paper.

“Some newspapers in Connecticut have drastically reduced their local and state news reporting,” the publisher said. “The JI will not do this. Newspapers are crucial to community. Without newspaper reporting, impartial and comprehensive, communities disintegrate. But news gathering costs money, and those costs have to be recovered.”

Some material at the JI’s Internet site will remain available without charge, including the photo galleries and video presentations. But to gain access to most of the material copied onto the JI’s Internet site from the newspaper’s printed editions, readers will have to subscribe to the printed product and use a log-on and password code provided to them by the newspaper or else use a credit card to pay a fee determined by the length of access they wish to purchase.

 

Following this transition, the paper is planning to add exclusive features to its Internet site, including reader blogs.

 The JI becomes the latest to drastically change it's business model to deal with the economic reality of newspapers.  I lifted this from their site, because I worried about a link not working for you in the near future.  We've also developed a good relationship with Doug Hardy, JI reporter (and husband of CT Newsjunkie's Christine Stuart) who's been trying to get other outlets to share JI content (while giving full credit to the paper).  His note on Facebook tells his side of the story:

Doug Hardy Interesting to see people's comments about the JI's announcement today that it's switching to paid content online. Plenty of freeloaders out there. It really goes to show you that when you give something away for free, people place less value on it. What a terrible mistake it was for newspapers to give news away for free online. The combination of a free Web site and a for-profit print publication simply doesn't mix. The model is failing everywhere because it's really not one model -- it's two models competing against each other.

I can understand the value of online-only publications that start that way and generate both reader support through donations and other sponsorships. There's no overhead to be concerned with and you can grow your staff through a solid, lean business plan. 

But it just never has made sense for a newspaper to give its work away for free and still expect to generate the necessary revenue to pay the people who gather the news. 

Controversial Football Coach Out

Jack Cochran, the man at the center of many high school sporting disputes, has finally been let go at New London High School.  His tendency to "run up the score" on opponents led to a nationally mocked (but locally applauded) rule in Connecticut that keeps teams from winning by more than 50 points - or face sanctions.  I reported on this for NPR in 2006.  It seems, though, that he's not going down easily.  

Insert Better Headline Here

Favorite New London Day reporter/blogger Ted Mann listens to Where We Live, and wrote about Jim Amann's appearance on the show Monday.  Turns out, the gubernatorial candidate hasn't filed his elections enforcement fundraising papers on time.  Ted's clever headline: "Private Amann Fails to Report."  


 

The slow death of print editions

The problem with news is that it is not owned by newspapers. If newspapers could somehow own the news and stop it from spilling out of their control, then they could charge for access to it. But news happens whether or not a newspaper chooses to report on it, and for most news, if you can't find it one place on the web, it will be in a dozen other places.

And that's a problem, because newspapers are the go-to source for local reporting. I can find all the information I could ever need about Obama's adventures in a thousand places, but how many places will report on Hartford city council meetings?

Each local newspaper seems to be fighting this battle on their own. Maybe they should get together with others in their region and just share a web portal, that could charge a fee perhaps, that would give access to all the local papers throughout Connecticut, New England, the NYC-Boston corridor, etc? Add in so much value that anyone with a concern for local issues could get their fill without having to deal with the differing payment plans of a dozen individual web sites?

just a thought

... let's hope it's actually the "rebirth" of print - a return to common sense business practice.

Thanks for the coverage.