A Solution For Troubled Newspapers And Magazines: Internet-Only Products

pc2No printed Wall Street Journal. No printed New York Times, or Newsweek or The New Yorker. That possibility grows more by the day.

Hearst, which said it would close it Seattle paper, the Post-Intelligencer, has told some members of its staff that they may be candidates to create an online version of the paper as its print version is shuttered.

According to the AP, “An unspecified number of the P-I’s 181 employees received `provisional offers’ Wednesday and Thursday to work for the online venture.”

Several large city dailies, including The Rocky Mountain News, have already folded. The Boston Globe is supposedly losing $1 million a week. Most analysts looking at figures from The Washington Post Company (WPO) say Newsweek loses money. The New York Times newspaper, owned by NYT (NYT) may loose money this year. The Wall Street Journal, part of News Corp (NWS) is losing advertising at an alarming rate.

The good aspect of having publications move to an “online-only” format is that the brands survive. The bad news is that most of the employees from the print property will not keep their jobs. Internet versions of publications often bring in only 5% or 10% of the sales that the physical versions of the properties do. But, the online business are not burdened with the costs of printing and distribution. Internet advertising is also more likely to grow than print is. Some major national weekly magazines and large business magazines like BusinessWeek have lost half of their advertising pages over the last two years. That trend is not likely to be reversed.

In the future, the big daily newspaper and national weekly magazine will not be printed at all. They will exist on the internet, run by much smaller staffs. But, at least they will exist.

Douglas A. McIntyre