Thursday, March 26, 2009

Industry news, good and bad, from Beantown

As is often the case in the current environment, today has been interesting in ways both good and bad. On the bad-news front, my former colleagues at The Boston Globe (along with other NYT Co. employees) were asked to take a pay cut and furlough days. That's a grim thing, primarily because it's another reminder about just how uncertain the future has become.

Today's better news also comes from Boston, where former Globie John Yemma is leading the Christian Science Monitor off the cliff by ending the daily print newspaper. I say "better" because, in this case, the Monitor is trying something that could eventually help the rest of us find a profitable way forward.

John points out, correctly, that the Monitor has a very different business model than regional dailies. It's international in scope, nonprofit and works within more of a defined niche. He fears many regional papers, faced with a different reality, will do what the Seattle P-I has done: cut to a skeleton staff and remain online with a product only vaguely resembling the old newspaper.

But project out a couple of years, and the basic plan the Monitor is putting forward might apply to the rest of us more than either we or John realize.

Like the Monitor, we could end daily print publication, and replace it with an in-depth weekly magazine or newspaper. We're still better positioned than anyone else in our markets to do a smart, deep and well-sourced weekly pub for readers who want to spend time with their news. As it is at the Monitor, the rest of our work, increasingly multi-media, will be delivered online, through mobile devices and via distribution partners. The basic news online will be free and ad supported; much of the rest -- context, commentary, enterprise, niche interest, etc. -- will go behind a pay wall.

Could that basic framework hold up? Yea, maybe. Will we be able to learn valuable lessons in the meantime watching the Monitor take the leap? That seems like a far easier question to answer.

1 comment:

  1. Scott: Thanks for the smart post. I agree (of course I would). The Monitor is different but it can be a useful model. But whatever the case, the cause is the same: preserve independent journalism looking critically at government, business, and institutions, telling human stories, and helping people understand their world. We're all in this together.
    All the best

    John Yemma

    ps -- I'm starting a blog next week in which I'll try to be transparent about what we're learning.