October 25, 2011

At Last, The Lightbulb (A Curliecue, Eco-Friendly One, Of Course) Goes On: The New ProJo Website Is A Kamikaze Mission to Save the Dead Tree Edition

Monique Chartier

Major H/T to Ian Donnis for spotting and highlighting this illuminating Dan Kennedy post about the redesign of the ProJo's website.

... the Providence Journal unveiled its new website — a prelude to its long-promised (or long-threatened) paywall. ...

But this is not a digital strategy — it’s a print strategy, built on the idea of downgrading the Journal’s electronic presence. [WPRI's Ted] Nesi and I talked last December, when the Journal announced the new direction, and what I said then seems to apply now:

The Journal is sacrificing its website in order to bolster its print edition, which is where it makes most of its money. I understand why Journal managers are doing this, but it’s a short-term solution that could prove harmful in the long term. I also wonder whether it will even accomplish anything. Newspaper readers are skimmers, and a headline and brief synopsis of a story may be all that they want.

Thank you! That explains the previously inexplicable .

Fervent best wishes to the ProJo on this new approach, for their sake as well as ours. Athens on the Narragansett very much needs a vibrant, inquisitive press if it is ever going to get its house in order.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

$16 a month for the Globe digital.
I'd pay $10 for the Projo.
I like to read the comments as much as the article, something you can't do with a paper.

Posted by: bob at October 25, 2011 11:06 AM

If this is true, that the goal is to save the print edition, I don't get it. Which one is probably more profitable? The one that requires huge machinery, barrels of ink, reams of paper and a massive distribution network of trucks, vans and employees or the one that goes from the writer to the editor straight to the reader in the form of electronic 1s and and 0s?

I remember 20 years ago when the "future of newspaper" was to get a floppy disk delivered to the mailbox each day instead of wasting all that paper. Now that the floppy disk has been eliminated from the picture, the future is dead trees? I don't get it.

Posted by: Patrick at October 25, 2011 12:34 PM

Great question, Patrick. Why is the dead tree edition more profitable? Kennedy points out that that is "where it makes most of its money".

Posted by: Monique at October 25, 2011 12:53 PM

The Journal isn't good enough to line a parakeet cage and the website's new version is worse. The whole paper just needs to go away.

Posted by: B. Batemen at October 25, 2011 11:49 PM

"Why is the dead tree edition more profitable?"

Because many businesses haven't figured out that nobody reads the paper anymore, and that even fewer people respond to print advertisements.

Web advertisements are cheap, but still overpriced. Print advertisements are expensive and monstrously overpriced.

It's all about advertising square-footage and price-per-acre in ink costs a lot more.

Posted by: mangeek at October 26, 2011 1:39 PM

Posted by B. Batemen
"The Journal isn't good enough to line a parakeet cage"

I have found it to be quite good for wrapping dead fish.

Posted by Monique
"Why is the dead tree edition more profitable?"

One reason is that, aside from circulation, the paths to profitability were worked out years ago. One was paying for placement. Many will recall that when it was a "man's world", tire and auto dealer ads were all in the Sports Section. You could also pay for repetition, so that you would always be where people expected to find you. Mortuary ads were always on the Obituary page. When Projo was the only game in town, they could name their own rates. If you wanted to advertise in Providence, what was your choice? One could say there was a monopoly, with monopoly pricing. It is well to remember that subscriptions were never at the core of profits, it was advertising revenue.

Another good deal for the papers are "inserts" folded in with the paper. Advertisers are charged only slightly less than bulk mail, but day of delivery is assured. If the paper's "marginal costs" are being covered, inserts are almost pure profit.

Junk emails are as likely to be read as inserts. Have you noticed the radio ads that tell you the "Secret to success is a customer's email address".

Of course, rates for all of the above are based on "paid circulation". As that falls, papers are hurt very badly.

For all of that, I find that my eyes are more likely to wander to a print ad on a newspaper page I am reading than to the side of a screen I am reading.

Has anyone else noticed the shrinking Yellow Pages? They were once fiercely expensive. I have noticed that when they are delivered to apartment houses they simply sit in the entrance, unclaimed.(another temporary job which is disappearing, delivering the Yellow Pages)

For myself, all that I really miss about the old web Projo is the editorial/opinion section. Unfortunately, I found most of these laughable, with only a few good columns. While I miss Mr. Brussart, Dr. Aronson, Col. Getchell, I am just not sure what I am willing to pay for them while I ignore the rest.

I am wondering if we will not see a return to the past, before each paper had a "Washington Bureau", etc. There was a time when most news was delivered by news wholesalers, AP, UPI, etc. That was all about cost. This certainly presents a good theater for "news management".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at October 26, 2011 7:23 PM
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