Poynter, day one: The dangers of print-bashing

Written by Michael on May 16th, 2006

It’s too easy, at geeky powows like this one, to merely nod solemnly to each other about the death of print. I don’t mean to say we should be blindly optimistic — just that over-the-top pessimism breeds complacency. We online news folks can’t afford to get all The Day After Tomorrow with our Cassandra duties. Two such cases:

1) For all their faults, today’s print newspapers remain the most successful business model the industry has ever produced. It’s nothing to be abandoned wholesale. (More on this in the next post.)

2) Even more importantly, we should never say “Look, the Web, unlike print, shows high approval ratings among youngsters! Let us therefore expect future profit from our Web site!” Platform isn’t the issue — features are. The next generation of readers is not lured to their desktops by the glow of the cathode rays or the comfort of the chairs involved. They’re going to the Internet for its features: timeliness, personalization and interaction. If newspapers want to reap the benefits of young folks’ love for the Web, they need to start delivering content in Webby ways, not print ones.

It’s not a long list: hyperlinks, multimedia, social interaction, customization, searchability. (Right around the corner: portability.) Online news people absolutely need to push tbese basic Web concepts onto their sites. If they don’t, newspaper Web sites aren’t going to last a day longer than their parent papers.

As the New York Times reminded us last month, reproducing your full print product on the Web is pointless if it’s the same as paper. I’d rather have the newsprint between my fingers, thanks.

 

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