“Quit on Print” – I am a Newspaper Conundrum

A few weeks ago I chatted with a reporter about my ALA TechSource post “An Open Letter to the South Bend Tribune.” Somehow he found it and wanted me to comment on my intent for the post. I confessed I should have taken the post farther and addressed what Alan Gray noted in the TTW comments: economic models for feeds, etc.

So the result of that brief conversation with Rick Edmonds is here:


Edmonds actually spoke to the editor of the South Bend Tribune:

quit on PrintTim Harmon, managing editor of the South Bend Tribune, told me by phone that he had not previously seen the letter but thought it was “a nice encapsulation of the benefits and challenges” in the current mixed platform climate. It was useful, he added, that Stephens is coming strictly “from the reader/user viewpoint.” without consideration of the economics, which are really for newspaper management to work out.

He did take exception to the part about discontinuing charges for archived articles, Harmon said. “That’s not really a profit center for us, but we do need to recoup the cost of making it available…(Stephens suggestion) seems like going into McDonalds and saying, ‘I’d like a free hamburger. It’s time'”

The Tribune is “in the midst of moving to a web-first operation,” Harmon said. He and publisher David Ray believe that many people — not Stephens necessarily — will read both, perhaps be directed back to the print product by a strengthened web report. The Tribune is also following a consensus industry strategy of getting information out in every form it can be accessed to the widest possible audience, then coming behind with more revenue.

As a vegetarian, I’d probably not want a free hamburger, but a free Boca might be nice! Seriously, I do understand that the SBT needs to make some money on their archives , but I look to the New York Times and see they’ve opened much of their past articles for access. I appreciate that as an educator:

In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986, and some will be free.

And please, dear TTW readers, know that I have not given up on print. Just look at the stack of books by my bed (and the box of trashy fiction I’m packing for next summer at the lake) as well as my magazine subscriptions and the books I use to teach! I am fascinated to see where this conversation goes.