Fold or float

By JEFF INGLIS  |  April 2, 2009

So they've upset readers by making them pay in full for something they want only part of, and they've annoyed advertisers by being unable to explain whom the paper will help the advertisements reach.

Obviously, the slumping economy has made both of these problems even worse — readers have less money to buy things with, and are less willing to part with it for the privilege of reading a few tidbits and then pitching the paper; and advertisers have fewer dollars that they want to spend in increasingly targeted ways.

The only way to tackle these problems is head-on. It's time to reinvent the paper to make its content attractive to readers who are countable, quantifiable, and demographically describable to advertisers.

Creating a whole new Press Herald doesn't mean hiring additional staff — which is good, because taking on more expenses is something to be avoided if possible. And some of what arises may be uncertain — as Clay Shirky observed in the must-read media-industry critique of the year, his March 13 post at shirky.com entitled "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable," there is nothing that will replace newspapers, and no certainty about how journalism will be provided. Daily newspapers need to experiment grandly, and have many of those experiments fail, before any of us will figure out what comes next.

Jeff Inglis can be reached at jinglis@phx.com.

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