Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fish wrap getting scarce

Magnifying glass not included
Could The Oregonian, Oregon's largest daily newspaper, cut delivery of its newspaper to just three days a week?

It's possible considering that its parent company, Advance Publications Inc., did that very thing to the last daily newspaper in New Orleans, The Times-Picayune.

The change to three days a week probably won't happen overnight for The Oregonian, but, you can be sure, it's coming.

The physical newspaper will go the way of "The Godfather's" Luca Brasi, sleeping "with the fishes."

The Times-Picayune isn't the first to go semi-digital on its way to all-digital, but it is the biggest.

A few caveats, though. The Times-Picayune lost half its readership, when it lost half its citizens, after Hurricane Katrina. Also, New Orleans isn't that great of a reading town. It was known as the largest city without a book store, well before Katrina.

Still, in March 2005, The Times-Picayune had 260,000 subscribers. Today, it has just 133,557.

Smartphones and tablets are the new delivery vehicles for the daily newspaper. They're a far cry in size from those super-wide broadsheets of a few years ago. I've tried an iPad, but it's far slower and clunkier than this laptop.

Since I don't own a smartphone or tablet, I peruse news sites on my desktop or laptop. The screen size of 14 inches sure beats a 4-inch smartphone, but it's hard to fit into my coat pocket. Actually, it doesn't fit.

Eventually, I'll have to get a smartphone. When I do, I'm sure all the newspapers will charge a viewing fee for online access.

I signed up for the New York Times because they ran a special for $5 for three months. After that, it jumps to $8 bucks a week, I think. That's too steep for me. However, I would pay $1 a week for online access and I'm sure 50 million others would, too. In the future, the economy of scale will rise exponentially.

Unburdened by newsprint and distribution costs, online newspapers should flourish someday.

For now, though, almost all papers have scaled back their coverage because of layoffs. Reporters are now called "content providers."

The newspaper "boy," now often a man or woman, will no longer have a job. Pressmen/women will lose jobs, too. Newsprint and ink producers will have to shrink their workforces, as well.

Large journalism schools certainly won't be needed.

New skills, all digital-related, will have to be learned.

These employment shifts have been going on for years, particularly from the industrial to this digital age.

Traditionalists can moan all they like, but that's just the way it is.

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