Thursday, March 22, 2007

Looking into the future: The Day the Presses Stopped

Attention: Editors & Publishers
Newspapers no longer printed
Monday, January 1, 2057

SHENANDOAH, Iowa (AP) – The last 600 copies of Iowa’s Shenandoah Valley News rolled off the presses last night, making it the last U.S. newspaper to shut down its print edition and closing a chapter in the history of the American daily newspaper industry.

Starting today, if the local population wants to read the Valley News, they’ll need to make sure their subscription is paid up so they can access the newspaper on the Internet.

The Shenandoah Valley News stood out in the landscape of the American daily newspaper industry because it was the sole, remaining holdout with a printed edition. Prior to the Valley News closing its printed edition, there had been a group of small newspapers in Kentucky that continued to offer a print edition but they were discontinued five years ago.

As of today, not a single American daily newspaper is printed. If anyone wants to read a daily newspaper published in the United States, they’ll need access to the Internet, and, more often than not, a valid subscription, so they can read it on their home, office, car or handheld computer as well as the many other ways that the Internet can be accessed.

The Shenandoah Valley News, until 10 years ago, had a daily and Sunday circulation of around 1,200 copies. But with a decline in the local population, and the ones that remained handy with a computer or other handheld devices that also accessed the Internet, the paper’s circulation slipped more than 50 percent, to around 570 on Sunday and 540 on Thursday, the only other day it was printed.

Like others in the American daily newspaper industry, the Valley News cutback on the number of pages it printed and reduced the number of days it published a printed edition; it even offered a tabloid edition of itself, starting 10 years ago.

“Nothing worked,” said Roy Oakes, publisher of the Valley News, so he and his managing editor, Wanda Lloyd, on instructions from their corporate owner, Google, started preparing for the day when they would only offer the paper on the Internet.

“We’ll save a bundle by not printing the thing,” said Oakes. “And, so far, the paper – can we still call it that? – is receiving a strong reception on the Internet.”

“The only thing that’s surprising about this move is how long we waited to make it,” said Lauren Jurgins, CEO of Google, the country’s largest newspaper publisher. “We’re an Internet company so it’s surprising we let the Shenandoah Valley News offer a print edition as long as it did. Our other newspapers stopped printing years ago.”

Google changed its strategy about 20 years ago when it decided to own information providers and intellectual property, not just broker them. As a result, they purchased a slew of newspapers, including the Gannett and McClatchy chains, as well as a number of book publishers.

“Traditional publishers, whether it was newspapers, books or other kinds of intellectual property, as we saw it, just didn’t appreciate what they had,” said Jurgins. “We’ve put these products on steroids, making them available anyway possible, and the results, so far, have exceeded our expectations.”

Microsoft soon followed, purchasing Chicago-based Tribune Company as well as a few assets from Hearst, including its newspapers and some magazines.

As of today, Oakes says, the paper’s Internet subscriptions are more than double what they were in print, around 1,300.

The Valley News has been offering its subscribers a 50 percent discount for the Internet edition. Subscribers can purchase either a 12-week or a full-year subscription for either $72.00 or $312.00, respectively.

Not only will the paper save money on newsprint costs, it also eliminated its circulation department. The paper’s classified advertising telemarketing department, based in the Philippines, will also handle consumer sales of the newspaper’s Web site.

The paper’s affiliation with Newspaper Editing, a company offering off-shore copyediting services from Vietnam, will continue.

“Our newsroom staff is composed of one editor and three reporters, one of whom is part time,” said Oakes. “Everyone in our newsroom knows how to update our Web site as well as send our stories to our digital distributor.

“Our ad folks are only selling retailers and car dealers in our designated market area,” Oakes said.

“In order to keep these subscriptions, and get a few new ones, we’ll need to make sure we’re on top of the communities we cover,” said Lloyd. “Hopefully, our advertising people we’ll be successful, too.”

It’s generally accepted by economists that the American daily newspaper industry started its decline about a century ago when television networks started offering news programming. The industry was further hindered with the advent of the World Wide Web.

“People became accustomed to reading the paper on their home PC,” said Arthur Twyinesome, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “As a result, newspaper circulation declined and the newspaper industry, for about three decades, never charged anyone to read the paper on the Internet.”

Further hindering the newspaper industry was the line of “i” products introduced by Apple Computer, starting in the century’s first decade. After the successful introduction of the iPod and iPhone, the company went on to introduce, with great success, the iBox, iCup and iShades – products that allowed people Internet access at anytime, regardless of what they were doing, and, as a result, reduced their purchases of printed products.

The iBox, sold exclusively to Kellogg’s, allows consumers Internet access from their favorite box of cereal.

“The great thing about the iBox is that consumers can learn more about our cereals or catch up on the news or even read a book – all while eating their breakfast,” said Winston Jared, a spokesman for Kellogg’s.

The iCup, initially oblong-shaped, gives consumers that ability to access the Internet from their coffee cup and was sold exclusively to Starbucks; a rounded iCup was introduced last year and Starbucks reports that consumers are accepting the rounded screen.

“The iCup is a hit with our customers,” said Anne Nestroff, Starbucks CEO. “It gives us an advantage over other coffee sellers because it allows our customers to catch up on the news, e-mail or whatever while enjoying their favorite java.”

“The beauty of the iBox and the iCup is that they’re disposable,” said a spokesman for Apple. “Once you’re done, you just throw it away – or place it in your recycling bin.”

Apple introduced iShades, a line of eyeglasses that can be used in a variety of ways, five years ago. Not only they can be used to correct vision but they’re also sunglasses and can access the Internet. They’re especially popular with train commuters or other travelers, allowing them to catch up on news and entertainment programming without having to carry anything.

Apple reports that more than 500 million iShades have been sold.

“We’re ahead of our own expectations,” said Steve Jenson, Apple CEO.

Some communities, like New York, Boston and Chicago, have cracked down on iShades, prohibiting people from wearing them if they decide to drive their car. If they’re just sitting in their car, and have placed it on automatic drive, then their allowed to wear their iShades.

Printed products took a further hit when Verizon, Microsoft and Electronic Arts teamed up to create a handheld gaming and telephone device that connects to the Internet, called the XPG.

“You can play games, go to the Internet, call your friends or download a book,” said Sally Higgins, a spokesman for Microsoft. “The XPG is the only handheld device anyone needs.”

By the time most U.S. daily newspapers stopped offering a printed edition, around 2040, the industry’s aggregate circulation had dropped to under 30 million. That was a loss of 20 million over the course of 30 years, said Juan Agranos, executive director of the Newspaper Association of America.

“Newspaper Internet subscriptions are increasing,” he said. “As of the last audit, overall newspaper Internet circulation is around 45 million.”

As a result, Agranos said, advertising on newspaper Web sites is increasing.

“Advertisers are learning that, once again, people turn to daily newspapers to be informed,” he said.

In addition to selling more subscriptions to its Web edition, the Shenandoah Valley News, like its newspaper colleagues, will sell its stories á la carte on Apple’s iNews, a system that allows consumers to have news stories covering their interests sent to their e-mail address.

“We think that’ll be a good source of revenue for us, especially since so many people have moved away,” said Oakes. “Our stories on iNews will be an easy way for them to stay in touch with southwest Iowa.”


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope the printed newspaper last forever. What would we do without newsprint on our hands after a good long read of a newsPAPER