A disclaimer: Although I don’t live in Seattle, and BATP is of course a Seattle-based production, I love Seattle and have visited many times. Some of my best friends live in Seattle! Which is to say, I don’t necessarily understand all of the ins and outs of the demise of the Post-Intelligencer beyond what I saw on World News Tonight, but since this is a blog, and the internet is apparently responsible for killing print media, I feel like there’s a sort of responsibility to support the Post-Intelligencer as it adapts to becoming a web-only publication. Seattle people should make a point in the next week or two to go to the website, and if they have a blog or email or whatever, link or send along a link to a Post-Intelligencer story that looks good. Make it work. I think it can work.
Today begins the first day of a “journalism adventure” and one that I hope succeeds. Which also is to say that some of the hand-wringing about the death of print media is kind of overwrought. In my hometown, Phoenix lost its second newspaper back in the 1980s when the Phoenix Gazette folded. Back in the 1980s, the Gazette had no “web-only” option to fall back on. The P-I does. That’s a good thing. Try not to fuck it up. At least 20 newsroom employees’ jobs depend on it.
Several of us in the BATP constellation have been watching the bad news over the last couple of months about print media and discussing it — some of us don’t read a physical newspaper anymore, some of us do (I use mass transit each day, so I do; I still need something to read) — but it’s kind of clear how antiquated the delivery system is. A while back I was stunned to hear that printing the New York Times costs twice as much as sending every subscriber a free Kindle. That is stunning. No, really stunning.
So that said, I hope Hearst isn’t just scuttling the franchise, because this is a real opportunity to try something new. And outside of the Bay Area maybe, I can’t think of another place in the country that isn’t more technologically savvy than Seattle. Go with it.
But go big. Real big. Make sure every single article is permalinked and let the website make assloads of cash on content that’s already there. The now-defunct New York Sun is just sitting there online with big 300-pixel ads on the right margin collecting hits.
As a web-only entity, the Post-Intelligencer can’t argue that they’re losing subscribers to the internet, since that’s all they’re doing. Embrace it. And while you’re at it, why not consider putting everything from its 146-year history online? The New York Times recently made available its .pdf’ed ProQuest articles dating back to 1851 online and it’s fantastic — it’s an amazing archive that researchers and interested people can now access. And if you pay attention to Google, you’ll see that the Times’ articles have kind of body-snatched search queries since the paper went big online. Now perhaps an article from Seattle in the 1800s isn’t a big Google search hit, but it could be. Go with that, too. It’s worth a try.
In short, I want to believe. Let’s do this . . .