John Paton, who replaced Dean Singleton as head of MediaNews Group (owner of most of the dailies in the Bay Area), says the print business model is broken, can’t be fixed and it’s time to put the digital people in charge of his newspapers. Here’s a link to a speech he gave in Canada on Feb. 16. He intends to move away from print and embrace the digital world with greater usage of Facebook and Twitter. His papers are creating community “media labs” where anyone can sit down in front of a computer and write a blog.

On the other extreme is the profitable and growing Boston Courant, whose publisher says his paper is successful because it doesn’t have a website. Publisher David Jacobs realized years ago that a website would cost him more business than it would add, so he never launched one. Here’s a profile of the Courant by Harvard’s Nieman Lab.

Jacobs is quoted as saying:

    I see all of the other newspapers hemorrhaging. I am amazed that some publisher of a daily newspaper online — maybe not a regional one, like The Boston Globe and — but some non-regional daily newspaper has not said, ‘Hey, we’re hemorrhaging money because of the web. Our print advertising is going down. We’re going to stop our website. We have the sort of news that no one can get anywhere else. If they want to get it, they’re going to have to read our newspaper, and our print advertisers are going to love us.’… What do you have to lose?

Nieman reports that the Courant’s circulation is at 40,000 and rising, the newsroom just moved into a swanky downtown office building, and the paper is about to add two new full-time reporters to reach more of Boston.

Bay Area Media News


  1. I think Paton is a visionary. There will be sufficient cash flow from digital platforms if we continue to work on it and put the idea of printing newspapers behind us. I agree with the comments of the second person who posted here. The Mercury News should phase out printing by just printing on Fridays and Sundays, the days print advertisers want to reach people. Eventually he should phase out printing because it serves as a distraction to the company's digital mission.

  2. What's missing from John Paton's speech is a vision for how news organizations will make money from their websites. It's all well and good to bash newspaper reporters, but they generally don't run newspaper companies, uh, I mean digital media companies. People like Paton are supposed to provide leadership on the sales side, and I'm troubled that he doesn't even address that. Where does he think the money will come from?

  3. To get the message to the public that digital is the way to go, Paton should stop printing his papers. Tell the public they can find the same information online. Save the trees!

  4. Why would anyone want to tie their wagon to Twitter and Facebook? With all the privacy concerns that seem to pop up with social media, you are just asking for it.

    It seems foolhardy to tie the viability of your product to a third party who can crash your whole endeavour or worse still, blackmail you into bankrupcy.

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