Howard Owens disagrees with Wired Magazine’s prediction that a major newspaper will stop printing and go online-only in 2007. Although Wired’s punditry might be a little overly optimistic, Howard’s rebuttal is equally pessimistic.
If a newspaper stops printing, about two-thirds of its operating expenses are thrown out the window. No more newsprint. No more carriers. No more circulation department, sales kiosks and all that.
When ad reps no longer have the newspaper to sell, they’re going to find a way to make commission. And that means sales online are going to increase fast.
Those who can’t sell will jump ship because they can’t support their families on a waning paycheck. The newspaper shouldn’t replace those positions, in most cases, because the market is actually adjusting. Not all of the original advertisers will move online right away, so fewer reps are needed to address the demand.
An online-only version is more likely in a one-paper town. And my guess is that although the main newspaper is eliminated, some niche publications that still have large profit margins will be retained, or even expanded.
Going online-only is a painful option – and probably the wrong option – but not an impossible option.
Do I think online-only will happen in 2007? It’s possible that with several newspapers experiencing declining ad revenues that don’t turn around and costs increasing, the only apparent option for survival will be eliminating the printed version.