I suspect many of you could imagine this morning’s news that Newsweek plans to end its print edition after 80 years hitting close to home for a dead-trees journalist like myself. It doesn’t, and here’s why.
I graduated from college in 2001. Although that was right when a lot of print media outlets were making Internet-related mistakes, I was under no illusions that hard-copy newspapers would be around for my entire career. Two more decades of papers hitting driveways seemed about right to me.
About a decade later, I’m not yet prepared to give printed media no more than 10 years to live. But a couple of things have become clear:
1. Digital is not a death sentence: On the contrary, the era of online journalism has seen a proliferation of media outlets. Some are better than others, some have lasted longer than others. Which leads me to …
2. Quality, not the medium, is what matters: Good, relevant, unique content will attract readers whether it’s delivered in print or online. We may still be at a stage where the transition of a longstanding print outlet to online-only says something about whether that publication was producing good, relevant, unique content. (I can’t really offer an opinion about how Newsweek was doing on that front, other than to say I haven’t picked up a copy in a long time …) But at some point — probably not too far in the future — such a change won’t signal desperation.
Media outlets that don’t produce that kind of content won’t save themselves for long in any medium. That will mean the death of some one-time household names (Newsweek?), even as some new players become mainstays (Slate, Politico). That’s capitalism, or at least how it’s supposed to work.
– By Kyle Wingfield