Monday, October 17, 2005


A pall hangs over the daily newspaper business. Circulation is down, the cost of newsprint is up, and about the only thing everyone can agree on is that the demise of the daily printed newspaper is a matter of when, not if. And so at least one daily is doing some soul-searching: The Washington Post's Frank Ahrens recently hosted an online discussion about these problems and how to address them. The transcript is here, and it's a fine read for anyone who cares about newspapers.

I think the dailies' trouble is that they are edited to serve a general audience, so a newspaper like the Post has not only world-class political analysis but also "Barney Google." The trouble with this model is that increasingly, there is no such thing as a general audience, which is why there are a zillion cable channels to fit every entertainment fetish and ideological purview.

Interestingly, when a reader asks what the Post can do to survive the shakeout, Ahrens responds: "It seems to me that it might take on the character of what a newsweekly like Time is now -- longer pieces, more analysis, maybe projects, big displays of graphics and photos that wouldn't look as good on the Web."

Yes, that description sounds like Time -- but doesn't it also sounds like alternative newsweeklies? Did I just read in The Washington Post (OK, that to survive, daily newspapers need to be more like alternative weekly newspapers?

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