There is no business model for killing print

I wish I could find it -- someone quipped earlier today in my Twitter stream that "there is no business model" for killing print. That's right.

When you see Newsweek packing it in, or a newspaper like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer killing its print component, it's not a victory of digital success over dead-tree failure. It's a symptom of a broader problem with the publication's business. Online-only is an escape plan, not a success track.

This is not to say there won't come a time when killing print makes positive business sense. But I'm not seeing that now. Consider Newhouse curtailing print frequency in many of its markets. It's not killing print outright; it's cutting costs. And it's opening the way for competition.


Things may be different in the US, but here in New Zealand (and Australia for that matter) there are precious few examples of publishing businesses that succeeded by killing print. Survived? Maybe. Success? No. By success I mean "grow the business and improve the bottom line". I can think of titles that shrank the business and boosted profits.

Felix Salmon says it's not going to work ... so why bother?

In a Facebook post, Jay Rosen has an answer of sorts: "the demise of the print product implies the obsolescence of the knowledge that gave rise to the product. That's a hard fact to face."

(This rant is not directed at Steve Y.) Somebody gets it. The failure of a local print product is a failure of the management of that product. Can we please move past that so trendy but so ignorant term "dead tree" medium?" Trees used to print newspapers and to make other paper products are grown for that purpose. Trees are a cash crop, planted and grown to be harvested. Print products, through the use of recycled paper, also reduce by tons and tons the amount of waste going into landfills. "Dead tree" is a trite, condescending term used as a disparaging adjective for any number of industries that remain vital to this earth's economy and ecology.