What words are worth

Newsprints across the country are closing their doors while others press the need to monetize online content.

Few industries are feeling the sting of recession more keenly than journalism. The storm clouds had been forming over the Fourth Estate for years, but it seems the credit crunch and plummeting advertising revenues may be the final blow to a newsprint industry struggling with the evaporation of classified revenues, the rise of the Internet and the decimating news aggregation trend. The Star Tribune filed for bankruptcy in January, the Rocky Mountain News has closed its doors, the San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle Post-Intelligencer are under fire, and few appear willing to swoop in with bids. We appear at the brink of bidding adieu to the unique depth of investigation and commentary print offers. Unless the press is ready to go the way of the VCR, it must find creative answers to the million-dollar-riddle: how to get the growing body of digital media consumers to pay for information and analysis that has been available free-of-charge for the last fifteen years? Hearst recently announced an E-Reader which attempts to digitally mimic the experience of a newspaper or magazine. The digital reader would put content behind a pay wall, but the heir of news mogul William Randolph Hearst may find his product uncomfortably situated against AmazonâÄôs new digital book readers, Kindle and Kindle II, as well as mobile devices such as the iPhone. While the potential of electronic readers has yet to be realized, HearstâÄôs move signals a change-of-course toward pay-for-content digital media. If the E-Reader flops and consumers make clear a hesitation to pay for digital print, newspapers everywhere will hold back on a desperately-needed revenue opportunity, only hastening the swift erosion of news quality and quantity in the so-called information age.